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Dubai World Cup preview

An excellent analysis here from Phil Derbyshire. Follow him on Twitter @Mo_Licker


The most likely question to be asked of the contenders before the running of the 2012 Dubai World Cup in Meydan will be, ‘Will that form be translated onto Tapeta?’

As a result, a brief, but crucially important analysis of Tapeta is required if the race is going to be properly handicapped.

Tapeta has helped to eradicate the kickback seen on dirt tracks and provided sounder footing for acceleration. This is comparable in lots of ways to the racing we see on grass/turf in that the early pace will be pedestrian (hint: on the night keep an ear out for the commentator giving you the sectionals to confirm this – although I do feel that this year there will be some guaranteed pace setting a good ‘clip’) and that a lot of horses will be saved for the final kick down the straight.

As a result, the last two races have delivered blanket finishes and surprising results to many. A heavy speed bias has been on show at Meydan over the past couple of years and logically horses with superior pace should receive plenty of respect. That much sounds obvious, but be ever fearful of the stalker in the pack.

After looking at the previous two years races on Tapeta in depth, rather than celebrating the best horse on merit, as Nad al Sheba most often did, Meydan's Tapeta has favoured the horse with the savviest rider who gets the best trip.

The Contenders

So You Think – J: J O’Brien. Gate 4
Age: 6
Weight: 9.0

The globe-trotting 6 year old will be racing in his fifth country within 15 months. Looking at his last three races one has to come up with three different excuses. In short the horse, in my opinion, looking at the way he finished 2011 appeared as if it was a race or two too many.

But this is an eight-time Group 1 winner spanning Australia and Europe we are talking about here and quite rightly has had some time to rest since. The best form in the book it has to be said. He has run very well fresh in the past, and is due to retire to stud in Australia in the 2nd half of 2012. Is the angle here that connections have him fully wound up for this race? One thing is for certain; there can be no more excuses.

It could just be that the race is set up perfectly for him and can get the toe in from the pacesetters.

Smart Falcon – J: Y Take. Gate 5
Age: 7
Weight: 9.0

A son of February Stakes (G1) winner Gold Allure (Sunday Silence). Smart Falcon has 23 wins from 33 starts and won his last 9 starts. He has won over 2100m on sloppy dirt which points to having stamina and a great attitude. He then won the G1 2011 Tokyo Daishoten against all comers from across the Globe.

Then stepped up in grade Smart Falcon put up a brilliant front running performance over the 10 furlongs of the Grade 1 Kawasaki Kinen on January 25 2012. Connections state Smart Falcon has ‘seasoned well’ and they’re clearly expecting a big run.

Make the assumption that he takes to Tapeta based on how other JAP dirt horses have transferred over (see Transcend and Victoire Pisa last year). A natural front-runner, well drawn to attack, who loves a battle and looks at his best when given the message to kick for home as soon as he enters the stretch.

Game on Dude – J: C Sutherland. Gate 14
Weight: 9.0

The draw has been unkind to say the least. With usual jockey Chantal Sutherland, Game on Dude will undoubtedly need to break quickly from the gate, but being a front-runner will use up a lot of effort to get across early on. I don’t foresee this being too much of an issue and would expect to see Game on Dude helping to dictate the pace.

The question is, now that the draw has been made will he see the trip out or will he be caught by a late finish from the clouds? There are also concerns about him being able to handle the Tapeta too (fourth in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic over Del Mar's Polytrack and lost a photo to First Dude in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on Cushion Track).

It cannot be underestimated how important a role Game on Dude plays in the race. An eye catching cruising speed should result in fast early fractions and will give the grinders the target to aim at. Replay from Breeders Cup.

Zazou – J: O Peslier. Gate 3
Age: 5
Weight: 9.0

Ever heard of a horse called Danedream? Certainly not many punters had prior to October 2011. What do the Germans know about horse racing? Lots as it happens.

Zazou (GER) is in fabulous form at the moment. Check the form out; a winner of the Group 1 Premio Roma in November beating Rio De La Plata, a close third after hitting trouble in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup in December, won a handy prep race on synthetic at Chantilly in March. Oh and that last win happened to be the second time in a row that he'd beaten Cirrus des Aigles (granted not at best) – who beat So You Think in the Group 1 at Ascot.

With jockey Olivier Peslier who gets on well with horse, back on board this horse deserves plenty of respect and the times clocked at 2000m back that up. Peslier has been quite bullish in the run up too.

Royal Delta – J: J Lezcano. Gate 7
Age: 4
Weight: 8.9

The female. Champion three year old. Trained by Bill Mott who knows a thing or two about winning a race like this (see Cigar). By all accounts has been walking around Meydan as if she owns it. Great to hear and very positive. Tapeta won’t be an issue based on the fine win (in an allowance) at Keeneland's Polytrack April 2011.

She has never raced against males before, and certainly not males of this calibre. Winner of the Grade 1 Alabama and the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Royal Delta returned to action in second behind Awesome Maria in the Grade 3 Sabin at Gulfstream Park.

Bought for a mere $8.5 million, trainer Mott has specifically targeted this race. Mott says “The one thing we don’t know is whether she is good enough, but the distance doesn’t seem to be a factor; she’s won at a mile and a quarter. She’s won race on a synthetic track. She’s won under the lights and she doesn’t need any medication to speak of. She’s jumped through a lot of the hoops that you have to clear to win here”

Royal Delta gets a slight weight advantage (take off 2kg) and regular rider Jose Lezcano will likely break nicely and race prominently a few lengths off the pace and grind it out at the business end.

Eishin Flash – J: C P Lemaire. Gate 2
Age: 5
Weight: 9.0

Eishin Flash is the five-year-old son of King's Best and is a winner of the 2010 Japanese Derby.

The form book is quite impressive. Last year’s World Cup winner Victoire Pisa was third to Eishin Flash when the latter raced as a three-year-old in the Tokyo Yushun Derby.

Eishin Flash is out of King's Best and is trained by Hideaki Fujiwara. The winner of the 2010 Tokyo Yushun was last seen finishing second to Orfervre (Triple Crown winner and Japan Horse of the Year 2011) in the Arima Kinen in December 2011.

Popular opinion suggests that if Orfevre was dropped into this race he would likely be 2nd favourite so that suggests the price on Eishin Flash is a value bet with the likelihood that the horse is on the upgrade. The tight track at Nakayama suggests the similar profile at Meydan could suit. Despite not winning for a while, Eishin Flash is a real live chance here.

Transcend – J: S Fujita. Gate 10
Age: 6
Weight: 9.0

10 career wins in 19 races, including four Grade 1 victories, last year’s runner up Transcend returns for owner Koji Maeda. Here’s where the pace bias theory kicks in; last year, Transcend hit the front early and all thought the pace was being set accordingly. All apart from Victoire Pisa. Victoire Pisa loomed up on the outside and forced a quicker pace forcing Transcend to commit and get involved in a fight with Victoire Pisa in the final furlong. Transcend finished a valiant second. That’s a ½ L 2nd at a cool 40-1.

Since that effort, Transcend has won a Listed Mile and a Grade 1. However, his first race of the season finished in an ordinary 7th. Goes better fresh so let’s draw a line through that.

There will be a battle to dictate the pace and it would be no surprise to see Transcend stay prominent about 2 wide if beaten to the rail. Much respected on last year and 2nd out of the ballot connections chose stall 10. Has to go well.

Capponi – J: A Ajtebi. Gate 11
Weight: 9.0

One of four Godolphin entries in the race, Capponi deserves his place after showing eye-catching progress over the duration of the Carnival. Lightly raced recently despatching with Silver Pond, Disa Leader and dead heating with Sarrsar.

Mahmood Al Zarooni has worked his magic and somehow transferred this horse from a Class 2 handicapper at Doncaster to being a comfortable Group 1 Maktoum Challenge winner (over same course and distance and with Ajtebi aloft).

This is tougher though and needs a career best.

Mendip – J: S De Sousa. Gate 13
Age: 5
Weight: 9.0

Given the trip and the day, Mendip is a very capable horse. But, there remain too many question marks about the suitability of the trip. I think it is informative that Godolphin didn't try him in the World Cup a year ago.

After capturing the about 1 3/16-mile Maktoum Challenge Round 2, he stepped up to 1 1/4 miles for Round 3, only to disappoint in 11th.

Godolphin new boy Silvestre de Sousa gets the ride, and while that is eye catching enough, it’s a leap of faith to trust. Priced accordingly.

Silver Pond – J: J Murtagh. Gate 9
Age: 5
Weight: 9.0

Was entered in the Arc De Triomphe and beaten 8L by Danedream. Beaten 4L in March at the Carnival by Capponi.

He capped the year with a troubled third to Group 1 Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase.

The 4L defeat to Capponi was Silver Pond’s first start on Tapeta and has room to improve off that debut. This his second start for trainer Doug Watson.

Master of Hounds – J: C Soumillon. Gate 1
Age: 4
Weight: 9.0

The 4-year-old colt finally broke through for his first Group 1 win in his last start, when he charged home to win the Jebel Hatta on turf in March. That was a front running performance and I’m not too sure that, even though breaking from Gate 1, he will get the same run of the race here. I think other horses will break quicker and with their natural game to dictate means Master of Hounds could get pinned on the rail. As a result the pace will be hard to peg back on the kick. Opposable based on that.

Mike de Kock trains the son of Kingmambo, who prior to the Jebel Hatta has performed with credit at the Carnival but moreover missed by a whisker in last year's Group 2 U.A.E. Derby on World Cup night for Aidan O'Brien. Christophe Soumillon will ride.

Monterosso – J: M Barzalona. Gate 8
Age: 5
Weight: 9.0

Monterosso is a horse that gets on with Tapeta. If you look at last year's race (beaten 3/4L into 3rd) it’s clear he was looking for a split about 300M out but just couldn’t find it nor the final gear.

Proven that he likes the surface, and eventually was staying on like a train last year so this year it depends where Barzalona places him when it comes to kicking for home. Al Zarooni has admitted that the previous run was nothing more than a warm up for this race so read nothing into his last effort other than it being a pipe opener - as this has been the target all along for Monterosso.

Lightly raced, this will be the second start of the year for Monterosso, who finished fourth to Capponi in the Al Maktoum Challenge last time out and I’d consider the cobwebs to be blown away sufficiently to make him a likely place candidate again, but will need a career best to take the win. Always finishes his races well and can grind out at the business end - it wouldn’t be like Barzalona to swoop down the outside now would it?

Prince Bishop – J: L Dettori. Gate 12
Age: 5
Weight: 9.0

Gelded in the Autumn of 2011, and appeared to work the Oracle as he won in November 2011 and then January 2012. But then appeared to tail off in the next two starts. The last time out 3rd does him a slight injustice in that he missed the break, was harried into the pace, ridden wide and still crept in the back door into a good 3rd to Capponi in Round 3.

Clearly looks to be the first choice of Godolphin based on the jockey booking of Dettori but based on the form book, would need a career best to win this. I’m making the assumption that Dettori has chosen this horse because he feels there is more to come and with a smoother trip will be in the mix.

Planteur – J: R Moore. Gate 6
Age: 5
Weight: 9.0

Typically known for exclusively racing on turf this will be the first run on Tapeta. The French Group 1 winner will be making his debut for new trainer Marco Botti who took Gitano Hernando to the World Cup in 2010 and 2011.

The form book shows his form was affected by the botched attempt at being a miler but back at the preferred 10f the nicely bred son of Danehill Dancer could surprise a few people.

Keep in mind that Planteur has won first out in each of his three prior seasons of racing, and will get the excellent Ryan Moore in the plate.


This, now, very much looks like a race where the favourite can be taken on. All of the International markets agree that So You Think is the clear class act, clear on figures and clear on form. Fresh after a break likely to be tuned up and will be tough to beat. But at the price and the recent poor record of the favourite in the race I think it prudent to look elsewhere at a larger price.

A legitimate pace scenario sees Capponi battling it out with Game on Dude. The other front runners in the race will not have encountered a pace rival like Game on Dude and if he can break early dodge traffic Game on Dude could be 3 lengths clear in no time and he might just put them all away.

But from a great draw, Smart Falcon is likely to take up the challenge and dictate. Pace, stamina, guts, proven over distance, a Timeform rating of 126 (5lb shy of So You Think). He gets a tentative selection.

If playing the Exotics i.e. forecast/reverse forecast/combination forecast and each way shots, I suggest looking for a horse that will be well placed, able to commit early and grind it out. I’d use Monterosso (Timeform 124) who is great value at a huge price, Transcend could sneak under the radar and into a place. Eishin Flash completes the genuine contenders.

Selection – Smart Falcon
Each Way Plays – Eishin Flash, Monterosso, Transcend


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