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 Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds.
The Meydan Race Course will host six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on Saturday morning. The $10 million Dubai World Cup is the richest race of the year and will feature American-based horses such as dual Classic-winner California Chrome, 2015 Triple Crown trail horses Frosted and Keen Ice and Donn Handicap winner Mshawish.
Here's the lineup and a bit of commentary and a synopsis of the U.S. horses running, so grab some Lucky Charms and get to work handicapping this tremendous card…
Race 4: (9:35 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 Mubtahij made the rare trip over the Atlantic for the Derby, but was never a factor in the race. The race has drawn seven 3-year-olds, a small field for a race of this caliber.
The top US horse is 1-Frank Conversation (8-1), who won the El Camino Real Derby last month to garner 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Mario Gutierrez will ride. The morning line favorite is Russian-owned 2-Polar River (3-5), a daughter of Congrats out of an Empire Maker mare. Tomorrow morning’s print edition will go over this race in more detail.
Race 5: (10:10 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 large field of 13 runners, including U.S. 4-year-old filly 13-Lady Shipman (15-1) who drew the far outside post. 6-Ertijaal (3-1) has won four in a row and is the morning line favorite. This looks like a wide-open race that you’ll need to spread in your multi-race wagers. Horses that look like should contend include 2-Jungle Cat (10-1) and 5-Peniaphobia (7-1), both whom should be decent value.
Race 6: (10:45 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen Classic. A 6-furlong sprint on the dirt, with a purse of two big bills, encompasses a field of 10 horses, including 2013 winner 10-Reynaldothewizard (12-1). 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.
The US will look to secure its second win in a row in this race, as Secret Circle won last year’s edition for Bob Baffert. The morning line favorite is Gulfstream Park Sprint Handicap winner 3-XY Jet (9-5) who will look for back-to-back American victories in the desert.
XY Jet had a gallop over a fast Meydan track in advance of a gate schooling session on Wednesday and went into the gate straight away and stood kindly for 30 seconds before exiting out the back. "It all went perfect," trainer Jorge Navarro said. “Like I've been saying since we've been here, he's ready. When we come back from Dubai, he'll go straight to the farm. The Breeders' Cup Sprint is the late season goal. He should love it at Santa Anita."
The other US horse in the race is 8-Confrontation (7-2), trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. "He's on top of his game," assistant trainer Neil McLaughlin said. "He'll run his race, but he'd like a strong pace to close into. We're hoping X Y Jet doesn't get away. If they keep him honest, our chances improve.”
Race 7: (11:45 a.m. EDT) Grade 1 Dubai Turf. A full field of 15 horses will be going 1 1/8-miles on the Meydan turf course for $6 million. Shiekh Hamdan’s 8-Intilaaq (2-1) and Godolphin’s 2-Tryster (IRE) (2-1) are the two heavyweights in here, where I’d give Tryster the edge over the lightly-raced son of Dynaformer.
Shiek Mohammed’s 1-Forries Waltz (SAF) (10-1) looks interesting at a nice price and a win over the turf course at Meydan. Another to keep an eye on is 7-The Corsican (IRE) (15-1) who has world class rider Jamie Spencer in the irons.
Race 8: (12:20 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. Some very talented horses will be vying for the big check in the Sheema. The morning line favorite is 7-Postponed (9-5), who won the local prep race at Meydan and has won three straight. Other contenders in include Japanese-based 4-Duramente (4-1) and 8-Highland Reel (4-1), who defeated the talented Flintshire last out.
Longshot 9-Dariyan (10-1) could be used underneath or via place bet for the Aga Khan. He finished behind Postponed in the local prep and has only missed the board once in eight career races.
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, that’s not a typo, $10 million. 11-California Chrome (3-2) is the heavy favorite over 9-Frosted (2-1) in the 12-horse field, looking for the monstrous cash prize. Both used a race at Meydan as their prep for the World Cup and both won impressively. Other American horses include 1-Keen Ice (20-1), 6-Candy Boy (50-1), and 10-Hoppertunity (12-1).
If you’re trying to beat the top two, your best play may be the Donn winner, 2-Mshawish (8-1), trained by Todd Pletcher. “He enjoys his job and it’s good to see his energy level and his enthusiasm equal to what it was at home,” said Pletcher. “I think he is doing as well as he can do, and the trip and everything has gone as smoothly as we could hope for so we’re excited about our chances.”
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Frosted; 2 – California Chrome; 3 – Mshawish
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 Dubai and Louisiana.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.