Category Archives: Racing

Stories on Thoroughbred racing, both in America and abroad.

Curlin, Gun Runner, and the 4YO Classic Victory At Last

As a writer, I know that there are many endings. The joyous, the sorrowful; the bitter or sweet (sometimes both in tandem).

But as Jane Austen wrote in her novel Mansfield Park, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore every body, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”

I much prefer a happy ending.

When I was thirteen years old, I was in love. I had several human crushes, naturally, but the boy of my heart was not a boy at all, but a burly chestnut horse by the name of Curlin.

I had been skeptical of Curlin at first, especially going into the Kentucky Derby of 2007, where the lightly-raced colt faced his first real test. But he soon won me over with a heart-pounding photo finish victory in the Preakness, and when he splashed home to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park by open lengths, I knew I was hooked.

His four-year-old season, 2008, was one I’ll never forget. While many eyes were, and rightfully so, upon Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown, I kept most of my focus on Curlin, who had blossomed into a mature and seasoned racehorse.

He first went to the desert, where he took down the lucrative Dubai World Cup in a performance that still gives me chills to this day, upon watching the replay. He returned home for several victories in Grade 1 races over the main track and even gave turf a try, finishing a valiant third to seasoned grass runners.

In early autumn, Curlin romped down the stretch to take the Jockey Club Gold Cup and became the richest racehorse in American history, the first to earn more than $10 million in purses. California Chrome and Arrogate have since surpassed his record, but Curlin was, and will always be, the first.

The Breeders’ Cup approached, and my hopes were high that the colt could become only the second horse ever to win two editions of the Classic; only the mighty Tiznow had done so. This was his chance for a storybook ending to a marvelous career. It was a solid but not impossible field, though it was over a synthetic racing surface, which threw a new variable into the mix.

Valiant Curlin tried. He tried hard. He hit the lead at the top of the stretch, and I thought we were fine. But Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator, contenders from Europe, relished the synthetic surface, and surged past my champion for the top two spots. Tiago closed late to shut Curlin out of the trifecta completely.

I was devastated. After such a great season, to end on this note was anticlimactic, to say the least. They say time heals all wounds, but I still feel the sting of that loss.

Years went by. Horses came and went. Even the Triple Crown, which some had thought impossible in the modern era, was captured once again. And then came another chestnut colt, conditioned by the same man who had trained Curlin to all those victories, Steve Asmussen. The young horse was a strong Triple Crown contender, though never captured a jewel himself, and managed a placing in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Enter Gun Runner.

Maybe it’s the white bridle and braided mane that Asmussen runners so often sport, or his bright chestnut color, so similar to one I’d seen before. Maybe it was the record he put together at four that gave me deja vu. But as I watched this horse surge to the top of the rankings as his main rival faltered through the summer, I began to have vivid memories of the halcyon days of Curlin’s 2008 campaign.

Gun Runner, though second in Dubai, captured the Stephen Foster upon returning from overseas, just as Curlin had. He put together several victories over older horses, including in the Woodward Stakes, which Curlin had also won. And he went into the Breeders’ Cup Classic off this record favored–just like Curlin.

I was nervous. I had grown attached, by virtue of all these similarities to the colt I loved long ago, to this racehorse. To see another loss after such a marvelous campaign–not to mention enduring several such losses by other fan favorites in other Breeders’ Cup races that day–would be a punch in the gut.

I wanted a happy ending this time.

As the gates opened, and Gun Runner surged to the lead, I wasn’t sure I would get one. The fractions were fast, so fast. I had seen pacesetters fizzle out in several races prior on the card. This race was a mile and a quarter, and, at least by raw numbers, Gun Runner was going too fast.

He hit the far turn in front, but well-regarded Collected was breathing down his neck. “This is it,” I thought. “This is the Raven’s Pass moment.” I gritted my teeth and waited for the agony of defeat.

But something happened, something else: Gun Runner fought back.

The chestnut colt dug in, surging again past Collected and beginning to draw away from his competitors. The seasoned four-year-old would simply not allow anyone to pass. I clapped, I cheered, I yelled at my television until hoarse.

And as Asmussen’s white-bridled copper star sailed beneath the wire at Del Mar, it was a well-deserved happy ending for this horse I had grown to admire–and vindication for Curlin and the loss I had felt so acutely long ago.

~~~~~

Congratulations to Winchell Thoroughbreds & Three Chimneys Farm, Florent Geroux, and Steve Asmussen on their victory with Gun Runner. He is a son of Lane’s End stallion Candy Ride out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Quiet Giant and bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables, LLC.

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Kentucky Derby Contenders By Female Family – 2016 Edition

Female Family No. 4 has the most Kentucky Derby winners out of all the female families with 17: Day Star, Halma, Manuel, Wintergreen, Donau, Black Gold, Gallant Fox, Lawrin, Gallahadion, Assault, Middleground, Venetian Way, Majestic Prince, Canonero, Sunny’s Halo, Real Quiet, and Monarchos.

Female Family No. 1 has produced 15 Derby winners: Morvich, Pensive, Tomy Lee, Proud Clarion, Riva Ridge, Genuine Risk, Swale, Spend a Buck, Unbridled, Sea Hero, Go for Gin, Grindstone, Smarty Jones, Super Saver, and Animal Kingdom. This year’s contenders from this family are Trojan Nation, Destin, Mor Spirit, and Danzing Candy. (And Laoban, if he gets in.)

Female Family No. 23 has produced 9 Derby winners: Zev, Burgoo King, Ponder, Tim Tam, Affirmed, Winning Colors, Lil E Tee, Mine That Bird, and I’ll Have Another. Shagaf represents this family in Derby 142.

Female Family No. 5 has produced 8 Derby winners: Elwood, Sir Huon, Flying Ebony, Twenty Grand, Determine, Needles, Pleasant Colony, and Big Brown.

Female Family No. 2 has produced 7 Derby winners: Buchanan, Reigh Count, Northern Dancer, Secretariat, Cannonade, Spectacular Bid, and Giacomo. Creatorand Brody’s Cause are looking to become the 8th winner from this family.

Female Family No. 3 has produced 6 Derby winners: Citation, Dark Star, Lucky Debonair, Dust Commander, Sunday Silence, and Silver Charm. The lone representative for Family 3 this year is second-choice Exaggerator.

Female Family No. 9 has produced 6 Derby winners: Spokane, Omar Khayyam, Sir Barton, Hoop Jr., Forward Pass, and Bold Forbes. This year’s Derby competitor from this family is Suddenbreakingnews–and potentially also Cherry Wine, who currently sits on the A/E list.

Female Family No. 12 has produced 6 Derby winners: Baden-Baden, Leonatus, Joe Cotton, His Eminence, Brokers Tip, and Cavalcade.

Female Family No. 6 has produced 5 Derby winners: Worth, Old Rosebud, Bold Venture, Count Fleet, and Funny Cide. Morning-line favorite Nyquist is a member of Family 6.

Female Family No. 24 has produced 5 Derby winners: Fonso, Hindoo, Agile, Paul Jones, and Carry Back.

American Family No. 1 has produced 5 Derby winners: Riley, Ben Brush, Regret, Exterminator, and Gato Del Sol.

American Family No. 4 has produced 5 Derby winners: Clyde Van Dusen, Swaps, Iron Liege, Kauai King, and California Chrome.

Female Family No. 8 has produced 4 Derby winners: Bubbling Over, Whirlaway, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Orb. My Man Sam, Whitmore, Tom’s Ready, and Mohaymen make up a quartet of Derby contenders from Family 8.

Female Family No. 11 has produced 4 Derby winners: Ben Ali, War Admiral, Hill Gail, and Thunder Gulch.

Female Family No. 16 has produced 4 Derby winners: Shut Out, Chateaugay, Strike the Gold, and Barbaro. Mo Tom is from Family 16.

Female Family No. 13 has produced 3 Derby winners: Jet Pilot, Seattle Slew, and Ferdinand.

Female Family No. 17 has produced 3 Derby winners: Omaha, Johnstown, and Decidedly. The lone Derby contender this year from Family 17 is Gun Runner.

Female Family No. 20 has produced 3 Derby winners: Meridian, Alysheba, and War Emblem. Oscar Nominated and Outwork are members of this family.

Female Family No. 21 has produced 3 Derby winners: Plaudit, Stone Street, and Whiskery.

American Family No. 13 has produced 3 Derby winners: Vagrant, Lookout, and Lieut. Gibson. Lani is part of this family.

Female Family No. 10 has produced 2 Derby winners: George Smith and Charismatic.

Female Family No. 14 has produced 2 Derby winners: Foolish Pleasure and last year’s Triple Crown hero American Pharoah.

Female Family No. 22 has produced 2 Derby winners: Count Turf and Street Sense. Longshot Majesto is part of Family 22.

American Family No. 3 has produced 2 Derby winners: Chant and Pink Star.

Ten other female families have produced one Derby winner each.

 

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Meydan 02/19/15 – The Speed-Read Card

After a pretty successful card last week, with great performances from picks like Tamarkuz and Songcraft, we move on to a pretty competitive night of racing as we inch ever closer to Super Saturday and, soon after, World Cup night. A few races feature horses that loom large, while others are as wide-open as can be.

I zipped through this card pretty fast, which usually means that my results are going to be terrible. I don’t claim to be any sort of sharp or savvy handicapper, and I’ll always be honest about that fact. But let’s have a look at these races, shall we?

(Skipping past the Arabian race – as much as I love Arabs as a breed, I’m clueless on their race records.)

R2 – Meydan Sobha (1000m Turf Handicap)

The usual turf sprint contenders are featured in here, all save Ahtoug, who I’m assuming is pointing to the race in this division on Super Saturday. The stand-out to me here is Lancelot Du Lac, who kept close throughout and gave Ahtoug a great fight at the end. He tacks on some weight off that effort, but I believe he can improve further still second time in Dubai. Hototo and Medicean Man are threats as always, but I’m going with the Lancelot here.

R3 – Meydan Sobha (1600m Dirt Handicap)

This race is pretty competitive, with 8-year-old Haatheq as highweight; while he’s consistent, the old boy doesn’t punch as well as he used to. I ended up going with Layl, but it’s a dart throw. I’m very interested to see how US-bred Yard Line (Discreet Cat x A.P. Indy mare) does first up for Appleby and Buick.

R4 – Dubai Millennium Stakes Sponsored by Meydan Sobha (2000m Turf Stakes)

Hunter’s Light is a clear stand-out here and should win. If he doesn’t fire, Mr Pommeroy may be able to pull a victory.

R5 – District One (2000m Dirt Handicap)

This is the other tough race on the card. In fact, I’m thinking it’s even tougher than R3. A win on the track has proven beneficial in seeking out next-out winners, but so many of these have recent wins on this dirt surface – Le Bernadin, Toolain, I’m Back – and others have come close, like Henry Clay and Artigiano. So hard! He’ll be short-priced, but I’ll go with I’m Back to score his third win over the track. It’s so wide open, though…so many of these could win.

R6 – Balanchine Sponsored by District One (1800m Turf Stakes)

Many of these are coming out of the Cape Verdi Jan. 29, including that race’s winner, Cladocera. With that being said, I’m looking for an outsider to win the Balanchine. I see a lot of people are high on Turkish champion filly Suzi Gold, including some people whose Meydan opinions I value greatly, so why not hop on the bandwagon?

R7 – District One (1400m Turf Handicap)

See, this is what I get for staying up and watching The Godfather Part II and not finishing this blog post. Sleepy me. Apologies if my exhaustion renders this last discussion incomprehensible. I did look at this race, but I only gave it a cursory glance, for I’m going with my old friend Anaerobio. He had a horrendous trip last out in tougher company and, with a better trip (knock on wood), he wins this thing. He and Eastern Rules look to tower over this field, with a horse like Dark Emerald potentially playing second fiddle.

Good luck to all, and happy Thursday. I hope you all profit, and I hope Meydan leaves you happy.

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Meydan 2/12/15 – The Fast and the Furious

After taking a break last week on that really tough card – only kind of a cop-out…I had homework – I’m back with selections for tomorrow’s card at Meydan. We march ever-closer to World Cup Night at the end of March, and this Thursday’s card features names both new and familiar. Let’s get cracking!

R1 – The Range Rover Evoque Trophy

This race looks dominated by Layl, who was impressive in a 4 1/2-length victory last out on this surface over this distance for Watson & Dobbs. Unfortunately for him, off that effort he’s been assigned three more kilos of weight and will break from post 7 of 8. This is a race where I’d usually try to beat him, but I’m finding it difficult to select a candidate to do so. Cry Joy seems the most likely upset candidate, but he’s drawn widest of all and looked dull in the last effort. Intriguing is Aslan, a formerly US-based A.P. Indy-Seeking the Gold colt breaking from the rail who won his Meydan debut on Jan. 31. If he steps up here, he’s a major threat.

R2 – The Jaguar F Type Trophy

This is a wide open race, and one of those “what have you done for me lately” kind of affairs. Unfortunately for us, not many of these have done much of note lately. Many are jumping up in distance even though they’ve had unsuccessful tries at 2000m before. Against my better judgement – I tend to stick with certain horses, to hell or high water I suppose! – I’m going with Pilote here, who’s kept good company and put in some decent runs so far. This could be the race where he finally strikes gold.

R3 – The UAE 2000 Guineas Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors

The UAE 1000 Guineas was basically a rematch of the Guineas Trial. This race, while a little more slightly varied, is pretty similar to that situation. Each of the seven runners are coming out of just two previous races, one being the Guineas Trial won by Mubtaahij (in attendance) and the other a 1400m turf event won by Mastermind (not in attendance). Mubtaahij was an impressive winner of the Trial, but Maftool was the horse that caught my eye that night. He broke absolutely flat-footed (which is an absolute no-no on this speedy track), had to go wide on the turn to catch up, and was rolling strongly at the end (he finished third). With a better start and some added distance, I believe he can turn the tables this time around.

R4 – Al Shindagha Sprint Sponsored by Jaguar XJ

This is a prep for the illustrious Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup Night, and former Shaheen winner Reynaldothewizard is in attendance. He was a triumphant winner despite some skepticism in his last out, and the 9-year-old (nine!!) looks sharp as ever going into this race. Now, the #8, Beat Baby…in his last, he was allowed out on a lone lead in the 1200m event. A lone lead! At 1200m! He broke sharply from the inside and never looked back, having enough in the tank to hold off Speed Hawk. Now Speed Hawk breaks from the inside, while Beat Baby is caught wide. Can he get revenge? I’m going with Speed Hawk, who I’ve had earmarked for the dirt sprint division at this Carnival.

R5 – The Range Rover Trophy

Wide-open event here over 2400m with a good payout likely for those willing to take a chance. Many could win. I’m liking Songcraft. He has a history of winning nicely first up at the Carnival – he’s done so the last two years, and each of those efforts were around this same time. I believe Godolphin and trainer Suroor will have him cranked once again.

R6 – Firebreak Stakes Sponsored by Land Rover

This is a really cool prep for the Godolphin Mile with some really nice horses in it. Darwin (high-priced Big Brown colt) and Romansh (respectable American miler) are each making their Meydan debuts. As cool as it will be to see them, I can’t have them here. Instead, I’m going with my boy Tamarkuz, who won (!!!) last out at 1600m. If he breaks well, he’s unstoppable! (KNOCK. ON. WOOD.)

R7 – The Range Rover Sport Trophy

I believe this contest is between two horses – Mushreq and Elleval. Obviously, the bold type signifies that I’ve gone for the latter. It’s a tricky event, though, and I’ll commend anyone who puzzles it out correctly.

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Meydan 1/29/15 – The One With Big V and All the Aluminium

A very nice card on tap for tomorrow’s meeting, including a pair of G2 events: the Cape Verdi and the Al Rashidiya. The Al Rashidiya has that added bonus of being the scene of the comeback for a horse I quite fancy…Vercingetorix! AKA “Big V,” the name I called him on a YouTube video when I was sure I would butcher his name (I’m sure my British friend Joe still inwardly makes fun of me for that. “I don’t think she can pronounce that” yeah yeah laugh it up.) Anyway, let’s get cracking.

R1 – Emirates Global Aluminium Trophy

He’s back! I’m Back, that is. He won on opening night’s card over Henry Clay and Le Bernardin, and Le Bernardin came back to win impressively a week later. He’s also not the highweight of the field – that honor goes to Artigiano, an intriguing Godolphin entry who did decently at the Carnival last year on turf and synth. This son of Distorted Humor out of an A.P. Indy mare is making his dirt debut; will he run to his pedigree? He certainly has the class for it. But I’m playing it safe here and going with I’m Back. Hopefully he’ll be back again in good form.

R2 – Emirates Global Aluminium Excellence Trophy

As I did last time he ran, I’m once again going against Ahtoug, who was eighth behind Hototo in his first-up race on the 8th. He is dropping some weight from that loss, and he has every chance to improve on that, but I’m going to look elsewhere. I’m going with Fityaan, who found himself closest to Hototo on the 8th after bobbling a bit at the start and keeping on well on the inside. He gets an outside draw from last out and, while I can’t really say how the straight track is playing this year, outside runners did pretty well at the 1000m last Carnival. I’m earmarking Speed Hawk for his next run on the dirt.

R3 – Emirates Global Aluminium Billet Trophy

This is one of those races that, at first glance, I’m gonna just have to go with the very first horse I saw on the page. Filfil gets my vote. This son of Hard Spun o/o More Than Ready mare has won two in a row on the dirt at Meydan and is looking to make it three. I think he’ll do so, but with my form on the dirt, it’s really just a guessing game for me at this point.

R4 – Cape Verdi sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminium

This is always one of my favorite races at the Carnival. Remember when Certify bolted up to win this last year? Ah, good times. This is a pretty evenly-matched race. Nothing is really screaming out to me here. Both Zurigha and Slipper Orchid have had runs here at the Carnival. I’m going with the former: hopefully Hannon & Hughes can bring in a winner for me!

R5 – Emirates Global Aluminium Casthouse Trophy

Remember when Jamie Osborne and Jamie Spencer almost stole the Breeders’ Cup Classic from Bayern & Chrome? They’ve got an entry in here named Another Party, who’s making his dirt debut. His pedigree doesn’t exactly scream dirt, but he was a nice runner-up to impressive Safety Check last out. Give him a long look. There are some other mainstays in here like United Color and Russian Soul, and keep an eye out for Silver Ocean breaking from the rail. But I’m taking a shot with the Jamies here, even though dirt has been very polarizing this season (either you love it, or you hate it.)

R6 – Al Rashidiya sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminium

This is it! This is the one! Big V returns! He faces True Story here, who was hella impressive (apologize for the slang, but truly, hella impressive) in winning on opening night over Mushreq, who’s a decent pony in his own right. Except oops, I’m siding with True Story. Sorry, Big V! You have my money next out, I promise. The long layoff is an ask…not a big ask, but stll an ask.

R7 – Emirates Global Aluminium Potlines Trophy

Haafaguinea gave me a virtual heart attack last out, but he got up just in time, and for that, I thank him. That said, don’t think he’s getting past Mushreq, who gets some class relief here after getting clobbered by True Story last out. Hunter’s Light, like Big V, is making a return. Looking forward to seeing him.

Best Bet: Fityaan in R2

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Meydan Selections 01/22/15

Last week was a little rough for me – just one winner, and I think he went off favored (Haafaguinea). It was even more disappointing in the light of my three winners on the card Jan. 8. As it is in the U.S., my dirt form is abysmal – I miss the all-weather, kind of. But no use whining; I’ll just have to adapt. Let’s see if we can get back on a winning note tomorrow.

Race 1 (Gulf News Sport)

It’s stepping out on a small ledge – as surface switch plays usually are – but I’m going with first-time dirt runner Speed Hawk in here. He wasn’t very effective on the 8th on grass versus runners like Hototo and Ahtoug, but his pedigree (Henny Hughes out of a stakes-placed (on dirt) Storm Cat mare) suggests he’ll take to the surface. Suggests. I considered Price is Truth for a moment, but the step up in class last out looked to be too much for him and it’s the same situation here, although the cutback to 1200m may be of some benefit. Touch Gold (the Irish-bred, not US-bred Belmont winner) may be of some use here after a poor run in the stakes last week.

Race 2 (Friday)

Lots in here coming out of that race won by I’m Back on the 8th; the winner is absent. Instead, we get the strong second-place finisher, Henry Clay. Seems too easy, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things. Sure, he’ll be heavily bet, but I can’t think of anyone to jump up and beat him, bar a huge regression from that last performance. He’ll just have to hold on. Third-place finisher from the I’m Back race, Le Bernardin, won like a total beast last week.

Race 3 (gnproperty.com)

You could go a variety of directions with this race, and I could talk you in circles on it, too. Let’s keep it simple. How about Street Act? He should get the 2000m (a distance he’s never tried), he’s dropping weight from last out, and ran a respectable second last out. He’s for me. Jalaa from the Doug Watson barn is another to take a close look at.

Race 4 (Gulf News Classifieds)

Some nice runners in here, including Steeler, a horse that I remember being very hyped up last Carnival but never ended up winning. I’m looking past him and to Pilote, who was third to an incredibly dominant True Story on the 8th. He towers over this bunch a little, especially with the recent run.

Race 5 (Tabloid)

Am I betting Tamarkuz back after a troubled trip on the 8th? You bet I am! I think that’s all that needs to be said about this race. Oh, and count on the old boy Haatheq showing the usual consistency finishing close to the winner. That is all.

Race 6 (Al Fahidi Fort)

I usually stay away from horses first-up in the meeting, but this is too good to pass. It’s a nice field, and it marks the return of one of my favorite horses at last year’s Carnival, Anaerobio. He really likes the 1400m and ran like a gangbuster first-up at last year’s Carnival, so why not again? Safety Check was undoubtedly impressive last out and is for sure a win contender. The dirt experiment for Zahee didn’t work and now he’s back on a surface that’s been kinder to him.

Race 7 (gulfnews.com)

Ooh, this is that cool distance: 2435m on turf. It’s also kind of a hard race. Ok, really a hard race. Who to go with? I call this kind of race a “dart-throwing race.” Sure, I could spend hours and hours and hours watching replays and going over the form and pedigrees, but, hey, I’m a college student. I have homework. I need my beauty sleep. So how about Jutland? Carnival form, trainer is doing well this meet, and, well, yeah. A lot can happen in 2435 meters.

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Meydan 01/15/15: Who wants to be a (Slumdog)millionaire?

Taking a page out of books written by handicappers I deeply respect, I promise I won’t talk your ear off here. (Does that metaphor count if I’m writing, not talking? Anyway, shutting up.) With that said, I’d like to get my thoughts down in writing in some consistent way, rather than slapdash posts on Twitter 15 minutes before the race. Top selections are in italic bold.

R1 – UAE 1000 Guineas Trial

These early 3-year-old races are always fun puzzles, and to me, the Godolphin pair of Comedy Queen and Good Place seem to have the upper hand here. I’ve gone with Comedy Queen on top. She’s a Distorted Humor half-sister to Karen’s Caper who won on debut on Kempton’s all-weather. Blue cap beats white here for me!

R2 – Mina Al Hamriya

Highweight Storm Belt looks formidable here. Back in November, he beat Henry Clay by nearly five lengths; that horse came back to run a respectable second last week at the Carnival. But I’m looking to his inside – Energia Davos. Energia Davos is one of those horses that I know I’ll be kicking myself if I leave him out. He’s kept good company and has every chance to take a step forward on Meydan dirt after some nice runs last year on all-weather. Le Bernardin could hit the board again after a closing run for third last week.

R3 – Fujairah Container Terminal

This is an underwhelming event, with horses rated below Carnival standards. Jeeraan is appealing off pedigree alone, but man, that layoff. Decided to take a stab with Knavery, a son of Candy Ride out of Favorite Trick. Sounds dirt-y enough for me. Next.

R4 – UAE 2000 Guineas Trial

Upon first glance, Maftool screamed out to me. I don’t think I can go back. This will be the Hard Spun colt’s first try on dirt, so that’s always a question mark, but he’s bred for it and I think he’ll excel over it. Mubtaahij obviously has a start over the course but left me less than impressed with that effort. Volatile seems a bit of mystery horse; could be a superstar, but I won’t have him here. This is the first look at the Carnival 3-year-olds…let’s see what we’ve got!

R5 – Jebel Ali Port

This is a pretty competitive race filled with nice horses. I believe that Star Empire is the classiest of the bunch, but the long layoff and the shorter distance don’t inspire confidence. On the opposite end of the spectrum is El Estruendoso, who just ran last week, finishing poorly on the dirt. He’s a nice horse, but the quick turnaround is dicey. I’ve settled on Haafaguinea who, if he duplicates some of his runs last Carnival, should be a major win candidate.

R6 – Dubawi Stakes

This dirt sprint is full of talent, with some familiar names – Reynaldothewizard, Russian Soul, United Color, etc. While it’ll be nice to see that trio back in action, none of them are my top pick. Those honors go to Muarrab, a horse who’s been absolutely kicking ass and taking names on the dirt as of late. It’s a step up in class, but I think he’s up for the challenge. Former U.S. speedster Conveyance will probably be in the top three.

R7 – Mina Rashid

The nightcap on Thursday’s card is why this post is named why it is. It features Slumdogmillionaire, a South African import in the Watson barn whose last two races have been superb. He’s the highweight in a rather large field and will break from post 13 off a lengthy layoff. Is he vulnerable? Of course. Will I try to beat him? Nah. Let’s have fun with this last. Jai ho.

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