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Well it’s nearly all over and soon I will need to cram myself in to an Economy seat home to London after a week or so in Dubai. I have made new friends, shared good times with old friends, made useful contacts, and seen the inside of many a hotel room but this afternoon it all reaches a climax as the nine races (one Purebred Arabian and eight we are interested in) will bring to an end three months of the Dubai Carnival with the richest day’s racing on the Planet worth an astonishing $30,000,000 in total prize money.
Much as I intend to briefly review each race, I am also looking for the ones for the future, with easy winners who will go on to win more races, unlucky in running horses worth another chance, or just those who ran to their best form regardless but may find things a lot easier anywhere else but Meydan Racecourse on World Cup night as I look to persuade myracing.com to send me back here next year.
Atmosphere wise, I have to say I did get drawn in to the Arabian’s race with the home crowd lapping up every second before Dane O’Neill and Af Mathmoon won (after the long time leader swerved badly late on under Silvestre De Sousa), and as they are not allowed to bet over here, hats off to them for their genuine interest in the sport. A large percentage of the thousands attend each and every Thursday for the entire Carnival and know the horses a lot better than anyone else barring connections, though they do get free entry to a pick six with cash prizes that seems more than enough to sate any temptations to gamble they may have.
Moving on to the “proper” racing, and we started with the Godolphin Mile on the dirt, where Marking made a fool of himself (and me) by missing the break and needing to be chased up to the leaders, using valuable energy and effort in the process. In reality, he was never going to catch winner One Man Band who had them all struggling a long way out as he led home a Doug Watson one two three, but he may have finished placed had he started as smartly as was needed.
To my own amusement, I was on Vazirabad in the Gold Cup but less confident than most as I felt all his better form had seen a lot more juice in the ground. Starting slowly jockey Christophe Soumillon never panicked (does he ever?), before bringing the four year old with a perfectly timed run to win with a bit up his sleeve. That was his first race for five months or so and he can be expected to improve from that, making him a force to reckon with in all the main staying events and the antepost price of 20/1 soon disappeared and he is now trading at half of those odds.
Polar River was only second at odds on and was a bitter disappointment but she may be better after a rest (she has had a few races in pretty quick succession when you think about it and is still a consideration for the Kentucky Oaks in my book, though as connections are aiming winner Lani at the Kentucky Derby, the form may not be as bad as it looked at first glance.
Moving on to the sprint and as we were back on turf surely we had good chances? Quick answer, no at the end of the day as Muthmir sneaked in to a miserable fifth in a race we can quickly forget. Temperature, away from home, plane travel, and all the usual; excuses will be rolled out by connections but the truth is none of them looked worth following, and I wonder if we need a new generation of sprinters if we want to compete on the World stage.
The dirt sprint was perhaps the most exciting race so far as Paul Hanagan on board Muarrab went to war with Emisael Jaramillo on board X Y Jet as they fought shoulder to shoulder for a large part of the final furlong. In the end the bigger horse wore down his smaller rival for a neck success but it was good entertainment and very much an “I was there” moment.
On to the turf or what we saw as Tryster’s race but he was left with far too much to do (I doubt even Frankel could have won from there), and the race fell to Japanese raider Real Steel who franked the form of Duramente ahead of the Sheema Classic. Ryan Moore was on board and conjured a winning ride out of the four-year-old who had quality placed form before today but just the one win from seven starts which was enough to put me off for starters. Euro Charline ran a blinder in second for Marco Botti and jockey Frankie Dettori and will have paid his training fees for a while with £800,000 plus in prize money, while Tryster somehow snuck in to third but at 7/4, who cares?
The Sheema Classic was the penultimate race as the day began to wind down and Postponed looked good on the way to the start and even better on the way back! At the risk of upsetting Luca Cumani he does look as if he has improved since joining Roger Varian for whatever reason, and could be called the winner a long way out from the stands. Jockey Andrea Atzeni may well have seen some of the earlier races and wasn’t going to sit too far back if he could avoid it, tracking them round in third before quickening clear for an easier success than the official margin records for posterity. He is the best middle distance horse in England that we know of (we have to give the three year olds a chance), but we also need to remember that he has started his season a lot earlier than his rivals, and may have had enough come the end of the summer.
One to go and on a day of upsets (well, for me at least), we sat waiting for the finale and the Dubai World Cup, wondering how it would pan out. We shouldn’t have worried I suppose as California Chrome was just awesome (as the Americans with me would say), and just ran away in course record time. They did their best to attract the best and they succeeded here as the five-year-old put some classy rivals to the sword and we witnessed another top drawer winner as the race finally cements itself on the racing map, a top class track with an equally inspiring field that sparked the imagination – just what racing needed and a shot in the arm for the sport we all love so dearly.
Sean Trivass is a guest of the Dubai Racing Club and would like to thank them for their hospitality as always – picture of California Chrome credited to DRC/Neville Hopwood