Breakfast in Dubai is on tap tomorrow morning at Meydan Race Course as Dubai World Cup Day kicks off a big weekend of thoroughbred racing that includes the Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds.
The Meydan Race Course is home to some of the richest races of the year. The $10 million Dubai World Cup will be part of a Fox Sports 1 telecast between 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The track was switched over last fall from a Tapeta (synthetic) surface back to dirt. Dual Classic-winner California Chrome shipped over to run in the World Cup. Free past performances for the Dubai races can be found here.
Here's the lineup and a bit of commentary, a synopsis of the U.S. horses running, so grab some Lucky Charms and get to work handicapping this tremendous card…
Race 4: (9:55 a.m. EDT) Group 2 UAE Derby. Run over 1 3/16-mile on the dirt, for $2 million large. This race is also part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, offering the winner 100 points and a gate in the Derby. Last year's winner Toast of New York skipped the Derby, but came over the pond to finish second in the controversial Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Bayern. The race has drawn 10 three-year-olds, including three Kentucky-breds.
The only U.S. horse to ship over for the race is 8-My Johnny Be Good (USA) (15-1) a horse I hold a 125-1 Kentucky Derby future wager on. Unfortunately he’s flamed out in his last two prep races in the States and this one appears to be just as deep. The two top horses are Sheikh Mohammed’s 1-Muhaabtij (5-2) and Godolphin’s 9-Maftool (9-2) two horses who dueled in the UAE 2000 Guineas with Maftool emerging the victor. Both Uruguay-bred 4-Sir Fever (3-1) and the Japanese-owned 7-Golden Barows (4-1) could threaten the top two.
Race 5: (10:30 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint. A 5-furlong turf sprint with a purse of a cool $1 million dollars has attracted a full field of 16 runners, including U.S. horse 14-Distintiv Passion (8-1), who could contend with this group. Irish-bred 16-Peniaphobia (9-2) looks like a solid turf sprinter coming off three straight solid performances against top company in Group 1 races. 2-Bundle of Joy (AUS) (8-1) ships in and was just nosed out by the favorite in his last and could be good value at his morning line price.
Race 6: (11:05 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen Classic. A 6-furlong sprint on the new dirt surface, with a purse of two big bills, encompasses a field of 14 horses. Don’t confuse this race with the Shabeen, an old Buffalo bar and grill on Delaware Avenue, very popular on and around March 17 back in the day. One of the day’s biggest hopes for the U.S. is 7-Secret Circle (3-1), the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion for Bob Baffert.
Two other U.S. horses, 5-Salutos Amigos (4-1) for trainer David Jacobsen and 6-Big Macher (8-1) for trainer Richard Baltas made the trip to the desert looking for a big payday. Last year’s BC Sprint post time favorite 4-Rich Tapestry (IRE) (6-1) is a juicy price and has experience running at Meydan, albeit on the Tapeta surface.
Race 7: (11:40 a.m. EDT) Grade 1 Dubai Turf. A nice field of 13 horses will be going 1 1/8-miles on the Meydan turf course for $6 million. 3-Mshawish (GB) (5-1), will look to win his fourth straight for Al Shaquab Racing and will have the talented Frankie Dettori in the irons. The morning line favorite is 6-The Grey Gatsby (5-2), a son of Mastercraftsman, who will have top European jockey Ryan Moore aboard. Other formidable contenders include Team Valor’s 1-Euro Charline (GB) (6-1) and 10-Sulow (GB)(3-1).
Race 8: (12:15 p.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. A field of nine runners will run 1 1/2-miles on the turf for $6 million large. This will be by far the biggest race of 5-Main Sequence’s (9-5) career running against top-flight competition on the world’s stage. 4-Flintshire (7-2) will be looking forward to avenging last fall’s BC Turf loss at Santa Anita. 7-Designs on Rome (4-1) enters off three straight graded wins at Sha Tin and will look to steal this one from the top two. This race will be part of the Fox Sports 1 telecast on Saturday afternoon.
Race 9: (1:00 p.m. EDT) Dubai World Cup. Run at the classic 1 1/4-mile distance on the dirt for $10 million. Yes, you read that correctly, $10 million. 9-California Chrome (8-5) comes in off his loss to Shared Belief in the San Antonio in early February and will attempt to match Animal Kingdom and Silver Charm as the only Kentucky Derby winners to capture the Dubai World Cup, in this the 20th edition of the race. His main challenge will come from 5-Lea (5-2), the son of First Samurai, who also shipped over looking for the big check. Joel Rosario will ride Lea and Victor Espinoza will ride Chrome.
Last year’s winner 3-African Story (6-1) has fared well on the new surface and the 8-year-old can not be counted out nor can 2-Hokko Tarumae, a career $8 million earner.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Lea; 2 – California Chrome; 3 – Hokko Tarumae
You can also check out the Dubai Race Night website for full World Cup day analysis on each race.
Saturday is a terrific day of racing, be sure to check out tomorrow's print edition for previews of the huge Derby prep races from Florida and Louisiana.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.