10 Godolphin horses to watch at 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival
Inspired by the Godolphin Fantasy Stable League for the Dubai World Cup Carnival, I’ve cobbled together a list of 10 Godolphin horses to follow. Or to be more precise, the 10 I’m most interested in watching at the Carnival.
They fall into two categories: proven commodities likely to have a productive Carnival, and speculative choices that I believe have great potential, beyond their Dubai campaigns.
The established performers:
THUNDER SNOW will face stiffer competition at every stage than he did in last year’s Carnival, when confined to two dirt races versus sophomores, and the test begins in Thursday’s Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2). Although a prohibitive even-money favorite there (with the 5-1 North America better value himself), Thunder Snow still commands attention back on the surface that made him an international star. He romped in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) going this metric mile, and would have taken the UAE Derby (G2) more decisively if not for his waywardness in the stretch. Thunder Snow is smart enough on the turf – after all, he’s a two-time Group 1 winner in France; placed to Churchill in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) and Barney Roy in the St James’s Palace (G1); and lost a three-way photo in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) – but he might enjoy the Meydan dirt even better. He’s eligible to thrive again over the Carnival and perhaps even emerge as the top local hope in the Dubai World Cup (G1). No wonder trainer Saeed bin Suroor listed Thunder Snow as one of his “five to follow.”
BENBATL, also short-listed by bin Suroor, could get off to a fast start on Thursday’s opening card in the Singspiel (G3). The about nine-furlong affair is a little on the sharp side for a colt who won last year’s Hampton Court (G3) at Royal Ascot, placed second in the Dante (G2), finished a rattling fifth in the Derby (G1), and creditably filled that spot again behind Enable in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1). But Benbatl began his career with a seven-furlong romp, and a third to Eminent in a fast-run Craven (G3) down the Rowley Mile, and the Singspiel could fit him just right as a starting point. He’s entitled to improve with age, being by Dubawi, so he offers the combination of proven class with additional upside. It’s not surprising that bin Suroor told Godolphin.com, “Physically, he looks a better horse this year.” I doubt Benbatl will go off at his 3-1 North American morning line when he’s a clear favorite in the 2-1/5-2 range in the Singspiel betting abroad.
EMOTIONLESS, who will clash with Benbatl straightaway in the Singspiel, is simultaneously a proven individual and a speculative chance. The Charlie Appleby pupil displayed bundles of talent in his first two starts and hacked up in the 2015 Champagne (G2) like something special. Since his injury in his shocking flop in the Dewhurst (G1), though, that old flash has gone missing. He disappointed in his only two appearances in 2016, but the 2017 Carnival gave just enough of a clue that he might be on the way back. After two better-than-it-appears losses on the dirt, Emotionless was third when reverting to turf, and stretching out to about 1 1/2 miles, in the Dubai City of Gold (G2). Unraced since, he was gelded over the summer, and I believe that could be the making of him. Whether Emotionless jumps up in the Singspiel or not, he has options on both surfaces, and at a range of distances, throughout the Carnival. Maybe it’s a case of hope springs eternal, but I think Emotionless will have a renaissance, and might advertise himself as a World Cup candidate before it’s over. As a son of 2001 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) heroine Unbridled Elaine, and half-brother to Etched, Emotionless has a right to prosper on dirt. In any event, Appleby is keeping faith by naming Emotionless one of his five to follow.
BLUE POINT has been likewise been tabbed by Appleby, and I’ve included him based on his European sprint form. Among the leading juveniles of 2016, the Shamardal colt dominated the Gimcrack (G2), just missed in the Richmond (G2), garnered another close second in the Middle Park (G1), and checked in third to Churchill on the step up to seven furlongs in the Dewhurst. Blue Point was campaigned purely as a six-furlong specialist at three, beating Harry Angel in course-record time in Ascot’s Pavilion (G3) and crowning 2017 over older horses in the Bengough (G3) at the same venue. In between, Blue Point couldn’t confirm the form with Harry Angel. He was a battling third to Caravaggio and Harry Angel in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot and wound up a subpar fourth to his old foe, on heavy going, in the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1). Freshened specifically for Dubai, Blue Point is expected to return in the about five-furlong Meydan Sprint (G2) February 22. That unfortunately puts him on a collision course with the flying machine Ertijaal, but he’ll be primed for his best over another panel in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on World Cup night.
PROMISING RUN isn’t the most naturally gifted, but she’s been a fine competitor in both of her Carnivals, and the Hard Spun mare figures to add to her resume again. Indeed, she defeated males – in a clever bit of spotting by bin Suroor – in the Al Rashidiya (G2) here last year. Considering that the turf distaffers’ races have come up a little light in recent years, Promising Run should loom large in the Cape Verdi (G2) and/or Balanchine (G2). Bin Suroor has praised her hard-trying attitude, in evidence during her sophomore campaign when she fruitlessly chased Polar River twice on the Meydan dirt. Promising Run has won a Group race in each of the past three years, having taken the 2015 Rockfel (G2) and 2016 Istanbul Trophy (G3), and her recent third in the Fleur de Lys over Lingfield’s Polytrack figures to set her up nicely for her third Carnival. From a fantasy stable perspective, Promising Run is the type to be overlooked as less glamorous but a likely reliable point-scorer.
The speculative hopes:
WALTON STREET, who runs in Thursday’s 7TH race, is an unexposed four-year-old with bags of promise and a feather weight of 117 pounds. By Cape Cross and out of Australian Group 2-winning Brom Felinity, a full sister to Group 1 hero Delago Brom, the Appleby trainee dominated his first two in style at Pontefract and Goodwood. Walton Street either found the stretch-out to 1 3/4 miles too far in his third start, or the class hike a bit too much, in the March S. when last seen. He cruised into contention before sputtering late in fourth. Back down in trip here off the layoff, Walton Street is meeting a solid cast of elders, but there’s much to like about him, and he adds first-time cheekpieces. In fact, he’s favored in the betting market – much shorter than his 6-1 morning line in North America. Whatever happens in this spot, Walton Street is a name to remember going forward.
RARE RHYTHM makes rare appearances on the racecourse for Appleby, and hopefully we’ll see him more consistently at the Carnival. A six-year-old with only seven lifetime starts, he is two-for-two, in notable events, since being gelded. Rare Rhythm resurfaced last summer from a year-long absence to plunder Royal Ascot’s Duke of Edinburgh at 20-1. Then he followed up promptly in the John Smith’s Silver Cup at York, defeating consistent stakes performer Barsanti (coming off a second in the Hardwicke [G2] at Royal Ascot) at level weights. That put him in the discussion for a possible Australian venture, but unfortunately he headed to the sidelines again. With clear ability and a lovely pedigree – by Dubawi and out of a Singspiel mare from the productive family of Karen’s Caper – Rare Rhythm has more to offer if he can just stay sound and healthy.
LAIETH strikes me as the most exciting of Godolphin’s two-year-old maiden winners wintering in Dubai, and I hope that he’s on the UAE Derby trail for bin Suroor. The son of Dubawi and First City (the 2012 Cape Verdi winner) has raced exclusively on the all-weather so far. A staying-on fourth in a salty Kempton novice behind Glendevon (a 20-1 antepost chance for the 2000 Guineas [G1]), Laieth came back to score handsomely at Wolverhampton second time out. He showed good tactical foot and stretched clear off the turn. That visual impression persuaded me to mark him down. (Appleby’s Masar, a troubled sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf [G1], is the most logical sophomore among their ranks on the premises, but I’m not sure how much action this proper European classic candidate would get in Dubai.)
WINTER LIGHTNING has yet to break her maiden, but she bumped into a hot one when second to Veracious on debut at Newmarket last October. Veracious, an impeccably bred daughter of Frankel, is now around 16-1 in the antepost market for the 1000 Guineas (G1). Aside from that promising introduction, Winter Lightning is an obvious follow on pedigree alone. She’s a three-year-old half-sister to Thunder Snow (hence the name), and a full sister to ill-fated Ihtimal, conqueror of the 2014 UAE 1000 Guineas and UAE Oaks (G3). Their dam, Eastern Joy, has produced a total of four stakes winners (all with Group credits), and it would be incredible if she can furnish a third UAE classic winner. Winter Lightning will have to live up to the family talent fast if she’s to emerge from a strong local crop of fillies, so she may be one more for the future. Nevertheless, I love how bin Suroor couldn’t resist squeezing a mention of her in his “five to follow,” albeit as a name-dropped sixth.
SCOTTISH is well proven on form, yet I relegated him to this section because I have no idea how soon he’ll reappear after his injury that forced him out of the Arlington Million (G1). At least he is on the Godolphin Carnival list, presumably just a question of whether it’s early or later. The Appleby pupil may have gone very close at Arlington, judging by his fine efforts in defeat in the 2016 Caulfield Cup (G1) (second to Jameka) and last summer’s Prince of Wales’s (G1) (fifth to Highland Reel, Decorated Knight, Ulysses, and Queen’s Trust) in his only start of the year. Fingers crossed this talented son of Teofilo will make up for lost time.
Honorable mention: The Appleby-trained BRAVO ZOLO deserves a nod as a useful listed stakes winner/handicapper who can pad his bank account through the Carnival. While not having the cache of Godolphin’s leading lights, or untapped potential to recommend him, he’s run two bang-up races (a win and a second) in his only prior outings at Meydan last year. Bravo Zolo will need to conjure up his best in Thursday’s loaded 6TH race, where he’ll meet Mike de Kock’s comebacker Noah from Goa, but 8-1 is a decent price on a horse of his profile.