Breakfast in Dubai will be the meal of choice on Saturday morning at Meydan Race Course as Dubai World Cup Day kicks off a big weekend of thoroughbred racing that includes two key Derby prep races. Check tomorrow’s print edition for an advance on the Derby trail races.
The Meydan Race Course will host six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on Saturday morning. The Godolphin Mile will kick off the nine-race card at 7:45 a.m. EDT.
The $10 million Dubai World Cup, the second richest race of the year, includes U.S. invaders West Coast, Gunnevera, Pavel and Forever Unbridled as well as Mubtaahij, runner-up to California Chrome in 2016.
The World Cup will be televised live starting at 12:30 p.m. EDT by NBC Sports Network with the big race scheduled for 12:50 p.m.
Here's the lineup and a bit of commentary and a synopsis of the U.S. horses running, so grab some your Cheerios and get to work handicapping this tremendous card…
Race 5: (10:05 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint. A 5-furlong turf sprint with a $1 million purse has attracted a full field of 14 runners, including three U.S. charges from the Peter Miller barn: 5-Stormy Liberal (20-1), 7-Richard’s Boy (20-1) and 9-Conquest Tsunami (15-1). They’ll be joined by trainer Mark Casse’s 6-Holding Gold (30-1) who attracts top US rider Javier Castellano. All four appear to be up against it against this international group of sprinters. Godolphin will send out the top two choices in 13-Blue Point (4-5) and 10-Jungle Cat (9-2), both trained by Charlie Appleby.
Race 6: (10:40 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 reduced field of nine horses, including several former winners and last year’s title holder 1-Mind Your Biscuits (4-1), who will break from the rail. 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. Biscuits, partially owned by UB grad Dan Summers, will have formidable competition in the race.
Eclipse-winning sprinter 6-Roy H (4-5) and the speedy 2-XY Jet (5-2) will be the ones to beat. Don’t count out the 12-year-old veteran 3-Reynaldothewizard (30-1) a former past champion and warrior on the track.
Race 7: (11:35 a.m. EDT) Grade 1 Dubai Turf. A large field of 15 horses will be going 1 1/8-miles on the Meydan turf course for $6 million that looks to be the most wide-open race on the card. Morning line favorite is 5-Benbatl (7-2), who finished second in the local prep to 15-Blair House (15-1). We’ll favor the well-traveled 12-Lancaster Bomber (7-1), last year’s runner-up in the Woodbine Mile. Japan based 2-Neorealism (6-1) should be in the mix underneath in the exotics. No U.S. based horses are entered in the Turf.
Race 8: (12:10 p.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. Another field of nine entrants that will run 1 1/2-miles on the turf for $6 million. Godolphin’s 7-Hawkbill (8-1), a son of Kitten’s Joy, rebounded from his loss in the Northern Dancer on Woodbine Mile day to win the local prep. The favorite is last year’s Arc runner-up 2-Cloth of Stars (2-1), beaten in his last by the talented Talismanic, who will race in the World Cup. His main challenge looks to come from 4-Rey De Oro (4-1), who has an impressive resume including a runner-up finish in the Japan Cup. He’ll get the nod from this corner.
Race 9: (12:40 p.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai World Cup. One of the world’s most distinguished races, will be run at the classic mile-and-a-quarter distance under the lights at Meydan. Looking for an all-US trifecta keying 9-West Coast (4-5) over 3-Gunnevera (10-1) and the mare 6-Forever Unbridled (8-1) in the $10 million race. Reports out of Dubai say West Coast has continued to mature and has never looked better. Gunnevera is a gutty horse that always shows up and should be running late at the leaders. Mike Smith will ride Forever Unbridled for trainer Dallas Stewart. Castellano will be in the irons for Baffert on West Coast.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.