by Kaitlin Free
(Race 1) Dubai Kahayla Classic
Kicking off the 2019 Dubai World Cup Night will be the Dubai Kahayla Classic, the world’s richest race for purebred Arabians. The race is a 10 Furlong Group 1 on the dirt. In the past, this race has been run second or third on the card with the Godolphin Mile being the starting point. Most horse players aside from the diehard fans of Arabian racing in the Middle East typically skip this race all together. Don’t be afraid of this race. The form reads the same as traditional thoroughbred racing and the horses go the same distances. Many of the same jockeys ride in this race including Jim Crowley, Pat Cosgrave, Fernando Jara, Mickael Barzalona, and Richard Mullen. Last year’s winner Tallaab Al Khalediah is back to defend his title. He is a perfect 9 for 9 in his career and is considered by many to be one of the all time greats in his sport. Other top runners in this race include Fazza Al Khalediah, Af Maher, and the mare Al Shamoos. Those three all boast impressive records and rarely have finished off the board if ever. If anyone will upset Tallaab Al Khalediah it will be one in that trio. Any other horse would be an absolute shock. Potential horses to blow up the super could be Al Zahir or Barnamaj, both owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
(Race 2) Godolphin Mile
The Godolphin Mile is one of several on the card that could be a complete toss up. We have last year’s champion returning in this race, Heavy Metal. He was incredibly impressive in the 2018 edition and unfortunately has been a shell of that effort since. Heavy Metal is now nine years old and may be starting to slow down. He did finish third in the Firebreak Stakes and fourth in the Burj Nahar. His previous form would have defeated these fields with ease. Heavy Metal can probably be counted out to defend his title, but shouldn’t be dismissed to hit the super. The top win contenders this year are certainly Muntazah and Coal Front. Muntazah won both the preps for this race, the aforementioned Firebreak Stakes and the Burj Nahar. He also ran a very credible third in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge. Muntazah loves Meydan and it will take a career best performance to beat him. That performance could come from Coal Front, who has impressed in the States lately. This horse travels extremely well and his best is win worthy in this race. Muntazah and Coal Front will be poised to lock heads in this race and will definitely be the top two betting choices. Major upset chances could come from Nonkono Yume, True Timber, Kimbear, and Good Curry. Turkish horse Good Curry has had a sparkling reputation this season in Dubai, but has yet to claim a victory. The three former mentioned horses are known to claim spots in any super and absolutely will be vying to get in the money on Saturday.
(Race 3) Dubai Gold Cup
The 2019 Dubai Gold Cup just won’t be the same without three time champion Vazirabad, who will be making his seasonal debut later on this Spring. In Vazirabad’s absence, Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter will look to pick up the check. The 16 Furlong race hits Cross Counter between the eyes for his seasonal debut, also being at his owner’s home track. Sure the other entrants have fitness on their side, but Cross Counter’s seasonal opening form is probably better than what they have to give. If not, there certainly are capable horses waiting to pick up the pieces. Prince of Arran is one to think about having finished a great third to Cross Counter in the Melbourne Cup. The Prince has a very capable jockey in Oisin Murphy and according to track buzz has been looking stellar in Dubai. Another two to mention are the lightly raced Call the Wind and Gold Mount, both of which should flourish under these conditions. Fellow Godolphin trainees Red Galileo and Ispolini are also great horses to include in your trifectas and supers at a nice price.
(Race 4) Al Quoz Sprint
Every year this race is deemed to be one of Dubai World Cup Night’s most exciting races. The Al Quoz Sprint is a straight 6F sprint known for it’s thrilling finishes. It was originally thought that this year’s race would be very cut and dry for Blue Point, could turn out to be tougher than expected. Blue Point was last year’s favorite but was scratched at the gate after premature bleeding. He has been virtually perfect since then and has scorched the Dubai turf all winter. 2017 winner The Right Man is also back. Aside from a couple sitting the race out, this really is a whose who of turf sprinters. Breeders’ Cup Champion Stormy Liberal and graded stakes winner Caribou Club will represent the United States. Caribou Club defeated Stormy Liberal a few starts back, and the two are very clearly the top turf sprinters out west. Belvoir Bay also makes the trip, and is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to female turf sprinters. Lost Treasure and Sands of Mali will represent Europe, the latter coming on extremely strong at the end of the 2018 European flat season. Brave Smash, Viddora, Wishful Thinker, and Illustrious Lad lead a knockout punch from Australia. With his prowess at Dubai and current form, Blue Point’s best wins this race. Should he falter even slightly or have a repeat of last year, there are plenty of capable horses that will blow by him. Stormy Liberal, Brave Smash, Viddora, Sands of Mali, and local horse Ekhtiyaar stand the best chance of pulling the upset. All of these horses mentioned can be plugged in many different ways to play and ensure different combinations to make money off of what was considered a “single” worthy race.
(Race 5) UAE Derby
This year’s edition of the UAE Derby has moved further back in the card and gotten a bit of a boost. It will be hard to top the excitement Mendelssohn provided us with in 2018, but this field has turned up very strong. The local filly Divine Image has already punched her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks, but here connections believe she is good enough to beat the boys. We tend to agree. Divine Image looks to be the strongest coming into this race and fillies have a good history in the UAE Derby. Other top win contenders include Phoenix Ladies Syndicate’s Walking Thunder and Golden Jaguar, who have both impressed this season at Meydan. Manguzi has also impressed the locals, but one horse so far this week has stood out to everyone on the track. Many sources and reports trackside have indicated that the Japanese hope Derma Louvre has been the buzz colt, and may be the best looking horse on the Meydan grounds. This horse won’t go off at juicy odds for bettors, but with that reputation you need to at least take a chance. Should he win the UAE Derby, his Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby points will be null and void. Other horses worth mentioning are Van Beethoven and Plus Que Parfait. Coolmore’s Van Beethoven a Scat Daddy bred similar to Mendelssohn and will be looking to make a repeat. America’s Plus Que Parfait was once considered a top Derby Trail contender, but has since fallen a bit off form. If both run to their full potential, they could land Derby qualifying points here as well.
(Race 6) Dubai Golden Shaheen
With a race that is often top heavy with American contenders, this year’s edition is no exception. All four of them drew in a line, occupying posts 1-4. Champion Roy H leads the way from the rail. He finished third last year in this race and will hope to improve that effort. Unfortunately, the Meydan surface does not always play to Roy H’s running style, out here early speed is king. There is a scenario that will play to his advantage though, if two speedy contenders hook up early and burn up the pace. If that takes place than Roy H will likely be the only horse good enough to pick up the pieces in the end. In gates three and four are the two speedballs X Y Jet and Promises Fulfilled. X Y Jet has nearly won this race before, finishing second twice. The third time could be the charm with a pesky Mind Your Biscuits retired to stud. If the other entrants let X Y Jet have it his own way on the front end, this race will be as good as over. To eliminate X Y Jet completely, someone must be a sacrificial lamb and confront him from the word go. Promises Fulfilled is fast enough to take it to him early, but would also severely compromise his chances. The former is good enough to set the pace or sit just off of it, so if X Y Jet falters early or misses the break he will be the beneficiary. Promises Fulfilled will be part of the picture the entire race. The last American horse is Imperial Hint, who also likes to sit a close trip. If his form of late is any indicator of what we will be seeing this weekend it seems as if his best days are probably behind him. His best though is certainly good enough to hang with his fellow countryman. With the American fray all draw together, it will be virtually impossible for anyone else to beat them home. The only outside horses good enough to sneak into the super are probably Drafted and Matera Sky, but even their best isn’t a win. Which American will land on top here could be anyone’s guess.
ROY H is a late scratch…..
(Race 7) Dubai Turf
If you are looking for a race on the card to single, the best place is here. This edition of the Dubai Turf contains a super horse. Although Japan’s Almond Eye will be facing a lot of new challenges such as travel and switching directions, she is simply too good let that stop her. She has looked picture perfect on both the turf and dirt since arriving. Almond Eye has many different running styles and could beat this field at even 80% of her best. Barring any major events, that is your winner without a doubt. The race for the minor shares is a much more even playing field. 2017 winner Vivlos has looked exceptional since arriving and loves this course. Fellow countrywoman Deirdre has never been in better form and will be in major contention to hit the board. A clean Japanese sweep of the trifecta could happen. There are several Europeans in to get a piece of it though, the best of those being Lord Glitters, I Can Fly, Century Dream, and Without Parole. All are classy enough and belong in this field with the best milers in the world. Lord Glitters is a horse with a lot of on the board finishes and should go off at a very fair price, definitely one to consider for the exotics. The home team will have Dream Castle and Wootton who are both good horses in their own right and certainly capable of finishing up well. Australia’s Southern Legend should also get a fair shake. No matter how much quality this field has, they are simply a cut under what many have called “the horse of a lifetime.”
(Race 8) Dubai Sheema Classic
This year’s Sheema Classic is by far the most up in the air race on the entire night’s card. There is no heavy favorite or standout, and you can make a case for almost every horse in the field. With a group of eight, this will be a very even playing field and a great betting race for horse players. Big win contenders in this race are Cheval Grand, Rey de Oro, Suave Richard, Old Persian, and Magic Wand. The Japanese contingent is especially strong this year, bringing three multiple G1 winning horses. Cheval Grand is made for these conditions, winning the 2017 edition of the Japan Cup and running consistently since. Leave this horse out of your super at your own risk. Rey de Oro and Suave Richard both started their season on a positive note. Rey de Oro finished a nice fourth in this race last year, against a tougher field. He has also really caught the eye of those observing in the morning at Meydan. All three will be primed to fire their best shot. Godolphin opted for this spot over the Dubai Gold Cup for Old Persian, as the colt has been successful over this distance as well. He is a G1 winner over the 12F so it seemed like the likely choice. Old Persian really impressed with his victory in the Dubai City of Gold getting up just in time to win. This turf course fits him like a glove. Due to the accolades of these horses, the lone filly in the race will probably go off at a juicy price. Magic Wand comes into this race just as fresh as everyone else, off of a big performance in the Pegasus World Cup Turf. She finished a flying second to Bricks and Mortar that day and with a better trip probably would have gone by him. Magic Wand will encounter a similar weight break in this race and will appreciate the extra distance. Even if she isn’t your choice for the win, she cannot be left out. She has a habit of finishing in the money over 50% of the time.
(Race 9)2019 Dubai World Cup
All of 2019 so far has been nothing but criticizing this race for having a “weak field.” Weak or not, these are the top older horses in training and this year’s edition came up extremely competitive. Without a top heavy favorite this race is a great betting adventure and will make for an exciting finish. Defending champion Thunder Snow returns with some history to buck. Several have tried, but in 19 years no horse has successfully defended their title in the Dubai World Cup. Thunder Snow is certainly good enough to be the first and his first run of 2019 was very encouraging. Although not fully cranked up, he was defeated by fellow entrant Capezzano. Capezzano went from graded stakes placed to one of the top choices in the world’s richest race in a year’s time. This has been incredibly surprising to everyone, what happened with that is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless don’t discount Capezzano but be wary of this form. Another local horse that has created buzz for the past couple editions is North America. At seven years of age now this could be his last chance at this race. He was one of the favorites last year but all hope was lost after an extremely poor break. Having drawn gate three here with minimal speed around him, if he pops to the front look out because he could easy skirt away. North America will be fresh coming into this race and his form has never looked better. The US based horses are no slouches, with Gunnevera, Audible, Seeking the Soul, Pavel, and Yoshida all making the trip. Out of this group it seems that Seeking the Soul and Yoshida have the best chances. Seeking the Soul has been the picture of consistency the past couple years and could be a gift betting wise here. He has impressed on the track all week and seems to be thriving. This race also really fits Yoshida, who has also turned heads in Meydan. This dirt course is one that particularly suits horses that also run on turf. Like Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn last year of similar style, Yoshida’s surface preferences come in with an advantage. Out of the members of the away team, those two win contenders. When it comes to Gunnevera he could not have prepared more or looked better. Unfortunately for him, this race just isn’t made for deep closers unless you are Arrogate. That being said, we know he will be picking off tiring horses late. Don’t leave this one out of your exotics. Rounding out the last of the American group are Audible and Pavel. Both have not looked great in Dubai and the tides would simply have to turn for them to have a chance here. Former US based horses Gronkowski and Axelrod have been at Meydan for awhile and have been training well, but not necessarily living up to expectation. Gronkowski’s best days have probably passed him by since that Belmont Stakes second to Triple Crown winner Justify. Axelrod could be one to consider underneath somewhere at a massive price. Rounding out the field are miscellaneous runners New Trails, K T Brave, and Dolkong. All are in pretty good form and have the ability to steal a piece when all is said and done. The best of the three though when considering exotics is probably Dolkong, who has flourished form wise at Meydan. He had a superb effort in taking the Curlin Handicap only to wheel back a week later and run a strong third to Capezzano and Thunder Snow. He’ll go off and long odds and will be worth a look here coming in seasoned as ever. Post 13 could hurt him a bit though. Absolutely spend the most time on this race and look as carefully as you can at every contender. This one could shake out a multitude of ways.