Brian Healy takes a look at the 2016 Dubai World Cup, the premier race of the UAE racing season.
The Dubai World Cup, held at Meydan forms the pinnacle of the fantastic top-class race meeting that is the Dubai World Cup night which also sees Group One contests such as the Al Quoz Sprint and the Sheema Classic on the card which signals the conclusion of the UAE racing season.
Labelled as the world’s richest horse race, the ten furlong event takes place on a dirt surface nowadays, having previously been run on tapeta, and the race attracts a global entry. Winners of the race have come from the likes of Great Britain, USA, France and Japan, as well as from the United Arab Emirates.
For the latest renewal of this top-class contest, a field of twelve runners will enter the starting stalls for the ten furlong contest.
One of several classy US raiders, Dale Romans’ Curlin colt was the only horse to beat superstar American Pharoah last year, swooping late to conquer in the Travers at Saratoga.
However, that form was emphatically reversed when Bob Baffert’s charge gave Keen Ice a twelve-length beating at Keeneland in October, and he hasn’t been at his best in three subsequent starts, including here last time when finishing a well-beaten seventh of twelve runners behind Special Fighter.
The hold-up performer will require plenty of luck in running given his come-from-behind style, but he’ll get a good pace to chase and has claims if the frontrunners go off too quickly and the first-time blinkers have a positive effect.
Keen Ice (no.6) was the only horse to defeat American Pharoah last term.
A relative late-comer to dirt, but Todd Pletcher’s charge has made up for lost time in winning both starts on the surface at Gulfstream Park following a solid introduction to dirt at Aqueduct.
One of those successes came when beating Valid by two lengths in the Grade One Donn Handicap, where he won a shade cosily.
The Al Shaqab-owned Medaglia d’Oro horse has only once been tried over this trip, when he finished fourth in a Chantilly Grade One when trained in France; while he should stay this distance, he has however shown all his winning form over shorter trips.
Showed plenty of smart form on dirt in Hong Kong, winning all seven of his starts on the surface at Sha Tin.
The Dubawi gelding hasn’t been in the same form in recent outings, finishing a well-beaten runner-up to Special Fighter in round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge over course and distance earlier in the month.
That form isn’t good enough to win a Dubai World Cup, while he has shaped as if this trip stretches him, so he is difficult to fancy here.
Very smart operator for Mike De Kock, and the Dubawi colt was only beaten once in five starts during the 2015 Carnival, with one of those wins coming in the UAE Derby where he ran out a convincing winner over Maftool.
Not disgraced in two subsequent starts behind American Pharoah in Triple Crown races in the United States, he hasn’t quite been at the peak of his powers in two runs back here, including behind Special Fighter last time.
He is better than he has shown in either start though, and he has likely been campaigned with this in mind, so no surprise to see a big performance from him here.
Mike De Kock's Mubtaahij can run well and had likely been trained for this race.
Has proven a revelation with the sun on his back, taking his form to a considerably higher level than that shown when he was trained in the UK by Mark Johnston.
The Teofilo horse has alternated wins with lesser efforts, scoring here in December last year with a six-length defeat of Farrier in a Listed race, but readily put in his place next time in a Group Two contest.
His last run resulted in a win over course and distance when beating Gun Pit and Mubtaahij to land the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge; however, he very much had the run of the race on that occasion, and he’ll find this field much tougher to dominate.
The Candy Ride horse looked a progressive sort a couple of seasons back, winning a Grade Two contest at Santa Anita and posting a career-best effort to finish sixth behind Bayern in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Also third to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby, Doug Watson’s charge was well-beaten behind the same rival in the Kentucky Derby, and he hasn’t won for some time.
Nevertheless, he ran very well to finish fourth behind Prince Bishop in this race twelve months ago. He hasn’t been seen since though, and was perhaps flattered by that result as he plodded through beaten horses.
There appears no real reason to expect a better performance from him twelve months on, and he is hard to fancy.
Classy and progressive French raider who won a German Group Two contest last September, and he was a regular visitor to the winners’ enclosure earlier in his career, including in Listed company.
Having shaped as if amiss behind Fascinating Rock in the Champion Stakes at Ascot, the Monsun gelding was absent until returning to action at Chantilly earlier in the month where he chased down the superstar Solow, finishing runner-up to the flying grey, beaten just over one length.
Possibly flattered by the proximity, given that Freddie Head’s charge won easily, he takes on a new level of opposition here on his first try on dirt, and he will have to improve significantly against these rivals.
Vadamos represents top trainer Andre Fabre, but he will need to raise his game.
Top-class dirt performer in Japan, he has contested the last two renewals of this race, running with credit both times.
Injured in 2014 when finishing last of the runners behind African Story, he went off far too hard for his own good twelve months ago and was a spent force early, but he finished a creditable fifth of the nine runners.
A prolific winner in his native Japan, Katsuichi Nishiura’s runner warmed up with a defeat of Sound True in a Listed race at Kawasaki, but he faces a much stiffer task here and is likely to come up short again.
Very smart US-trained performer who has been unfortunate to come up against the superstar American Pharoah in several of his starts, but Kiaran McLaughlin’s charge is capable of top-class form.
The Tapit colt is a Grade One winner in the United States, scoring at Aqueduct last April, and he subseqently went on to lock horns with American Pharoah in several of his races, including when fourth in the Kentucky Derby and runner-up in the Belmont Stakes.
Olaced on his next two outings, including when third to Keen Ice in the Travers Stakes after he and American Pharoah went off too hard, he resumed winning ways in the Pennsylvania Derby prior to running a shocker in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
It is possible he was feeling the effects of a long season, and he has been freshened up for this, warming up with an emphatic defeat of Gold City in round two of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
If he can build on that run he should be in the mix, and he rates a major player.
The grey Frosted can land the Dubai World Cup and maintain Godolphin's excellent record in the race.
Very smart and consistent performer in the United States, Bob Baffert’s charge can be relied upon to give his running, and he has yet to finish worse than fourth in any of his starts.
The Any Given Saturday horse however finds winning difficult, despite his success at Santa Anita back in February when gaining a nose verdict over Imperative. Placed three times at the highest level last term, he will need more to figure against these rivals, but he represents a yard who have won this race in the past, and guaranteed a strong pace he can post a good effort.
Winner of two legs of the American Triple Crown in 2014, the Lucky Pulpit gelding finished runner-up in this race twelve months ago; but the race wasn’t run to suit Art Sherman’s charge who was lit up by the strong early pace set by Japanese raider Hokko Tarumae, and forced to race wide throughout he covered considerably more ground than his rivals.
A tumultous 2015 season can largely be written off following his injury problems, and he made an impressive return to the winners enclosure when readily beating Imperative at Santa Anita, and he warmed up for this contest with a defeat of Storm Belt in a handicap at this venue.
The US superstar again has to overcome a high draw, and there is a suspicion that he may not truly see out this trip in a fast-run race; and taking on stiff opposition for this contest, he looks to have plenty on his plate, although no surprise to see him overcome the odds stacked against him.
American superstar California Chrome will once agan have to overcome a tough draw on the outside.
A smart performer when trained in France by Pascal Bary, finding the frame in Group company on several occasions, the Empire Maker horse has continued his good form since switched to this yard and he has won two of his three starts at Janadriyah.
One of those wins came in a local Group One event, but this is a whole new level facing him now, and he will need to improve significantly on his form to date if he is to cause an upset in this race.
DUBAI WORLD CUP VERDICT
California Chrome sets a solid standard, but he was beaten in this race twelve months ago by Prince Bishop to give Godolphin a third win in the race in the last four renewals. He could be vulnerable again, and FROSTED looks to hold strong claims of making it four from five for the boys in blue, and he can win this valuable prize.
Although disappointing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind American Pharoah, he wasn’t the only one to fail to give their running, and he bounced back to register a success over this course and distance when readily landing the Group Two Al Maktoum Challenge earlier in the month.
Kiaran McLaughlin’s charge may just fall short of top class, but with proven winning form in the conditions of the race, he can give another good account and earns the vote.