For those that need a short sabbatical from National Hunt Festivals, the annual Dubai World Cup meeting from Meydan is just the ticket. Taking place tomorrow, the event is one of the World’s most valuable, with US$30m up for grabs.
It’s no surprise that some of the best Flat performers from around the globe have arrived, with connections hoping to land a vast fortune in prize money. The star of the show is the latest American sensation Arrogate. The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and recently successful in the World’s richest race; the Pegasus World Cup, he’ll be looking to add the Dubai World Cup and take his winning streak to a magnificent seven.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the four-year-old is a short-priced favourite to land the $10m showpiece for Prince Khalid Abdullah. “It’s pretty amazing the Prince has had a superhorse like Frankel and now he’s got a superhorse like this horse,” said the American handler. “Turf versus dirt, it’s so different. Frankel was an incredible horse, I remember every time he ran I made sure I got up real early to watch his races in England and he was spectacular.
“I think this horse is like the dirt version, in the States, of Frankel, so it’s pretty amazing he would own two of the best horses that we’ve seen. I trained American Pharoah, and I thought when he retired it was going to be really tough to fill those shoes, and then here comes Arrogate. He got into those shoes and just kept on.”
There’s plenty of British and Irish interest during the meeting, especially in the Dubai Sheema Classic, where Roger Varian, Aidan O’Brien, John Gosden and Saeed bin Suroor all clash. Postponed was an impressive winner of this race 12 months ago, and is the favourite to repeat that success. He warmed up with a narrow defeat to bin Suroor’s Prize Money, over course and distance. The Godolphin horse had a fitness advantage, and the places are expected to be reversed this time.
Highland Reel and Seventh Heaven represent Ballydoyle, with the former looking to add to his impressive International CV. A winner of the Hong Kong Vase in 2015, the five-year-old won the Breeders’ Cup Turf last November, before a narrow defeat back in Hong Kong in December. Ryan Moore will look to dictate from the front, and he’ll take some passing if getting the fractions right.
Seventh Heaven could prove the value bet in the race. Much will depend on how she’s progressed over the winter, but at times during her three-year-old campaign, she looked top-class. She has the physique to blossom as she gets older, and it would come as no surprise if she were to improve past these. Conditions should prove ideal, and she’s the one I’ll be backing.
Jack Hobbs will look to build on his encouraging run in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot back in October. Gosden will be praying for an uninterrupted spell with the five-year-old in the hope of him meeting his full potential. Undoubtedly classy when right, he’s a tough one to trust after such a troublesome 2016 campaign.
There’s also plenty of European interest in the nine-furlong Dubai Turf, with the Richard Fahey trained Ribchester taking on Alain de Royer Dupre’s Zarak. The latter was impressive at the track in February, when winning the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes. Twice a close second to Almanzor in France last term, he is a high-class colt, who could well make giant strides this season.
Ribchester did nothing but improve throughout his three-year-old campaign, becoming one of the leading milers. Just beaten by Minding in the QEII at Ascot, Fahey is adamant that his stable star will see-out this extended trip. He certainly looked as though a step-up in trip would suit, and this should prove an intriguing clash.
Finally, the Sprint over six furlongs sees Limato return to action, after his failed attempt at a mile in the Breeders’ Cup back in November. He was one of the stars of last Summer, and Henry Candy will be hoping that a return to sprinting will see him at his dazzling best.
Ertijaal looks to be one of his main dangers. The Meydan regular is owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, and was runner-up in this last year. The son of Oasis Dream hammered Jungle Cat last time, and will be a tough nut to crack. Aidan O’Brien’s Washington DC may prove each-way value at 14s. He had some tasty form last year, especially on quick ground, and there’s every chance of marked improvement from three to four.
This looks an exciting taster, as the Flat season draws ever near.