The Meydan Maiden – Return of the Wizard

No, this post is not about Tolkien’s posthumous sequel to the Lord of the Rings – sorry to disappoint.  Rather, we welcome back a horse who had quite the Carnival last year, and who is becoming quite the fan favorite.  Reynaldothewizard won three in a row in 2013, including the prestigious Dubai Golden Shaheen.  He returns off of a 10 month layoff in the 5th race, the Dubawi Stakes, against some tough customers, many who have seen his tail in the past.

Last week, this maiden was pretty successful: Busker came home first and Shuruq was at least on my radar.  There were some lessons learned; “don’t have bad second thoughts on horses proven on the surface (Fulbright)” left me kicking myself in the end.  But that was just one night of many, and we’ve got a fantastic card to look forward to tomorrow night!

The first race is a handicap over 2200m on all-weather.  Twelve horses have lined up for this $110,000 prize, including Balladry, who is possibly one of the most well-bred horses in the field.  From a family of precocity (both his sire and his dam won Breeders’ Cup juvenile events) this horse is making only his second Dubai start after a disappointing last place finish in a Grade 3 on turf last year.  While the all-weather might be a bit kinder to this son of Unbridled’s Song, it remains to be seen whether he is good enough for this bunch.  The horse that stuck out to me was Ralston Road, who is coming off of a win over this track at 2000m.  Second place finisher Izaaj didn’t exactly flatter him last Thursday; though the pace-setting gelding hung tough against Ralston Road, he withered in the race that Busker won.  However, Ralston Road needed each and every one of those last strides to nip Izaaj on the wire, and the added 200m should suit him just fine.  Many people fancy another Meydan maiden (like me!) in Cat O’Mountain, and there are many reasons why – he’s 4-for-4 on all-weather, for one, and trained by Charlie Appleby, who was absolutely on fire last Thursday.  What gives Ralston Road the edge for me is his winning start over the track.  But if Cat O’Mountain handles this track – his Street Cry/Storm Cat lines are terrific for Meydan – he might just blow them all away.  Haafaguinea is a winner on all-weather in his lone start on the surface but is also making his Meydan debut; he’s worth looking at for minor awards.  Ralston Road – Cat O’Mountain – Haafaguinea

Next up is our first look at the Emirates three year-olds; this race is for the fillies.  The UAE 1000 Guineas Trial – which is exactly what it sounds like – drew ten runners from some very nice stables.  It’s over 1400m, which should be no problem for these young fillies.  Mike de Kock has two in here – Magrooma and Magroora, and I wish Terry Spargo the best of luck as he tackles those two names, breaking right next to each other.  They’re both by Dubawi, and at first glance at their names, I thought they might be twins.  Not so!  Magrooma has been tested a little more, as she’s coming out of a Grade 1 last summer.  Godolphin has a stout pair of favorites here in Wedding Ring and Autumn Lily (both from the Appleby barn); it would surprise no one if the home team took home the big prize.  I fancy Autumn Lily more out of the pair; I love those Street Crys on the synthetic!  Intriguing is More Aspen, who is the only filly in this field with a win over all-weather.  Max Beauty has a race over this track, finishing a creditable seventh against males in her only start.  She might be worth a short look here.  There is also Letterfromamerica, a daughter of Ghostzapper who is coming into this race out of a win last July.  It’s a little tricky to pick apart these early three year-old races, and sometimes, you just need to go with an owner’s proven success at Meydan.  But since I don’t want to look a fool and pick both heavy favorites in my top three, I suppose I’ll just have to pick one.  Fingers crossed that it’s the right girl!   Autumn Lily – More Aspen – Max Beauty

Race 2 was all about girls, girls, girls…now, in Race 3, the boys are back in town.  Moving past my poorly executed music references, this is the trial race for the 2000 Guineas, and this race is also at 1400m.  This is a race chock-full of good horses, including some that chased the likes of No Nay Never and War Command last year.  The two Applebys look very strong here; my favorite out of the pair is Figure of Speech, who finished second in a Kempton Group 3 over the all-weather.  He’ll have to overcome a cripplingly wide post draw, however, as will Journeyman, who is coming out of a Group 2 for trainer de Kock.  A horse I really like here is Vigor, who finished a strong second against older horses in his Meydan debut.  He then went on to finish ninth on dirt behind Rafeej, who will take on Reynaldothewizard later on the card in the Dubawi Stakes.  Lucky number seven is Emirates Flyer; his only off-the-board performance was against No Nay Never at Royal Ascot, and he should do very well for the home team.  Appleby’s other runner, Safety Check, will likely compete my trio – you can never count out a Dubawi in Dubai!  What could have been a nice exacta for me with Figure of Speech and Journeyman was ruined by that post draw; if either can win this race, they earn my respect for life.  Fun fact – all seven winners at Meydan last Thursday had one-word names.  Let’s see if my top choice can carry on that moniker magic!  Vigor – Emirates Flyer – Safety Check

You want a headache?  Take a look at the form for Race 4.  Does any horse in particular jump out at you?  Probably not!  This 2000m turf handicap has 12 really nice horses, and most of them have a very good shot of winning.  There is Star Empire, who finished fifth on last year’s World Cup Day in the Dubai Gold Cup.  He’s cutting way back in distance; he hasn’t run this short since the beginning of 2011!  Then there’s So Beautiful, who got within two or three lengths of Await the Dawn at last year’s Carnival.  Pisco Sour is a Dubai veteran, but the six year-old gelding’s best days may be behind him.  Energizer makes his first start since way back in the summer of 2012; this Group 3 winner gets the Appleby/Barzalona team, which should do nothing but help him.  Another soldier from the Aga Khan’s fleet of unpronounceable names (kidding – sort of), Dabadiyan takes a step up here in his Dubai debut.  Sahawar was 11th behind Treve in last year’s Arc de Triomphe.  You can never count out Godolphin at the Carnival, so take a long look at Tha’ir as well, even though he drew the rail.  Code of Honor is a cracking good horse.  But my God.  So many horses could win this.  Who shall I go with?  I love the group stakes form of Energizer, and you can’t go wrong with Appleby.  For the other two beneath him…well, I might as well throw darts at this packed racing form.  Energizer – Code of Honor – Dabadiyan

After that living nightmare of a race, we’ve finally moved on to the main event!  (I’m being a bit unfair; that turf handicap will be a joy to watch, but boy, that was a brain-buster.)  The “Wizard” himself will be breaking from stall three in the confident hands of Richard Mullen.  This is the listed Dubawi Stakes, run over 1200m on all-weather, which is exactly what Reynaldo likes.  Ready to give him a hard time here are Balmont Mast and Krypton Factor, the two who filled out his Golden Shaheen trifecta last year.  Balmont Mast has had a handful of starts between that and now, including a listed stakes win at the Curragh in October.  Krypton Factor added another Group 1 placing to his resume; he finished third behind Lethal Force in the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot last summer.  These two will certainly make their old pal Reynaldothewizard work for it tomorrow night.  Rafeej enters this race off of a lightning quick turnaround; he finished seventh just a week ago on turf.  His win on all-weather two back was very nice indeed, so he has an outside chance against the big guns.  (I tipped him last time and he didn’t come in…I guess you could say I’m a little bitter.)  It’s been a little while since Russian Soul gave the all-weather a shot.  A horse who chased Shea Shea last year, he comes into this race out of a Group 3 win at the Curragh.  This is a mere sharpener for Reynaldothewizard, and there’s a good possibility he might not be 100% here.  Therefore, I reluctantly place one of his old bridesmaids ahead of him.  Balmont Mast is a little sharper, and a fabulous horse to boot.  Let’s give Rafeej another shot, shall we?  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over against and expecting different results.”  Or something like that.  Balmont Mast – Reynaldothewizard – Rafeej

Take a deep breath, because we’ve made it to Race 6!  All right, sure, it’s probably taken you about fifteen minutes or so to read this through, but this has been a work in progress today!  This is a very large field of 16 (originally 17, but #2 scratched out) going 1600m on the all-weather track.  Catching my eye right away is Alnashmy, who was a stunning winner over this track back in December.  The extra 200m from that start should be no problem for him.  Regulation won at 1600m on the all-weather last out and is a legitimate contender here.  Start Right is coming out of a third to Mushreq last out, who came right on back to score on turf last Thursday.  That sure makes Start Right look good!  He is one that you definitely cannot ignore here.  Zain Shamardal is a winner last out on dirt; he’s proven on this track and surface.  Derbaas is coming off a quick turnaround from last week, when he was ninth behind Mushreq.  As I get more and more tired, races start to become no-brainers, which might be a bad thing upon reviewing selections in the morning.  In fact, I hope I can offer this piece to you in intelligible English, but that’s besides the point.  That being said, I think I know what I’m doing here.  I thinkAlnashmy – Regulation – Start Right

I think we can all gather together for a hearty, “Welcome back!” to Reynaldothewizard!  What a popular horse in these circles!  I hope he does swimmingly.  Again, thank you for reading and good luck to you all in your ventures at Meydan tomorrow night!

Of course, at this point, it would be tonight.

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