I’m “Thinking” Auguste Rodin?

by | Mar 28, 2024

I arrived via Bahrain on Tuesday afternoon and after (trying to get), some sleep it was all systems go first thing Wednesday morning at silly o’clock as we all headed off to Meydan racecourse to watch the horses do some light trackwork ahead of the big meeting Saturday.  Photos were taken, old friendships from around the World renewed, many news ones made and coffee drunk as we discussed the big races, but what exactly did l find out – the names of some of the winners hopefully!

Before I get down to the individual races, a little about Dubai World Cup night for those new to the sport. Starting in 1996 at the old course at Nad Al Sheba where the great Cigar took the World Cup for America, it is relatively new in racing terms, but has quickly attracted both worldwide attention and the better horses, largely down to some serious prize money ($1,000,000 or more for the first six races, one at $5,000,000 one at $6,000,000 and the big one at $12,000,000), so telephone numbers to us mere mortals.

The whole City appears geared for the racing with media from around the World in attendance backed up by celebrities, connections, and of course the horses trainers and jockeys, including a certain Frankie Dettori (remember him) who remains as popular as ever. Restaurants and bars remain buzzing, and I stayed up way too late for someone old enough to know better (whoops), but only the once and not a word has been typed while under the influence I promise!

Moved to a new state of the art racecourse ay Meydan from 2010 onwards (can you believe the Grandstand is 1.5km in length), the main race is the finale (the Dubai World Cup itself), but there are eight supporting races starting with one for pure bred Arabians (which I will bypass thanks to my ignorance), four on the turf and four on the dirt, with plenty of European challengers to mull over, so we may as well (try to) deal with them in chronological order.

12.05pm – Godolphin Mile.

Raced on the dirt track and a Group Two, European interest rests with Swing Vote for Ed and Simon Crisford. Twice a winner on the turf for Andre Fabre, he has won three of his four starts on dirt, all at Jebel Ali, but his fifth here to Laurel River last time out suggests he is vulnerable in this field to put it politely. Saudi Crown ran a blinder when a length third in the Saudi Cup in January and looks the likelier winner taking a drop in class, but he is not as bulletproof as his odds suggest and personally I will be keeping my powder dry for later contests where the odds are more appealing.

Likeliest winner – Saudi Crown  

12.40pm Dubai Gold Cup

A good old fashioned stamina test over two miles on turf, and where the Europeans are responsible for the majority of the field. If they all make it to the gates we are in for a fascinating contest with 2023 runner-up Siskany under William Buick, top-rated Trawlerman, and Saeed bin Suroor’s Passion And Glory representing Godolphin, with 2022 St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov and the overpriced Sober (NOT named after me) others to consider, with the last named sorely temping each way. Aiden O’Brien and Ryan Moore teamed up to win this last year with Broome and the same combination could double up here via Tower Of London. A son of the legend Galileo, can you believe he was beaten 12 lengths in a the Irish Cesarewich last September before returning with a narrow in at Riyadh after meeting all sorts of trouble before getting up late on under a sublime Ryan ride. I think the ground is key to his chances here, but with no more rain forecast we can expect good ground or faster which is ideal, so expect a last-minute pounce once more before he heads back to Ireland with all the summer Cup races firmly on the agenda.

Selection: Tower Of London

1.15pm Al Quoz Sprint

Sticking to the grass for this six furlong burn-up, and with European interest from Diligent Harry (Clive Cox), Emaraaty Ana (Jamie Osborne), Frost At Dawn (William Knight) and Star Of Mystery (Charlie Appleby), we must be in with a chance. That said, Hong Kong raider California Spangle is a class act having won the Jubilee Cup last time out, and although he hasn’t raced over the six furlong trip since 2022, he has four wins over the trip to his name, and if he can get away smartly to make all he won’t be stopping at the line. He should go well regardless but I can’t pick a favourite in every race, and it may be worth taking a chance on Frost At Dawn who broke the course record over five furlongs last time out here and is thought to be even better at this trip. Trained in Newmarket and with Mikael Barzalona back in the saddle this afternoon she and fellow three-year-old filly Star Of Mystery get 13lb from their elder rivals here, and at 12/1 she has to be seen as overpriced if she can repeat the form of her last success here.

Selection: Frost At Dawn each way

1.50pm UAE Derby

Back to the dirt and funnily enough as a Brit, not my area of expertise! Irish mastermind Aiden O’Brien is, in my mind, looking to have a breakout season on the dirt and it will be more than a little interesting to see how Henry Adams gets on here. The winner of his first two starts, he went on to finish a six-length fourth to stablemate City of Troy in the Dewhurst Stakes when running on late over the seven furlongs, and if the winner is as good as they think, that was no disgrace. A son of No Nay Never who has a 31% strike rate as a sire on the all-weather (not the same as the dirt but the nearest comparison I have), and with a 32% success rate over seven to nine furlongs (this is nine and a half), he certainly looks the type to test the waters with, and at 8/1 or so, what have we got to lose?  At a shorter price, Japanese star Forever Young sets the bar pretty high, but he had a tough race in Saudi and at the current prices, I am happy enough with my suggestion.

Selection: Henry Adams each way

2.25pm Golden Shaheen

Six furlongs back on the dirt for this Group One contest, no European interest and the form is new to me as well – you have been warned! Nakatomi heads the early betting for trainer Wesley Ward who has booked Jamie Spencer to ride the Tampa Bay third, but even he is 5/1 at the moment which gives you an idea just how open this looks. Sibelius was the winner of that race and is 4lb better off here making his bigger price of 7/1 look strange to me and he is clearly one to consider, as is Japanese raider Remake, a cosy winner in Saudi in January but possibly up against better opposition now.

Possibility but no more than that:  Sibelius each way

3.10pm Dubai Turf

Welcome back Lord North, the winner of this race for the last three years for the Gosdens (if you including a dead-heat in 2022), and a standing dish at the track. He is hard to ignore with his track form, but at the age of eight surely one of the younger challengers will have his legs here? Do Deuce heads the early market but there is a chance he will find the nine furlongs on the sharp side these days with nine of his 10 starts over further than this and the last two over a mile and a half or more, and I prefer the chances of (you guessed it), Luxembourg. This will not be the first time I have thought Aidan O’Brien would have a field day – and got it badly wrong – but I cannot see why Ryan Moore’s mount is as big as 10/1 (14/1 if you shop around), when you consider he is officially rated only 2lb behind the jolly and in my opinion, is better suited by this trip. Yes he did let the side down last time out at Riyadh when an odds-on fourth over a furlong and a half further, but his overall form is top-notch and he should go well. Nashwa is an obvious danger on the form of her Irish Champion Stakes third (2lb better off here for a short head with Luxembourg), but she may not be spot-on for her first start of the season, while Measured Time is on home turf for Godolphin and is another to throw out there in a fascinating renewal.

Selection: Luxembourg each way

 

4.00pm Dubai Sheema Classic

Where do I start with this mile and a half on turf which for me, is one of the races of the day? We do see European horses take on Japanese, Americans etc now and then, but here we can a collision of real heavyweights well worth tuning into.  Japan have a new superstar on their hands in fillies triple-crown winner Liberty Island, put in her place by the now retired Equinox in the Japan Cup, but the winner of her previous four starts, all at Group One level. She gets 5lb from Auguste Rodin which makes life very interesting here, though I suspect (or is the word hope) that he will continue to improve at the age of four. Always highly thought of at home at Ballydoyle, as a dual Derby winning son of Deep Impact (who is no longer with us), no-one could blame connections had they rushed him off to stud, so why have they kept him in training with little left to prove? All I can think of is that we are yet to see the best of him with a 2024 campaign that may well include a race or two on the dirt, and with more to lose than win I am really hoping he produces something special this afternoon – though he will have to be at his peak to see off this field.

Selection: Auguste Rodin

4.35pm Dubai World Cup.

I cannot start with a lie and will freely admit that when I heard Auguste Rodin was heading to Dubai, I really hoped he would try his luck on the dirt – though that is not to be this year I am sorry to say. Once again the betting looks a bit lop-sided to me with last year’s winner Ushba Tesoro priced up at 11/4, and his Saudi conqueror Senor Buscador at 8/1 with them both coming from off the pace and just a head between them at the line. It could or even should be close between the pair again today, but as I cannot spit them, I’ll be heading elsewhere! I would love to cheer home Clapton for Chad Summers, one of racing’s nice guys but looks a big ask, while the well-backed Kabirkhan would be the story of the year if the $12,000 son of California Chrome who was racing in Russia as recently as September could topple these for his enthusiastic owner and local trainer Doug Watson.

In the end it came down to a coin toss between local hope Laurel River (whose draw put ne off in then end), and Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita Handicap winner Newgate. As the first of that pairing used to be trained by Bob you would like to think he has a good idea where they stand and if that is the case, the 10/1 looks too big for a trainer who has won this four times, the latest with Country Grammer in 2022.

Selection: Newgate each way

Podcast 05/04/24

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