Matchbook Ambassador Tom Stanley is on the ground early this week in Dubai to give you four selections to watch in Meydan this weekend.
Now I’m aware that Dubai’s racing scene isn’t served as everyone’s cup of tea. If that’s the case then you’ll not get back the ten minutes it will take to read these musings. The Peppa Pig books are available in most good book shops. But if, like me, you enjoy the spectacle of the dirt and turf fare on one of the biggest stages in world racing, read on.
The pace debacle
Last year, quite rightly, the later carnival evenings, Super Saturday (the key trials day for World Cup Night) and the big night itself received criticism for apparent pace bias. Obvious pace bias in fact. At one stage, eleven of twelve concurrent races were won by horses in front at the first turn on the dirt, as were all but one of the thoroughbred races on World Cup night. That detracted from the spectacle, for all it made winners a little easier to find.
You could virtually put a line through those without the requisite early pace.
This year has been different.
Whilst dirt racing lends itself to early pace being an advantage, it has been possible to win from off the speed this season. Look at Drafted on Super Saturday. He simply couldn’t have won that race twelve months previously given how the track was riding. Great credit to the Meydan team for providing a fairer and therefore more entertaining surface this year.
It has been possible to win from off the pace and I believe it will remain that way on the dirt on March 30th.
Second in the Godolphin Mile last year on his first go on the dirt. It almost always takes time for horses to acclimatise to the demands of dirt racing and last year’s effort marked him out as one to follow this season. He took a while to warm up but he’s been sensational in his last two runs and has been given stall 6 in a bid to go one better this year. That, I believe, he will.
He’s versatile, having won from a little off the speed and then from very much on it last time and I fancy him to track and pounce this time around. There’s plenty of pace in and around him and Crowley, knowing he stays further but has that electric turn of foot, will be happy to sit off them were something else to take them forward. He should be a strong favourite but I’m not sure is yet getting the credit he deserves off the back of that monster, track record-breaking performance last time.
Now this one is flying the flag for team obvious but Blue Point is an exceptional sprinter. A sprinter who is, as many do, improving with age, and one who is ideally suited to six furlongs at Meydan. Five furlongs at Ascot, yes, That stiff five where he beat two world class opponents in the King’s Stand last year. But here, with a little downhill on a sharper track. Here, he’s best over that little bit further. He did win over five here this year, and in a quicker time than which he was beaten by Ertijaal twelve months previously. But when he gets to open up over six at this track is when he’s at his most destructive.
Something about the July course downhill section really doesn’t suit him and York, well, that simply isn’t his bag. But on World Cup night he’s the one they all have to beat and, frankly, I can’t see that they will. Remember this was the scene of his late withdrawal last year down at the start when he had blood in his nostril.
Bar a freak turn of events this time around, he’ll line up and he’s not for opposing.
There was talk of her skipping the UAE Derby and heading straight to the Kentucky Oaks. She’s a tricky filly in the preliminaries and World Cup night will be a test with the crowd. But at least she’s experienced this huge stand a few times now and she’ll likely be kept out of the paddock before the race. William Buick will jump up in the saddling area before heading out of the adjacent tunnel and avoid parading with the rest. This helps keep a lid on her.
She’s very, very good.
To do what she did first up when missing the start by a mile. To do what she did in the Oaks, then against the colts last time when sharper away. My fear for her was a low draw here but she’s been spared that in six. Ideal. A tardy start (though not too tardy please) will still give her time to recover and space to manoeuvre too.
These colts will struggle to give her weight and a beating. And the international challenge appears to have helped with her price, a number bigger than I thought we’d see. Discount Walking Thunder at your peril too. He’s well berthed to attack from one, for all Connor Beasley has looked elsewhere.
With the American challenge not what it has been in recent renewals, the stage looks set for North America to dominate. I’m sure connections would be happier were Capezzano not going down this route given the pace battle he will almost certainly provide. But North America is so electric from the gates (standby) that he can see off Salem Bin Ghadayer’s charge. I say standby because electric he was not last year. He completely missed it and, with that, his race was gone.
But he’s been campaigned differently this year. Last season saw him peak in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge only to flop on the big night. He’s better kept fresh and it seemed an obvious decision to skip Round 3 this time around, having peaked on reappearance in Round 1 and looking below par in Round 2.
These big efforts on the dirt can take a while to recover from and fear not that run last time. The Wednesday draw will be crucial and his chance will be virtually doubled if berthed lower than his main pace rival. A draw inside Capezzano and this is his night.
Each week Tom is joined by guests such as Rory Delargy, Donn McClean, Sam Turner and Brendan Powell on Matchbook’s Horse Racing Podcast. Subscribe now to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, or on your preferred Podcast app by searching for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’.