Horse racing in focus: Foreign trainers aim to bounce back at Dubai World Cup Carnival

Geoffrey Riddle provides his weekly horse racing feature, including a look ahead to the latest races in the Dubai World Cup carnival.
Jockey Christophe Soumillon riding Mujaarib wins the Race 5 Al Rashidiya at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on January 30, 2014. Satish Kumar / The National
Jockey Christophe Soumillon riding Mujaarib wins the Race 5 Al Rashidiya at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on January 30, 2014. Satish Kumar / The National

The international contingent can but hope things will improve.

Domestic trainers have held an iron grip on the Dubai World Cup Carnival for the first three weeks, having mopped up 17 of the 20 thoroughbred races to have been staged at Medyan during the opening exchanges of the World Cup Carnival.

The fightback may well begin on Thursday night, however, as nine of the 14 horses declared for the US$200,000 (Dh734,600) Al Rashidiya over 1,800 metres will be saddled by trainers based either in South Africa or Europe.

Mike de Kock is the only international trainer to have sent a horse in to the winners’ enclosure this Carnival, and is represented by three runners in the feature event that he has won eight times.

Ertijaal, the Australian-bred Grade 1 winner in South Africa, will be ridden by Paul Hanagan on behalf of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid.

De Kock also runs Mujaarib, who won the Group 2 race in record time in 2014 and Forries Waltz, one of his three winners this season.

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Most European horses arrived on a special shipment on December 30, which is nearly a month after De Kock’s last consignment of horses came from his Abington Place facility in England.

The South African’s horses are more acclimatised to the rhythms of Dubai, therefore, and now with an extra week under their belts the European horses can surely start to perform better.

Big Baz is one of the more likely winners.

The six-year-old bay gelding, trained by British conditioner William Muir, appeared the winner of the Singspiel Stakes on his first start in Dubai two weeks ago before he was run down by More Aspen in the closing stages.

Big Baz has been working well since under his regular exercise rider, and Muir is expecting a better showing from the likely favourite, who will once again be ridden by William Buick.

“Personally, I think he is probably a miler and that he was just run out of it at the death,” Muir said. “But William Buick got off and said he will run a lot better next time and might stay the trip.

“He said that often horses need longer than 14 days to acclimatise to Dubai and was hopeful that this time he’d run a big race.

“I looked at the turf handicap over a mile on the card but Big Baz would have had to give a lot of weight away, whereas in this race we are the highest-rated horse in it.

“Our ultimate goal is to run in the Zabeel Mile and then whether we are good enough or not for World Cup night we will see.”

Including World Cup night there were 12 trainers from abroad who saddled winners at Meydan at last year’s Carnival so local dominance is nothing new, especially since dirt was put down for last season.

Ali Rashid Al Raihe leads the Carnival standings in a resurgent season for the Grandstand stables handler with five winners.

His four-timer on the opening night of the Carnival on January 7 was followed up by a Satish Seemar treble a week later.

Dhruba Selvaratnam then had his time in the sun when Top Clearance became his first winner on the Meydan dirt last Thursday, augmenting the surprise victory of Roicead in the District One Handicap.

All but one of the 20 thoroughbred winners at the first three fixtures of the Carnival had raced previously at Meydan, with Godolphin’s Steady Pace the only horse to prevail on his first run in Dubai.

Steady Pace won the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial, however, a race in which all eight of the horses who took part were making their debut in Dubai.

Big Baz has now had a sighter of Meydan — tonight’s Al Rashidiya would be a clear opportunity to make good use of that experience.

FROSTED TO LEAD GODOLPHIN’S WORLD CUP CHARGE

Frosted will head the domestic defence of the Dubai World Cup after Godolphin’s candidate for the $10 million event headed the local nominations for the world’s most valuable race on Wednesday.

Frosted finished three times behind American Pharoah last season in America, but struck at the highest level when the grey son of Tapit won the Wood Memorial in April and the Pennsylvania Derby.

Frosted arrived in Dubai from America on Monday and will be housed at one of Godolphin’s two training centres, but most likely at Al Quoz with Saeed bin Suroor, who has won the World Cup a record seven times.

According to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who also sent over Invasor to win the 2007 World Cup at Nad Al Sheba, Frosted could run twice at Meydan before World Cup night on March 26.

“He may have one or two preps for the World Cup,” the trainer told Thoroughbred Racing Commentary. “The first being February 4, the Maktoum Challenge, and then March 5, there is another Maktoum Challenge. Frosted just does well with racing, and less time between starts is good for him. He thrives on training and racing.”

Keen Ice beat Frosted and American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August and has been entered alongside fellow US raider Dortmund, Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita Derby winner.

California Chrome, the 2014 US Horse of the Year, is already in Dubai and will run as a prep for the Dubai World Cup on February 25.

Last season’s impressive UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij, trained by Mike De Kock, is also among the nominations for the 2,000-metre contest and bids to finally give the South African handler a win in the race.

Victory Moon, Asiatic Boy and Musir have all won the UAE Derby for the master of Blue stables previously and finished third, second and seventh respectively.

In the other races Solow has been entered to defend his crown in the $US6million Dubai Turf and Sole Power will try to win the Al Quoz Sprint for the a second time in what will be his sixth attempt in the turf sprint.

FIVE HORSES TO WATCH

It is week three of the Dubai World Cup Carnival and with the Group 2 Al Rashidiya the feature Meydan hosts a seven-race card worth $US840,000.

Here are five horses to look for in Dubai tonight.

Divine — 7.35pm Meydan

Divine is one of six horses who were beaten hollow by the impressive Ertijaal on the opening night of the Carnival to be running in the Shiba At The Meydan Hotel Handicap over 1,200 metres. The filly was drawn away from the main pace that day and should run much better second time up. Godolphin’s Jungle Cat looks dangerous.

My Catch — 8.10pm Meydan

A lot was expected of Doug Watson’s sprinter three weeks ago, but he failed to dominate a Carnival race as he had done at Meydan in November. With few front-runners to compete with him up front he can make amends this time.

Ertijaal — 8.45pm Meydan

For the purse on offer and the grade, the Al Rashidiya does not look the strongest. Ertijaal is the only Grade 1 winner in the field of 14 runners and could be far too classy, even on his first run in Dubai. Last year’s winner Vercingetorix won on his first start at Meydan for Mike de Kock last season.

Ross — 21.55pm at Meydan

German trainer Peter Schiergen has never won a race at Meydan but has come close a few times with horses such as Empoli and Salon Soldier. Ross looks a very good horse to bring over, having won his last two starts on all-weather surfaces but it is anybody’s guess whether the Acclamation colt will act on the dirt.

Faaraaj — 10.30pm Meydan

Faaraaj ran an absolute shocker last time when he led for most of the way in the Singspiel Stakes but then fell away horribly to finish last. This is a horse that once was third in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes in Australia. Who knows how he will run tonight?

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Published: January 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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