Last week was a little brutal for the Meydan Maiden, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Throughout the night, my selections were finishing well off the board, but the death blow came in the nightcap, when Alnashmy encountered traffic trouble to miss winning by the barest nose. Keeping afloat is precisely what I’m trying to do as I write this preview. And hopefully, I can get a little lucky tomorrow – it’s my birthday, after all! There’s a nice six race card to pick through, so let’s not waste any more time talking here!
Race 1 is a 1200m handicap on the all-weather that’s attracted a hefty field of runners, including a few reserves. The most notable of those reserves is Conveyance, a horse you may remember from Lookin At Lucky’s crop. If he somehow draws into this race, he’d be running for the first time since March 2011. There’s one thing I’ve learned from these all-weather races, and that is to not ignore proven success on a synthetic surface. In that regard, Intransigent comes directly to mind; with 3 wins out of 6 starts on the stuff, he may go off favored if the 13 post doesn’t scare people off. And with that logic, my fancy in this race may not make sense. After all, Mujaazef has never won on the all-weather before, but he did finish a strong third two back to Rafeej, who ran third in a stakes last week. His sire is Dubawi, who throws some fantastic runners on the synthetic at Meydan. It was hard to separate Jamesie and Tennessee Wildcat, but I eventually went with the latter, who has ran with some nice horses in his career, including Dawn Approach and Lines of Battle. Hopefully he can rebound from his Meydan debut in which he finished ninth…oh, and his outside post as well. Mujaazef – Intransigent – Tennessee Wildcat
The next race on the card is 2435m (a little more than 12 furlongs, if you don’t wanna do the math) on the turf. A field of 14 has lined up, including Jutland, who returns to his favored surface after a handful of decent efforts on the dirt. In his last turf start, he was fourth of ten in the Dubai Gold Cup last March to Cavalryman, who is no slouch. He should relish this distance quite a bit, and looks a strong favorite here. Intriguing is Genius Beast, who is making his first start since September 2011; this six year-old has quite the form under him, but does Charlie Appleby have him primed for a win here? He might end up getting sharper as the Carnival progresses. Another Appleby runner coming off a layoff (albeit a shorter one) is Restraint of Trade, who won his last two starts back in the fall of 2012. The Godolphin entry looks promising, with Excellent Result in the solid blue naturally looking the best on paper. A handicap winner at Ascot two back, he is making his Dubai debut with Silvestre de Sousa up. And don’t count out Inthar, a Satish Seemar trainee who’s sharp and may be rounding into good form at the right time. This is a race where a longshot could jump up and win – well, aren’t they all? – but I feel quite comfortable with my top selections. Jutland – Inthar – Excellent Result
In Race 3, Capital Attraction takes a break from Group company as he drops down into this 1600m all-weather handicap. Could this return to a softer playing field be the key for the veteran gelding, or could he be a little over the hill at seven? Both he and Barbecue Eddie are coming out of the Maktoum Challenge won by Shuruq two weeks ago; I give Capital Attraction the better chance. Derbaas is a nice horse, but is probably better on the turf. Solar Deity looks very imposing here, with six wins in thirteen tries on all-weather. Last out, he was second by a mere head at W0lverton, and is making his Dubai debut. Captain Joy could also run a big one; he has some nice all-weather form from back at the beginning of 2013. Of the two nice horses coming out of Fulbright’s win two weeks ago, I prefer Bertiewhittle, who was running nearly as well as the winner towards the end. Sommerabend made his all-weather debut a winning one, but can he handle the extra weight tacked on from that victory? I chose to ignore the two older boys in this race – doing so at my own risk! Solar Deity – Bertiewhittle – Captain Joy
I quite like Race 4, for a number of reasons, the foremost of which is that it’s an interesting field. I’ve decided to go against the grain a little and select the runner-up in my boy Busker’s win two weeks ago, Layali Al Andalus. He did super off a layoff and will hopefully be just as sharp going forward. (The added distance won’t hurt, either!) Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the rest of the field. Daddy Long Legs looks tough here in this 2000m handicap event – remember, he has a Grade 2 win over this surface! But he wasn’t so hot at the Carnival last year, and finished a dull sixth behind Shuruq last out. Hopefully the drop in class can help this handsome chestnut son of Scat Daddy get his mojo back. Manalapan seems to really like the all-weather surface, finishing narrow seconds in his last two races. Izaaj will be on the pace, but can he last? He switches jockeys yet again; this time, he has Tadhg O’Shea aboard. While Daddy Long Legs looks very nice in this spot, I decided to go with the here and now horse, and that is Layali Al Andalus for me. Hopefully he can put in a good closing run for me! Layali Al Andalus – Daddy Long Legs – Manalapan
The stakes race for the night is the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort. Run at 1400m on the turf, it has attracted some familiar names, including Group-placed Mshawish, who is making his first start since an off-the-board appearance at Longchamp in October. There’s also Anaerobio, who is coming off a nice win from two weeks ago, and Fulbright, who won his last on all-weather but has some nice past turf form. And then there’s Heavy Metal, the big bad Group 1 winner from South Africa. If he takes to the course and runs well off the layoff, he could very well put in a monster performance. My issue with him is, while he’s won at the shorter distance, he seems to do his best running going longer, and may not have the speed to stay with this group. You can’t ignore Kavanagh, who is a nice horse with a win over this track. A second to Anaerobio proved that nine year-old Iguazu Falls still has it, but can he bring his A game against tougher competition here? 1800m may have been a little too much for Dux Scholar last out; this distance should be more to his liking. Something is also telling me to keep a close watch on Gale Force Ten, and that is exactly what I will do. This is a tougher race than immediately thought at first glance, and should be a cracking good one, as well. Anaerobio – Dux Scholar – Kavanagh
Finally, we have a nice 1800m handicap on turf to close out what should be a lovely night at Meydan. My fancy here is Gabrial, who finished a strong second to Mushreq last out and who will probably be a favorite to win. Rightfully so, too! El Estruendoso is coming off a fifth place finish in his first start off the layoff on all-weather, and returns sharper to his favored surface. Elleval is a nice horse with a win over the surface, but may not be as good as he once was. Intriguing is Sanshaawes, who finished a narrow third in a Group 1 behind the highly-regarded Capetown Noir. Without Fear on the inside may need a little more ground to be effective here. This race was a real no-brainer for me to pick apart, which is a good way to end the night! Gabrial – El Estruendoso – Sanshaawes
Good luck to everyone tomorrow, and enjoy watching the races!