Dubai World Cup night at Meydan on Saturday is the jewel in the crown of racing in the UAE.
The £10 million feature, after which the meeting is named, has been won by some true greats. Cigar, won the first running in 1996, while other winners include Singspiel (1997), Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002), Curlin (2008), California Chrome (2016), Arrogate (2017) and dual scorer Thunder Snow (2018 and 2019).
Defending champion Country Grammar is back for more this year with Frankie Dettori aboard as his farewell tour continues.
This year’s meeting boasts an overall prize fund of just shy of £25 million and I’ve taken a look at each of the eight contests. The ninth contest, which opens the card, is an Arabian race.
Watch every race from Meydan, with live and uninterrupted coverage on Racing TV Extra. Please gamble responsibly.
Godolphin Mile (G2, 12.05pm, Dirt, 1m) Selection: BATHRAT LEON
Bathrat Leon was a shock 66/1 winner of this event for the man with the greatest hat collection in the world, Yoshito Yahagi, 12 months ago, but he comes into this year’s contest as a worthy favourite. He warmed up for this with a brilliantly bold front-running success on Saudi Cup day last time out and he did run out a ready winner of this event last term. The speed merchant is going to be tough to peg back, particularly at a track which can pay dividends for front-runners. Prince Eiji has improved markedly on the dirt this term and is narrowly preferred to fellow course and distance scorers Royal Mews and Discovery Island for the place battle, with French raider Egot is a fascinating runner for Andre Fabre.
Dubai Gold Cup (G2, 12.40pm, Turf, 2m) Selection: QUICKTHORN (E/W)
Former winner Subjectivist (2021) is back for more having returned from 618 days off the track when well-beaten in Saudi last time out. He was deeply impressive when taking this race apart under regular pilot Joe Fanning, but there are clearly questions to answer based on his comeback run. Siskany is a Listed winner in Britain and saw off a string of this field, including market rival Ardakan at Meydan last month. Both have live claims here, with Marco Botti’s raider narrowly preferred given he was staying on strongly in the closing stages. Aidan O’Brien will run three on World Cup night and Broome is not discounted despite not being the force of old. However, it is the Hughie Morrison-trained Quickthorn who gets the vote. If he can get a handy lead out in front, he will love the return to fast ground and could outrun his odds.
Al Quoz Sprint (G1, 1.15pm, Turf) Selection: AL DASIM
Al Dasim has been my stand-out horse of the Carnival. He has looked every inch a superstar in his three starts at Meydan and he passed his sternest test to date when seeing off his elders last time out. No three-year-old has ever won this race, but given his liking for the track, high cruising speed and in receipt of weight, he can break that hoodoo, particularly given he looks well-drawn in stall eight. The enigmatic Al Suhail is deeply feared back down to 6f after two wins in the UAE this winter and can fight out the placings with Hong Kong runner Sight Success and Hugo Palmer’s Flaming Rib who impressed last time out and is open to more progression.
UAE Derby (G2, 1.50pm, Dirt) Selection: CAIRO
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Cairo would be an apt winner of the UAE Derby given the Middle East connection. A son of Quality Road who has bred the likes of Saudi Cup hero Emblem Road and Breeders’ Cup Dirt winner City Of Light, he is also a half-brother to a dirt winner which augurs well. Mendelssohn became Ballydoyle’s third winner of this race in the last 10 runnings and I was impressed with his comeback at Dundalk. He is a horse who really knuckles down to the task well and while he was not overly impressive, he kept pulling out more and will strip fitter for that reappearance. Worcester is yet to taste success for Bob Baffert but is feared along with the Doug O’Neill-trained pair of Ah Jeez and Tall Boy who both impressed with winning debuts at Meydan last time out.
Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1, 2.25pm Dirt) Selection: LEMON POP
Defending champion Switzerland enjoyed a perfect prep for this event when making a winning return to action in January, but this is potentially a deeper renewal, which is headed by Gunite. He filled second behind runaway scorer Elite Power in Saudi and should be involved, but ready preference is for Lemon Pop. He has moved through the grade in style this term and created a good impression when landing the Group One February Stakes last time out and has benefitted from a nice draw in stall six. C Z Rocket is a threat, along with the unexposed Hopkins and Silbelius. Ryan Moore’ rides the latter.
Dubai Turf (G1, 3.10pm, Turf) Selection: NATIONS PRIDE
Japan have won this event five times and have some fabulous contenders as they bid to dethrone dual scorer Lord North. John and Thady Gosden’s charge confirmed his wellbeing with a routine win in the Winter but is not getting any younger and is overlooked. Japan’s headline act is Do Deuce who struggled on soft ground in the Arc, but returned to winning ways in the Kyoto Kinen and is arguably still unexposed. He will love the ground and is preferred to Serifos, who captured a Group One at Hanshin in November. Godolphin have won this four times and they are triply represented. The classy Real World looked badly in need of his comeback at the track last month in the Jebel Hatta, a race in which Master Of The Seas filled third. However, the pick of the triumvirate is Nations Pride. He impressed me last year and I loved his comeback victory last month. He can develop into a top middle-distance performer this year and can get the better of Real World.
Dubai Sheema Classic (G1, 4.00pm, Turf) Selection: EQUINOX
British trainers have won five of the last six runnings but were denied by Shahryar who returns this year and is clearly a threat given he looks to be peaking for this contest. Mostahdaf heads the UK challenge having bolted up on Saudi Cup day and will love the rattling fast ground. Irish Derby hero Westover blotted his copybook in the King George but was not disgraced in the Arc and he does go well fresh. Godolphin’s Rebel Romance has won his last five starts, latterly landing three straight G1s and not overlooked lightly. However, Equinox is for many Japanese fans, their banker of the meeting. He saw off Saudi Cup hero Panthalassa in the Tenno Sho, a race in which Sharyar was fifth, before slamming a decent field in the Arima Kinen. He is open to any amount of improvement and looks hugely exciting. The Breeders’ Cup Turf is a long-term target and he will love the ground, is proven over the trip and does look hard to oppose.
Dubai World Cup (G1, 4.35pm, Dirt) Selection: COUNTRY GRAMMER
£10 million in total prize money for the feature in which Frankie Dettori bids to say farewell to Meydan with a record-setting fifth victory in the Group One event aboard defending champion Country Grammer. The pair stayed on strongly in the Saudi Cup, but just failed to reel in Panthalassa. That rival, who is a questionable stayer over 10 furlongs, has an unfavourable draw in stall 15 and Country Grammer can reverse the placings. The draw was not especially kind to him either in stall 14, but he is likely to be ridden with restraint and should be able to slot in, which quells those fears somewhat.
The fly in the ointment is undoubtedly the Simon and Ed Crisford-trained Algiers who is next door in stall 13. Beaten in a Listed event at Lingfield in November, he has looked a different beast since reverting to a dirt surface this year with deeply impressive victories under James Doyle. Stamina is not an issue, but maybe his level of ability is.
Country Grammer has achieved more and it might just be his class which proves too strong at the business end of this event. Staggeringly, Japan field eight of the 15-strong field which highlights their strength-in-depth. Oisin Murphy is aboard T O Keynes who was second to Ushba Tesoro in the Kawasaki Kinen last time out and the pair are both respected.
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