Dubai Carnival beads: World Cup night landscape after Super Saturday, II

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 7th, 2016

Continuing the discussion from Vol. I, focusing on the Dubai World Cup...

Polar River photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins.


The 3-year-old male division has been weak all Carnival, an impression that wasn’t dispelled by Market Rally in the about 1 3/16-mile Al Bastakiya. Although he repeated his front-running heroics from the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3), the Dhruba Selvaratnam trainee was a basket case early. He was dripping in lather, pulling with his head in the air. And considering how lightning fast the dirt was on Super Saturday (producing two track records), note his final time of 1:58.52 was nearly two seconds off Frosted’s mark. Market Rally beat only three rivals, two of whom (Blue Creek and Hombre Rojo) pulled up lame. Runner-up Lazzam bravely fought against the bias, despite covering almost 33 extra feet according to Trakus. I’ll be surprised if Market Rally completes a sweep of the local Triple Crown in the UAE Derby (G2).


By contrast, the 3-year-old fillies have been superb, led by unbeaten Polar River, who turned a classic double in Thursday’s UAE Oaks (G3). But the Doug Watson filly wasn’t at all dominant on the step up from the metric mile of the UAE 1000 Guineas to about 1 3/16 miles. As she appeared to be tiring late, and jockey Pat Dobbs let her coast, Mike de Kock’s Argentinean import Vale Dori rallied to within three-quarters of a length. The final time of 2:00.57 was slow, a function of the risible pace.

You could read this two ways: Polar River’s stamina was stretched to its limit, befitting a speedy daughter of Congrats, or she was understandably slowing after sprinting from the six-furlong to the mile mark in :23.55. That burst past Vale Dori was the winning move in a farcically run race.

But Polar River had physical reasons not to be at her best. As Jonathan Lintner relayed in the Courier-Journal, Watson told the blog talk radio show “Racetrackers” that Polar River had “niggling little problems through the week.” And a tooth extraction put her off her feed recently.

Vale Dori herself rates a prime contender on World Cup night. I think she would have won the Al Bastakiya if she’d taken up her cross-entry there. De Kock had cautioned beforehand that she’d had setbacks since arriving in Dubai. Facing Polar River off a 10-month layoff and a compromised preparation, and spotting her 10 pounds, the Group 1 heroine ran unbelievably well. If she turns the tables, her sire Asiatic Boy would become the first UAE Derby winner to sire one.


Also Thursday, Godolphin’s Pure Diamond ran herself into UAE Derby consideration with a devastating success in the Meydan Classic on turf. A troubled second to Comicas in the trial, she got a much better trip courtesy of Harry Bentley, and left him reeling here. She negotiated about seven furlongs in 1:23.55, almost as fast as older male stablemate American Hope in a handicap with a considerably faster pace.

Earlier in the Carnival, Pure Diamond was a late-running third to Polar River in her only dirt attempt. The daughter of Street Cry is crying out for a longer trip, and she may do better second time on the surface. On the other hand, her slashing, come-from-behind style appears better suited to turf. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor is also mulling an English classic trial, the May 11 Musidora (G3), and I’d vote for that.

But might the Godolphin brain trust reverse course for Comicas, a Distorted Humor colt who also has a UAE Derby entry? Now that trainer Charlie Appleby’s leading hope, Blue Creek, is sidelined by a pelvic fracture, the door is invitingly open for Comicas to switch to dirt.


Internationals bound for the UAE Derby include the Doug O’Neill-trained Frank Conversation and Japan’s Yu Change, On the Rocks, and possibly Lani. European prospects have yet to be confirmed, but Aidan O’Brien has nominated Air Vice Marshal and General Macarthur, while John Gosden’s Tathqeef is also prominent in the antepost market.


Muarrab has hinted that he’s got a big one in him, and the pieces fell into place in Super Saturday’s Mahab al Shimaal (G3). Flashing high speed along the golden rail, the Muhairi veteran never had a straw in his path as he streaked 5 1/4 lengths clear. He smashed Secret Circle’s track record of 1:10.64 set in last year’s Golden Shaheen (G1) when blitzing in 1:10.20. The comparison is facile, however, since this was achieved on a paved road. And Muarrab won’t be handed anything on a silver platter come March 26.

Rich Tapestry was a lackluster third, regressing off his commanding victory over Muarrab in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3). Trainer Michael Chang told the South China Morning Post that the globetrotter came back with “a lot of mucus.” After treatment with antibiotics, we’ll see if he’s in shape to advance to World Cup night. As I’d written in the preview, I wished he’d just trained up to the big night.


Complicating Muarrab’s task in the Golden Shaheen is the presence of a confirmed speedball in American X Y Jet. Add in a strong Hong Kong contingent beyond Rich Tapestry, led by 2015 near-misser Super Jockey, as well as 10-year-old Dubai stalwart Reynaldothewizard and his “nephew,” Marking.


Like Muarrab, Cool Cowboy was likely flattered by his 3 3/4-length wire job in the Burj Nahaar (G3) on Super Saturday, for he enjoyed a virtual carbon copy trip. Like Rich Tapestry, Le Bernardin seemed sapped by stalking on the leader’s outside, and flailed home a well-beaten third.


Cool Cowboy was a very logical and worthy winner on the day, and a legitimate contender in the Godolphin Mile (G2). But I have a couple of concerns about his win chances on World Cup night. Even on this quick surface, he couldn’t get too close to stablemate One Man Band’s track record of 1:35.68. It wouldn’t be a shock if jockey Pat Dobbs chooses to stick with One Man Band, the “other” Watson runner, on March 26.

Also waiting in the wings are Maftool, who edged Cool Cowboy in a recent handicap; Confrontation, who beat One Man Band in his debut for Kiaran McLaughlin in the Firebreak (G3); Hong Kong’s Dan Excel, who could theoretically find new life on dirt; and English shipper Sloane Avenue, an unlucky near-misser in last year’s Godolphin Mile.

The turf races follow in Vol. III