Dubai: Good news/bad news Monday
The most eye-catching news about the U.A.E. Derby is that Sir Fever adds blinkers second time out for Charlie Appleby. Readily outkicked by Mubtaahij in his Godolphin debut in the Al Bastakiya, the Uruguayan Triple Crown winner is unlikely to turn the tables with another stalk-and-pounce trip. His best chance is to go forward, make use of his relentless galloping style, try to turn it into a true test of stamina, and hope to neutralize his rivals' biggest weapons -- their smart turn of foot. I'm not convinced he can pull it off, but at least the tactics will be right.
The biggest concern for me is the fact that Sir Fever, as a Southern Hemisphere-bred, has to concede 10 pounds to what looks like an above-average group of Northern Hemisphere-bred sophomores. Mubtaahij is bound for the Kentucky Derby (G1) if he earns his points here, and Maftool is also Triple Crown nominated. Add in Japan's Golden Barows, who has stretched clear with authority in all three dirt starts and gets Ryan Moore in the saddle, making him a real threat to crash the locals' party.
The other interesting tidbit is that Christophe Soumillon rides Mubtaahij for the first time. While that would normally be expected for a Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum runner from the Mike de Kock yard, Soumillon hasn't been aboard Mubtaahij throughout the Carnival because he can't make the light weight. But the Belgian ace is apparently going to ensure he'll make the weight on the big night. At the same time, it should be noted that jockey Dane O'Neill was three-for-three aboard Mubtaahij, so they were totally simpatico. Not that he won't go just as well for Soumi, but it does mark the end of what had been a perfect partnership.
The Godolphin Mile was all about the draw: Tamarkuz somehow managed to get the plum spot on the rail again, thereby projecting the same type of trip that he's perfected in the course of his three-race winning streak. I might have gotten creative and tried to beat him if he'd had an outside post, but that plan's gone. Moreover, two of his most logical opponents -- Sloane Avenue and Surfer -- were marooned in posts 15 and 16, respectively. That effectively reduces them to minor awards at best, I'm afraid. Bradester (5), Frankyfourfingers (6) and Prayer for Relief (8) escaped the draw in good shape.
Likely Dubai Gold Cup favorite Brown Panther was stuck in post 14, but the high-class stayer figures to minimize the damage by taking up a handy spot close to the pace. At any rate, I trust stable rider Richard Kingscote to orchestrate a plan.
Intriguing to see Marzocco ship in for John Gosden. I had thought that he might stay home for an easier spot on the All-Weather Championships on Good Friday, so his presence here could be significant. Although technically Godolphin's second string after rebound candidate Ahzeemah, he was fifth in last September's St Leger (Eng-G1), and we haven't seen the best of him yet.
The Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-G1) lost an expected entrant in Sky Hunter. The Godolphin runner would have had his work cut out for him, but at least he might have volunteered to carve out the pace in a race devoid of front runners. In his absence, it's even less clear who might try to seize the early initiative. The Sheema will probably be a nine-furlong warm-up for a three-furlong sprint to the wire, putting a premium on push-button acceleration.
As a fan of Hong Kong sprinter Rich Tapestry, the runner-up in last year's Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1), I wasn't encouraged by this bulletin from trainer Michael Chang:
"He wasn't in top form when he arrived. The vet said he lost weight and was a bit dehydrated.
"He has traveled to Dubai and America before and never had this problem, but he seems to be recovering OK, and I am hoping we can get him onto the main track on Tuesday morning for trackwork."
On form, Rich Tapestry is a prime win candidate in the Golden Shaheen, especially because he runs well fresh. But we'll know more about his physical condition as the week unfolds. Remember that he has a history of bleeding (such as when last in the Breeders' Cup Sprint [G1]), so he really doesn't need any more stress on his system.
On a happier note, there were some key jockey bookings that can be read as Golden Shaheen clues.
Krypton Factor, the 2012 Golden Shaheen winner, will reunite with his old partner Kieren Fallon for the first time in quite a while. While he has a tall task to regain his title in a contentious renewal, Fallon might conjure the best from him again, as he did in 2012 and when he was a close third in 2013.
"He maybe isn't where he was two years ago, but he is still a battler," owner/trainer Fawzi Nass said of the seven-year-old Krypton Factor.
Jose Lezcano picks up the Golden Shaheen mount on Saudi shipper Montiridge, who has back class as an English Group 2 winner. And Sheikh Hamdan's retained rider, Paul Hanagan, has opted for Muarrab over Mahab al Shimaal (UAE-G3) winner Shaishee. That only confirms Muarrab's status as a live outsider.
Nothing on Monday helped to make the Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-G1) any easier. The lack of earth-shattering news regarding the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) and Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) was welcome relief Monday, however, after the weekend bombshells about injuries to Ron the Greek and Hunter's Light, respectively. Regarding the Dubai Turf, there was confirmation that world-class jockey Joao Moreira will ride Euro Charline, as Moore sticks with The Grey Gatsby.
I'll be in lockdown mode for a couple of days while feverishly working on the Brisnet.com Daily Selections for World Cup night, but plan to resurface here later this week.