The UAE season comes to an abrupt end today with the culmination of the carnival at Meydan. The card contains nine races with a stunning six Group 1s to enjoy (inclusive of the Kahayla Classic for the Arabian breds) as well as three Group 2s with worldwide form coming together under the bright lights of the Meydan grandstand. Betfair's John Sheeran marks your cards for the action starting with the big one and then going through the races in chronological order...
"West Coast is fully deserving of favouritism in this year's renewal after two excellent placed efforts in the Breeders' Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup behind the ultra-talented Gun Runner. If able to repeat either of those efforts he should be very hard to beat. His chance looks greater than 50% so anything from even money up appeals as a solid bet."
Dubai World Cup(17:50) - Baffert should land big prize
The $10 million Dubai World Cup is the jewel in the crown of the UAE season. Bob Baffert aims to back up Arrogate's truly stunning victory in 2017 with the progressive West Coast.
West Coast is fully deserving of favouritism in this year's renewal after two excellent placed efforts in the Breeders' Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup behind the ultra-talented Gun Runner. If able to repeat either of those efforts he should be very hard to beat. His chance looks greater than 50% so anything from even money up appeals as a solid bet.
North America is really well drawn to attack and comes in here off the back of an excellent gate-to-wire victory in Round Three of the Al Maktoum Challenge when he readily dismissed Thunder Snow. If the track is favouring speed then he looks the likeliest challenger to West Coast but on all known form the prize should be heading back to the Baffert barn.
Godolphin Mile (12:45) - Two to play in opener
Heavy Metal looks the likeliest winner here and despite being drawn in stall 9 I think he will manage to work out a good trip. He has good gate speed and the horses drawn to his left don't seem overly blessed with early speed so despite his moderate draw, he may well be able to grab the rail. If he does so without having to expend too much energy he will take a world of beating. He had a hard race just three weeks ago from an even wider draw in stall 13 and there's a small worry that may have been too tough a race for him to reproduce his best.
In the event that proves to be justified and the early pace is too much for Heavy Metal, will also have a saver on Second Summer to repeat his last ditch effort in 2017 by coming from off the pace to get up late in the day. I thought he shaped with real promise last time and he will enjoy them coming back to him late and I think he's a solid each-way betting proposition.
Dubai Gold Cup (13:50) - Back Moore to pull off a nice priced win
The Nad Al Sheeba Trophy on March 1 is the key trial for this race and it proved an excellent renewal with Vazirabad just coming up short to Rare Rhythm who was visually very impressive. Rare Rhythm may have enjoyed a fitness advantage on his French rival that day so will need to improve again to confirm the form. Contrastingly, Alain De Royer-Dupre is a master at prepping his group 1 animals for the big day and that's been evident with Vazirabad in the last two running's of this race. Vazirabad has his optimum conditions on Saturday and should be very hard to beat and I am confident he will reverse the form with Rare Rhythm here and go close. However, at around the 2/1 price he looks a little short so I have to look elsewhere.
The one that appeals is Dal Harraild who was a very impressive winner on the Chelmsford all-weather when dismissing lesser lights, and I think he is a horse on the up. He is still only five-years-old and only having his third start at 16f+ on Saturday. There is no reason to think he can't find the required improvement. He has a perfect draw in 1 and won't lack for assistance from the saddle with Ryan Moore - read his Dubai World Cup thoughts here - in the saddle and I think he run well.
UAE Derby (14:30) - Reride a value bet against the favourites
This is a very interesting renewal with Gold Town heading the betting for Goldophin and Charlie Appleby. He was been so impressive in both starts on the Meydan dirt that connections have nominated him for a bid at the US Triple Crown. If he can repeat that level of form and improve for the extra trip he will take some beating. However, the bare form is weak. He has been beating up much inferior animals and this is his acid test. He may well win but is no value sub-2/1.
Mendelssohn is classy enough to win a Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Group 1 but I have doubts about how talented he really is. He is absolutely bred to handle the surface but backing a horse at his price that has never even run on the surface is nothing short of crazy. Again, he has a solid form chance but his current price has zero appeal.
I'd rather look for proven graded dirt form and I get that with Reride for Steve Asmussen and Javier Castellano. He was an easy winner over 8.5f at Sunland Park in February and the horse that was second was a very impressive winner of the Sunland Derby subsequently, despite being trapped wide throughout that day. I am not sure what the worth of that form is but I know he is a proper dirt horse and if able to bring that to the table he must hold some sort of chance. I'll go with him to upset the others at odds of around the 8/1 mark.
Al Quoz Sprint (15:05) - Baccarat and Barzalona a big price combination
Blue Point head the market here after an excellent prep over 5f when just beaten a head by the speedball that is Ertijaal. The step up to 6f and expected improvement from a perfect draw make him hard to beat. However, none of that has been missed in the market and we have to look elsewhere for betting purposes.
Jungle Cat is the obvious one and he looks a favourable each-way play as he never runs a bad race here and was very impressive when readily dismissing the aforementioned Ertijaal on Super Saturday. There are reasons to believe that wasn't the Ertijaal we know but still Jungle cat was much the best, and from a really good draw, it's hard to see how he isn't involved.
However, at the prices I prefer Baccarat who reopposes from Super Saturday. He has issues with the gates this year but he shaped so well last time behind Jungle Cat that I can't let him go unbacked at 20/1+. He will need to be sharp at the gates but I like the jockey change to Mickael Barzalona and if he can break on terms I see him giving us an excellent run for our money.
Golden Shaheen (15:40) - Roy is our boy
This looks a relatively easy race to solve. Roy H has headed the betting for this race since his dominant performance in winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He looks to have the perfect draw and pace set up here and I see him tracking XY Jet around the track before taking it up at the furlong pole for a relatively straightforward victory. He is the best horse in the race and looks to have everything in his favour and is fully expected to collect. He rates a confident bet at even money or better.
Mind Your Biscuits won this last year but speed set up and draw are not as preferable this year and he has some ground to make up on Roy H on the Del Mar run anyway.
Dubai Turf (16:35) - Fabre horse the play at 8/1+
Benbatl has headed this market for some time and has been visually impressive in both of his first two starts during the carnival. However, he benefitted from perfect trips against lesser animals on both occasions and was beaten by Blair House once he faced some real adversity when back into Group 1 Company last time out. To be fair, he had valid excuses with a slow start and an extremely wide trip and I think it's fair to assume he was much the best horse in that race despite the narrow defeat. In my opinion it proved that he is vulnerable at the highest level and he faces a much sterner test here so must be opposed.
The first port of call is Neorealism, who looks a true Group 1 performer. He arrives here off the back of a 111 day layoff for the excellent Japanese trainer, Noriyuki Hori, who seems to have formed an excellent partnership with Joao Moreira. He looks like having a solid chance but his tendency to be a little headstrong is enough for me to look elsewhere.
Trais Fluors is the one that interests me most from a betting perspective. He has some placed form behind some very talented animals like Al Wukair and Thunder Snow. I think the step up to 9f here on this surface should be ideal and he might get an even better trail into the race with the bigger field and potentially faster early pace. He looks to possess an excellent turn of foot and anything Andre Fabre sends must be treated with the utmost respect. Throw out his defeat in his prep as he didn't enjoy the moderate pace and was given an extremely tender ride once his chance had gone. I expect a much better performance here and he should go close at odds of 8/1+.
Sheema Classic (17:10) - Japanese raider is the bet
Jack Hobbs was a very impressive winner of the Sheema in 2017 on rain softened ground. This year's runners can expect a much faster stage to showcase their talents. Cloth of Stars has headed the betting for some time after his career best second place to Enable in the Arc De Triomphe. However, I am not sure that was as good as it looks, he was only just more than a length in front of Ulysees who had been very keen throughout and although the winner is brilliant the rest of the horse around Cloth of Stars looks largely exposed and relatively moderate. He has also been very keen in most of his starts including when second to Talismanic in his prep and he has been noticeably hard to handle in the mornings at Meydan. I am very worried that he may boil over in the preliminaries and been tough to handle in the race itself, if that concern is materialised, he will be extremely vulnerable.
I much prefer the real "Beast from the East" in Rey De Oro. His best effort to date was when a really good second to Cheval Grand in last year's Japan Cup and that form looks very solid in the context of this race. He is perfectly drawn in 3 and usually settles very well in his races. I see him lobbing around in a perfect stalking position and being hard to beat from there. He looks another solid play at 3/1+.
Back Heavy Metal and Second Summer e/w in the Godolphin Mile
Back Dal Harraild in the Dubai Gold Cup
Back Reride in the UAE Derby
Back Baccarat in the Al Quoz Sprint
Back Roy H in the Golden Shaheen
Back Trais Fluors in the Dubai Turf
Back Rey De Oro in the Sheema Classic
Back West Coast in the Dubai World Cup