Dubai World Cup Night Review – A True International Feast

I am like a child in a sweetshop once more – race day is upon us and as usual I have taken the earliest bus available to set everything up in my cubby hole in the media room – which has spilled out and has to cope with around about 500 people if you include those darned photographers (who take up more than their fair share of space). 

I made my bed to lie in a couple of days ago in the preview, so what I see in the paddock now is of no consequence if your bets are on, but at the risk of sounding Aidan O’Brien-esque, the more I look at the racecard, the more I think this may be the best racecard I have seen for some time, certainly in the last 12 months at least.  With 15 Countries represented and a venerable “who’s who” of the racing World from one side of the globe to the other, we were all anticipating something special, here’s hoping we aren’t disappointed.  

Before we look at the races as they happen, I do want to mention to anyone considering coming out here next year or in the future, the costs on course (which I do for every racecourse visit). Although not as cheap as some jurisdictions you can get in at 20 Dirhams (about £4) to the outdoor grandstand, but if you want a better view then its Apron Views by McGettigans for you, but that will set you back 295 Dirhams (or about £64), so quite a jump.  Just like every other track there are also hospitality options for the really flush (from 595 (£128) Dirhams  to 2200 Dirhams (£475), but that isn’t a million miles different to Cheltenham before anyone chokes on their cornflakes. There are plenty of food options from mezze to kebabs, burgers to hot dogs and so on from a fiver a go so basically it’s like the UK – but with sunshine.

Lasty, and before I get down and dirty with the thoroughbred races, warm congratulations go to Tilal Al Khalediah who won the opening race I didn’t cover – the Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians over 2000 metres. I feel this may be a growth area for our sport and something we need to exploit to the best of our abilities, though we will need to step up our game (and prize money) in the UK if we want to attract any horses of his calibre to our shores. Perhaps our racing press could be up to date and accurate with their form as well to give us mere punters a snowballs chance in hell of finding the winner (dig)?

On to the “main”races that I covered, and with my little book of excuses open and at the ready – it is already over 30 degrees here, the hottest day of the week, and I am wondering how the European horses will cope with the temperature (excuse number one ticked off ✔️)  – only time will tell on that one I suppose?

Godolphin Mile

No prisoners taken here with plenty of pace to the race from the moment the stalls opened, making this more of a test of stamina than some would have wanted. Saudi Crown could never get to the lead early on which was obviously the plan, and his jockey (Florent Geroux) was hard at work a long way out as we looked elsewhere for the winner. The “locals” looked all set to score as Isolate (Doug Watson) and Walk Of Stars (Bhupat Seemar), looked to have the race between them, before Two Rivers Over pounced late under Edwin Malnodado for Doug O’Neill, giving the USA the victory despite being a 33/1 shocker. For those interested in a bit of history, Bhupat Seemar also trained fourth placed Southern Artist for a UAE 2-4 making the racing World sit up and take notice just that little bit more, though I doubt too many punters will care with numerous World Pool tickets already consigned to the betting bin.

Dubai Gold Cup

If there is a better or more confident jockey in the World right now than Ryan Moore please point me in the right direction. If you watch the replay of this two mile Group Two with its $1,000,000 in prize money you would be forgiven if you thought it was a Naas maiden. Left out the back for a long time, the confidence from the saddle was there for all to see, and while the commentators were calling those at the head of affairs, I already knew the name of the winner. Considering this was a test of stamina, Tower Of London the son Galileo quickened up like a top miler to mow them all down up the home straight and claim his fifth career victory. Despite a winning margin of over two lengths he was value for even more than that, with 66/1 chance Al Nayyir following him home, and Trawlerman third for a European one-two-three. 

Al Quoz Sprint

Has anyone seen Frost At Dawn?  She broke well, was up near the leaders early on – and eventually trailed home stone cold last – maybe she does need to revert to the minimum trip though I’ll watch a few replays while licking my wounds before drawing any conclusions. As for the winner, my old mate California Spangle who I have backed and written about so many times in Hong Kong made a fool of me in no uncertain terms and strolled home for wily and talented trainer Tony Cruz. I stupidly thought he would find this trip on the sharp side but what do I know, as he had little trouble keeping tabs on them throughout before being sent into the lead where it matters. The well-backed Star Of Mystery was second under Frankie Dettori leaving Diligent Harry in third for Clive Cox and 50/1 shot Bilhayl in fourth. Meanwhile I am still looking for my filly…????

UAE Derby

Japan first the rest nowhere is the headline many expected after this race, and although that was not the case with a wide margin victory, Forever Young did keep his unbeaten record when seeing off local hope Auto Bahn by a couple of lengths with Pandagate in third. The winner may now head off to the Kentucky Derby and is already seen as the next big thing at home in Japan, but he seems more workmanlike than impressive to my bias eyes and will need to do more to win in the States. Meanwhile, I am wondering if my suggestion (Henry Adams) had stopped off to see if Frost At Dawn was OK? He ran a stinker to come home virtually pulled up though as I write I cannot tell you why.

Dubai Golden Shaheen

I have zero fears if I have things badly wrong (and that’s before the gates open) as dirt racing and me just don’t seem to be on speaking terms. They went off like scalded cats here and most expected those on the front end to fold up tamely but not a chance as the locals struck with Tuz who made mincemeat of all his rivals making them look like statues close home. With an official margin of six and a half lengths I have rarely heard commentators sound quite as shocked (so imagine how I felt) despite sensible odds of about 10/1 at home, though how he turned the form around by about 20 lengths with Remake on Saudi form is something that will leave plenty scratching their heads in wonder. Don Franke came second for Japan, and Nakatomi third for Wesley Ward (USA) and Remake on further back in fourth spot.

Dubai Turf

Not the result most expected, though we can at least claim it as a European triumph after Facteur Cheval won for France in a photo finish. Trained by Jerome Reynier and ridden by Maxime Guyon his odds were around the 20/1 mark, partly because his win record was none form six last season, equally because he hasn’t raced this year (or since October 2023), and mainly because all his best form has been on a far softer surface. I wouldn’t be able to back him in the replay knowing those facts but well done regardless as he got up to see off the Japanese pairing of Namur and Danon Beluga with the Brits conspicuous by their absence. All I can add is I doubt I give Luxembourg any more chances – Ryan Moore was hard at work from a long way out to little effect here, and although you can almost guarantee he will pop up and win a race this season, I’m calling time on him carrying my money right now.

Dubai Sheema Classic

When a trainer like Richard Fahey suggests this is the best race he has ever been involved with you just know we are in for something special. Auguste Rodin v Liberty Island was the prediction bur since when did horses read a script? As I sat with one of my American compatriots discussing how poorly Godolphin have done at their home meeting in recent years I sort of knew that Rebel’s Romance would run a big race, but very few expected him to turn this into a procession. Up near the front throughout while Ryan oozed confidence on Auguste Rodin and Liberty Island sat out of her ground under Yuga Kawada we all waited for their jockeys to press the button to go after the leaders. Ryan was the first to draw the whip from a frankly impossible position barring wings, but the response was minimal and he eased off a long way out to trail in last suggesting something was amiss, but it was Rebel’s Romance, the 25/1 shot who showed them all a clean pair of heels for an easy win, with the Japanese trio of Shahryar (33/1) Liberty Island (2/1) and Justin Palace (12/1) following him home.

Dubai World Cup

One last race to finish off my trip before the long flight home, and everyone I spoke to had a different idea of the likeliest winner before the race, proving to me just how open it was. Anyone who read my preview will know that I strongly fancied Laurel River until he got a horror draw in the 12 stall which was enough to put me off!  I switched allegiances to Newgate which  turned out a huge huge mistake as Bhupat Seemar’s son of Into Mischief romped home by a very wide margin at odds of 17/2 (though he was a much bigger price last night). Sat up near the front throughout he soon shook off his early challengers before putting plenty of daylight between himself and the rest with the others closing but far too late to do any damage. I think it would be reasonable to add another five lengths to the official winning margin of eight and a half lengths to counteract the draw, and it really couldn’t happen to a more likeable and grounded jockey than Tadhg O’Shea. Last year’s winner Ushba Tesro closed late to grab second and give the form a solid look to it, followed by Saudi Cup winner Senor Buscado with Wilson Tesoro back in fourth. 

Conclusions:

A true International meeting and to think, I needed persuading to attend. The atmosphere is very different to the UK I suppose but you cannot question the money spent on track and facilities, nor the fact that plenty of the best horses in the World turned up no doubt encouraged by the prize funds – the quality is improving year on year and trainers now target the pots of gold months in advance and understandably so. Nine races including the purebred Arabian saw winners from Saudi Arabia, the USA, Ireland, Hong Kong, Japan, France, England, and the UAE (twice), proving just how international this meeting has become over the years, though it’s the locals who deserve far more than a passing mention as they look to become a force on the World stage – and with so much encouragement to take from their performances tonight it will be interesting to see if they stay at home – or look to make their mark around the World over the months and years ahead.

Sean Trivass would like to thank the Dubai Racing Club for all their help. 

Photos credit DRC with thanks.

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