RACING fan Tommy Buckley (@tbuckleythinks) has analysed all nine races from the Dubai World Cup, pointing out his favoured fancies ahead of the 2019 Carnival at Meydan.
Dubai World Cup | Saturday 30th March 2019
Back in November when the Meydan racing season began, the dream for all connections was to develop their horses to be good enough to take their chance at the Dubai World Cup carnival at the end of March.
The Dubai World Cup day is the absolute pinnacle of the Meydan and UAE racing season; the Meydan racing season offers a total of $40 million dollars in prize money and this year $35 million will be up for grabs on the big day itself.
Dubai World Cup day consists of nine high-class, fascinating contests with six Group 1 and three Group 2 races to enjoy.
I’ll start my thoughts for this year’s renewal of the Group 2 Godolphin Mile by looking at the results from the last five years and we can see that during that period favourites haven’t had a great record – only one jolly has won in last five years, whilst big-priced runners have either won or been placed.
The best example of that was in 2017 with a 20/1 winner and a 28/1 shout in second-place, and given the nature of the race, combined with the all-important draw factor, then there has to be a chance that the odds could be upset again.
However, this year could well be the year of the short-priced favourite again as the Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum owned Muntazah most definitely looks the clear one they’ve all got to beat.
Muntazah was a solid second in the Godolphin Mile last year but it’s this year that has really put him on the world stage and his last two runs have been particularly destructive, including breaking the course record last time out.
Jockey Jim Crowley has admitted to being blown away by what Muntazah did last time out and so while there is the option for Muntazah to go in the Dubai World Cup, connections will surely go for the Godolphin Mile with Muntazah as it looks at his mercy, the current best price of 11/8 is unlikely to be seen on the big day.
Muntazah has to be the most likely winner based on what he’s done at Meydan in his last two starts but previous results show that big prices can win and get placed so if you are looking for an each-way option then the likes of Elusive State, Leofric, Audible and Good Curry can’t be totally dismissed – all are priced in around the 9/1 – 12/1 range.
Dubai Kahayla Classic
This 10 furlong Group 1 for pure Arabian breeds is the traditional opener to Dubai World Cup day – it's the pinnacle for the pure Arabian breeds and is an interesting, different element to the other races on the card.
The results for the last five years of this race show that it’s a race which produces big-priced winners and places – to me, that’s not surprising as these pure Arabian breed races are never easy to predict and the form can be turned on its head.
Last year’s first three home – Tallab Al Khalediah, Chadad and Barnamaj – are all expected to line-up and they’ll clearly be respected if they do take their chance, while the likes of Af Al Sajanjle, Ziyadd, Goshawke & Mawahib also command respect.
I don’t think it’s a race to get seriously involved in from a betting perspective and there are too many variables to be totally confident, but market moves near race day can often be hugely informative so watch the markets.
Dubai Gold Cup
This is the premier Meydan contest for the top stayers as they do battle over two miles of Meydan's amazing turf for a $1.5m prize. The high-class but enigmatic French raider Vazirabad has won it for the last three years but unfortunately he’s not back to have a go at the incredible four-timer.
That said, it’s still of course a high-class event and has a fascinating line-up with Godolphin’s high class Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter currently heading the betting. His stablemate Ispolini isn’t far behind after a very impressive Meydan campaign, and likewise, the French trained Call The Wind, who won the Group 1 Prix Du Cadran last year.
Cross Counter also holds an entry in the Group 1 Sheema Classic and that could well be where he goes so I wouldn’t consider backing him for the Dubai Gold Cup now, you’re best waiting until the final field is declared for any serious interest. But if Godolphin don’t run Cross Counter then Ispolini won’t be the 5/2 best priced he is right now, and neither will Call The Wind be 4/1.
Aidan O’Brien has a series of entries in this, including Flag of Honour, Kew Gardens and Southern France, while Prince Of Arran is another who has proven himself in Meydan, they look fascinating contenders at big prices if they line up on the big day.
Looking at all the ante-post markets for every Dubai World Cup day race, apart from the Group 1 for pure Arabian breeds, the UAE Derby looks to be the most open race and very hard to call with any deal of serious confidence.
At current best prices, it’s 4/1 the field with Godolphin’s high class Divine Image leading the way and her super impressive last time display probably does set the standard to aim at.
The Phoenix Ladies syndicate have had a brilliant debut season in the UAE and their superstar Walking Thunder is at around 6/1 and that could prove to be the value – he’d most definitely be shorter than 6/1 had he not flopped when long odds-on to win the UAE 2000 Guineas.
Godolphin also have a selection of other hugely interesting entries, notably Art Song, Art Du Val, Royal Marine and Estihdaaf – all priced between 8/1 to 10/1. Estihdaaf has his quirks but he was the one who lowered the colours of Walking Thunder in the UAE 2000 Guineas.
Willie Haggas sends a very, very interesting runner in the shape of the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum owned Jahbath, while consistent and classy Meydan performer Maguzi is also expected to line-up.
The final field and then the draw will be absolutely vital for this race, many of them will prefer to get low draws and get away, so I wouldn’t recommend getting too seriously involved until the draw is done. But if Walking Thunder gets a favourable draw, he might just be the one.
Al Quoz Sprint
When I wrote about this race last year, my thoughts revolved completely around Blue Point and I’d noted how I’d backed him ante-post and couldn’t see him getting beaten, believing that he would be simply be too good for the rest on the night.
Well, unfortunately for my ante-post bet and for the horse of course, Blue Point was ruled out just seconds before the race with a problem and Godolphin duly won it with Jungle Cat, who would probably have been chasing Blue Point’s shadow had he ran.
We’ll never know of course but what we do know this year is that Blue Point looks better than ever and assuming everything is OK on the night then again I don’t see anything getting near Godolphin’s star sprinter and the 8/13 now will be 4/9 or shorter on the day – 2019 looks set to be his year to be the star of the sprint scene.
Given the quality of the field it cannot be an absolute one-horse race of course and there are plenty of high class contenders to respect.
For those of you looking for each-way value against the favourite, then you’ll have the pick of the likes of Sands of Mali, Caribou Club, Brando, City Light, Mabs Cross and Ekttiyaar with the last named already proven to be in top form in Meydan and the current 20/1 on him may well have plenty of e/w takers.
Dubai Golden Shaheen
Group 1 glory and $2m up for grabs in this enthralling-looking, six furlong sprint on dirt, and I’ve got to say this is one of the Dubai World Cup day contests that I’m most looking forward to watching.
Roy H has to be the starting point for this race, given how he was incredibly well fancied to win this last year and again arrives as a very strong, solid looking favourite expected to gain revenge for last year’s disappointment. He’s a best priced 11/8 to win it and I’m already on.
Roy H brings the best form into this race given his impressive win in the Breeders Cup Sprint back in November, when the likes of Imperial Hint, Promises Fulfilled and Whitmore were all in behind. And so, while it’s about what happens on the day in Meydan, I’d find it hard to see any of those reversing that form with Roy H.
X Y Jet is proven in this race at Meydan with two excellent second places in 2016 and last year – interestingly, in the same ownership as Roy H – and it wouldn’t surprise me if the owners got the 1-2, with X Y Jet currently 13/2. I’m personally already on each-way at 8/1.
Of the locally-based sprinters in the race then Drafted heads them as a 10/1 shot after another really solid season. Assuming they go off as fast as expected, Drafted will be ridden to be finishing strong so another who warrants each-way respect at least.
In recent times, the Dubai Turf has provided some high-class contests to enjoy and winners to celebrate with the likes of Just A Way, Solow and Benbatl all brilliant winners but this year the expectation is that we could all be set to see something extra special in the form of Japanese superstar Almond Eye.
Almond Eye is currently best-priced 5/4 to take this multimillion Group 1 prize after her dominance and brilliance at the top level in Japan that culminated in her being a devastating winner of the Japan Cup.
That form is some way clear of what her likely rivals have produced and assuming all is well with Almond Eye, she’ll take all the beating and likely to be odds-on come the off.
Of course, this is a Group 1 made up of high-quality horses who command real respect and they are headed by Godolphin’s Dream Castle, who has been a revelation in Meydan this season.
Aidan O’Brien interestingly has I can Fly entered and Vivlos goes again as a best priced 14/1 shot after winning this in 2017 and being runner-up last year – that might well be the best each-way value on offer.
Dubai Sheema Classic
Godolphin have taken this massive prize in the last two years and this time around their hopes are pinned on current 3/1 favourite Old Persian. Cross Counter is an 8/1 shot t if he doesn’t run in the Gold Cup and Racing History around 11/1 at current best prices.
It is the form line of Old Persian winning the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold last time out that perhaps could be the key to this race. He just got there on the line to deny stablemate Racing History, with Desert Encounter and Prince of Arran a few lengths back that day,
Desert Encounter is expected to improve a lot for that run and could be the each-way value.
Last year Rey De Oro was heavily supported into joint-favouritism for this race but could only manage fourth – he’s only 7/2 this time around and while he’s respected, that looks too short to consider.
Aidan O’Brien is predicted to aim two at this Group 1 with Magic Wand and Hunting Horn; without doubt Magic Wamd definitely looks the best of that pair given her high class, proven Group 1 form after good runs at Longchamp, Churchill Downs and most recently in January when finishing second in a Group 1 at Gulfstream Park. Her current best price of 7/1 unlikely to be around on the day.
Dubai World Cup
This race is the pinnacle of the entire November to March Meydan racing season – it's the flagship race of the Dubai World Cup Carnival with $12m in prize money on offer, and there is a very classy, interesting field chasing those riches this year.
Last year I had my Dubai World Cup hopes firmly pinned on North America. I’d backed him early at very nice prices and as the weeks went by, I was more confident as his form looked so good and his price contracted all the way into 4/1, only for him to fail to fire on the day.
This year he’s already 5/1 second favourite at best prices on the back of what’s been another high-class campaign. And in my opinion, he’s the one to beat as long as he’s able to show his best on the day.
Last year’s champion Thunder Snow currently heads the betting at 4/1 and he’s been given the same preparation as last year with a run on Super Saturday to get him primed for this, although he was firmly put in his place that day by Capezanno who produced a truly stunning performance to win by what felt like half the track.
If Capezanno reproduces that then he’s a massive danger at current best price of 11/2 .
I’ll personally be very surprised if one of those three named don’t win this but no doubt there is real interest added by the presence of Seeking The Soul, and plenty believe his form warrants him to be the bet at current best odds of 10/1.