Bob Hawke was nonplussed. He’d just gotten off a typically eloquent speech in front of a claque of media, and no-one had a question for him.
The richest race meeting in the world, Dubai World Cup night, will be run on Sunday morning at Meydan in Dubai. Here is a preview of all the action.
Race 1 – Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians – Group 1, $250,000, 2000m (Tapeta) – 11:30pm AEDT
Versac PY was second behind Al Mamun Monlau in this race last year and can go one better here. He’s had a good prep and was just nailed by Raaziq last time. Mushrae is the highest rated horse and is right in the mix, while Raaziq rates highly on his last start win.
Rabbah De Carrere, Djainka Des Forges and Al Mamun Monlau should be respected, despite wide gates.
Tips: 1. Versac PY, 2. Mushrae, 3. Sahib Du Clos
Race 2 – Godolphin Mile – Group 2, $1,000,000, 1600m (Tapeta) – 12:10am AEDT
Soft Falling Rain (7/2EF) is back to defend his title but isn’t going as well as last year. His last two starts are a real concern. At his best he’s brilliant but I’m not prepared to risk him until he shows something.
Elleval (20/1) looked a million dollars at trackwork Thursday morning and can run a cheeky race at odds. Variety Club (5/1), a two-time South Africa Horse of the Year, has stacks of ability, and won as he liked first time out at Meydan last month.
He had his colours lowered last time, however. He’s won 15 of 21, but gate 15 is a worry. Will be hard to hold out if he doesn’t cover too much ground.
Shuruq (7/2EF) is flying this prep and loves the Tapeta surface, while Flotilla is an underrated filly. She’s also impressed on the track this week.
Tips: 1. Variety Club, 2. Shuruq, 3. Elleval
Race 3 – Dubai Gold Cup – Group 2, $1,000,000, 3200m (Turf) – 12:45am AEDT
Cavalryman (11/4F) is surely the best on the card. He’s the defending champion, godolphin have won all five renewals of the race, and he won his prep race by 5.5L earlier this month. Reckon he just wins.
The Boys in Blue can quinella the race with Songcraft (9/1). He’s been impressive in two Carnival runs (first and second) and he’s drawn to get a lovely run from six.
Ernest Hemingway (13/2) is very talented but he’s not raced since September and that’s a concern. Although, Aidan O’Brien knows a lot more about the caper than I. Star Empire (11/1) and Sheikhzayedroad (16/1) are both good each-way value. Watch for the latter flashing home late.
Tips: 1. Cavalryman (BEST), 2. Songcraft, 3. Sheikhzayedroad
Race 4 – UAE Derby – Group 2, $2,000,000, 1900m (Tapeta) – 1:25am AEDT
Former Peter Snowden runner, and Caulfield Guineas winner, Long John (7/4f) is short but deserving of his quote. He has the best credentials and couldn’t have been more impressive at his local debut, strolling home by 4.25L in the 2,000 Guineas.
It was his first try on the Tapeta and he took to it like a duck to water. His failure over 2,040m in the Cox Plate has to be a slight concern, but speaking with trainer Charlie Appleby during the week, he’s very confident he’ll see it out.
He’s bred on staying lines – by Street Cry out of a Night Shift mare.
The Australian import has drawn perfectly in four and should get a sweet run. If he stays, he wins. He’s not been seen since last month but Appleby assures me he’s come on and done very well. The Englishman is very bullish.
Aidan O’Brien’s pair, Giovanni Boldini (11/4) and Sir Jack Hawkins (14/1), are highly talented and the trainer has won the past two renewals of the race.
Importantly, the former has won twice on the All-Weather and his second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November was brave.
Cooptado (14/1), who’s done all of his racing in Argentina and has strong Group 1 form there, is the wildcard. Paximadia (20/1), another former Aussie, was slightly disappointing behind Long John, but on his day, he’s very good and should be thereabouts.
Asmar’s (5/1) 6L win last time, which saw him deservingly break his maiden status, was full of merit and he’s horse on the up.
Tips: 1. Long John, 2. Giovanni Boldini, 3. Asmar
Race 5 – Al Quoz Sprint – Group 1, $1,000,000, 1000m (Turf) – 2:03am AEDT
All the pre-race talk suggests it’s a match race between Hong Kong speed sensation, Amber Sky (3/1), and reigning champion, Shea Shea (11/8F). Amber Sky is one of the fastest horses you will see – some of the racing folk from Hong Kong who are in town claim he’s as quick, if not quicker, than Silent Witness.
Trainer Ricky Yiu told me he’s settled in well. Shea Shea, meanwhile, has a lot in his favour, too. As well as winning the race last year, he loves Meydan, is the track record holder, and is ideally drawn out in 12, given his liking for the rail.
Sole Power (7/1), runner-up to Ortensia in 2012 and fourth last year, is as honest as they come.
He beat Shea Shea at Royal Ascot in the King’s Stand in June. Evergreen sprinter, Joy And Fun (20/1), is yet to miss a place in three goes in the race and it’d be fitting for him to run a blinder at his final start before setting off into retirement in New Zealand.
Tips: 1. Amber Sky, 2. Shea Shea, 3. Joy And Fun
Race 6 – Dubai Golden Shaheen – Group 1, $2,000,000, 1200m (Tapeta) – 2:41am AEDT
Another speedy customer from Hong Kong in the way of Sterling City (11/4F) lines up here. He’s got very good form around some of the best sprinters in the world, including Lord Kanaloa.
He’s trained by John Moore, one of the best in the business, and the Australian is very happy with him. Moore says the Tapeta won’t be a problem but until he proves it, there’s always an element of doubt.
Reynaldothewizard (4/1) won this race last year and trainer, Satish Seemar, couldn’t be any more confident. Seemar expects the horse to win and win more convincingly than he did twelve months ago.
Rich Tapestry (3/1) won his prep race impressively, while Bello (25/1) and Complicate (12/1), two godolphin recruits from Australia, should be competitive.
Tips: 1. Sterling City, 2. Reynaldothewizard, 3. Complicate
Race 7 – Dubai Duty Free – Group 1, $5,000,000, 1800m (Turf) – 3:39am AEDT
The best race on the card for mine. Incredibly competitive race with a great blend of seasoned Group 1 performers and young guns on the rise. The Fugue (3/1F) is a consistently brilliant mare and drawn ideally in gate four.
Dank (6/1) is another mighty mare who’s proven she can travel, winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in November. She’s won seven of 12. Plenty of talk this week at Meydan about Japanese contender Just A Way (7/2).
She’s won her last two starts by a combined 7.5L, including a 4L decision over two-time Japan Cup winner, Gentildonna, in the Tenno Sho in October. Rates very highly.
Mshawish (6/1) looked a ball of muscle at trackwork on Thursday, is drawn one, has Frankie Dettori on top, and is trained by the astute Mikel Delzangles. He was very good in winning the Zabeel Mile by 2.5L last month.
What do we make of Vercingetorix (13/2)? He’s a perfect six from six, but has drawn 11 and faces his stiffest test here. Mike de Kock knows what it takes to win the race, having won it twice, and he’s been very bullish about the son of Silvano ever since he landed in the UAE.
Tips: 1. Dank, 2. Just A Way, 3. Vercingetorix
Race 8 – Dubai Sheema Classic – Group 1, $5,000,000, 2410m (Turf) – 4:17am AEDT
The toughest race on the card, but a great one, nonetheless. Cirrus Des Aigles (6/1) is a grand old campaigner who won the race in 2012. He’s probably past his best but will give a great sight and is a solid place chance.
Denim And Ruby (7/1) has been one of the standouts at trackwork during the week. Her form in Japan is enormous and she’s drawn to get a gun run from gate three. If there’s enough pace on she’ll take holding out, especially with her allowance. She can unleash a scintillating finishing burst.
Gentildonna (4/1), who beat Denim And Ruby last time, is one of the best mares in the world – two Japan Cups tell you that. Mount Athos, third in last year’s Melbourne Cup, got home well last time and looked a treat at trackwork. Can run a big race.
Empoli, Dubday and Magician all could win without surprising.
Tips: 1. Denim And Ruby, 2. Gentildonna, 3. Mount Athos
Race 9 – Dubai World Cup – Group 1 – $10,000,000 – 2000m (Tapeta) – 5:05am AEDT
A terrific renewal of the richest race in the world with plenty of chances. Hong Kong pair Military Attack (13/2) and Akeed Mofeed (8/1) rate highly. They’ve had some great battles in recent times and according to connections, both have settled in well. The Tapeta could pose a problem though.
Military Attack has had one go on the All-Weather and was beaten 12L at Kempton, although it was back in 2011. Trainer John Moore is convinced he’ll handle it.
Four runners for godolphin, with Prince Bishop (8/1), who’s absolutely flying, their best chance. Sanshaawes (12/1) is in great form and has plenty of upside. He’s proven on the surface, drawn perfectly in gate five and was so game in defeat last time out.
Happy to risk the Epsom Derby winner Ruler Of The World (4/1) at the price, given his wide gate (12) and fact he’s untried on the Tapeta.
Plenty of other chances, including; Belshazzar (12/1), the Group 1-winning Japanese stayer, who’s worked impressively during the week, Mackinnon Stakes winner, Side Glance (33/1), and Hillstar (12/1), who’s a cracking sort.
Red Cadeaux (25/1) is as brave as the day is long and was so good in this race last year and in the Melbourne Cup, but gate (14) makes it tough.
Tips: 1. Military Attack , 2. Sanshaawes, 3. Prince Bishop