Dubai World Cup 2018: Price horses of interest

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 31st, 2018


After all the detailed Dubai World Cup night previews and trends analysis, here are contenders worth a second look as value plays or for inclusion in the exotics.

1ST Race: Godolphin Mile (G2), 7:45 a.m. EDT

With the obvious players Heavy Metal, Economic Model, and Kimbear not slam dunks, the opener could become a free-for-all. #6 SPECIAL FIGHTER (15-1) has the potential to show more dash in the first-time visor. A Group 1 winner on this track in 2016 and fourth in California Chrome’s Dubai World Cup (G1), Special Fighter has the class if he can reinvent himself at the trip. Full disclosure: trainer Musabbeh al Mheiri is adamant the metric mile is too short for him. Still, I wonder if the rerouting might not work out for the best for a horse who’s not showing his old spark going longer and has the pedigree to be effective on the cutback. I’ve been expecting good things from #3 MUNTAZAH (20-1) ever since his near-miss debut at Newmarket, and the Dubawi blueblood is eligible to jump up in his first start on dirt for Doug Watson, who’s trained the past two Godolphin Mile winners. You could have made a much better case for Raven’s Corner (15-1) as a price play if he hadn’t drawn the far outside again in post 14, and perhaps he’s still worth using in combinations underneath.

[2ND Race: Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians]

3RD Race: Dubai Gold Cup (G2), 8:50 a.m. EDT

While three-peat seeker Vazirabad is rock-solid, Rare Rhythm is a serious talent if unproven at the trip, and the brave Big Orange will be happier on the ground this time, #15 TORCEDOR (12-1) is a generous price for a horse who almost upset Order of St George when last seen in the British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2) at this two-mile distance. And he did overturn that world-class stayer earlier in the season. If you toss his Ascot Gold Cup (G1) as simply too far, he’s been in the top two in his other starts since joining Jessica Harrington. This could be the year that Torcedor breaks into the top ranks as a Cup horse, and he can kick it off with a strong showing here. Note that his dam is a full sister to all-time great stayer Yeats.

4TH Race: UAE Derby (G2), 9:30 a.m. EDT

It’s difficult to see too much of a surprise brewing with compelling favorites Mendelssohn and Gold Town, but #8 TAIKI FERVEUR (20-1) is eligible to crash the exotics at big odds. An eye-catching runner-up in the Hyacinth at Tokyo, his only loss on dirt, the Japanese shipper should enjoy the likely strong pace and the distance. Hong Kong ace Joao Moreira may orchestrate a better tactical position, but in any event, he could just outstay tiring rivals down the lane.

5TH Race: Al Quoz Sprint (G1), 10:05 a.m. EDT

This turf dash strikes me as more open than the market suggests. Blue Point is eminently logical but a tad short at a 4-5 morning line, and Jungle Cat is in the form of his life, but can he win three in a row? #12 MUSIC MAGNATE (15-1) has win credentials as a Group 1 scorer on the deep Australian sprint scene, courtesy of the 2016 Doomben 10,000 (G1). Indeed, the Bjorn Baker trainee sports an official rating just one pound below Blue Point (115 vs 116). His resume is blotted by some poor trips, or unsuitably soft going, but he’s in rare form now on the back of a comeback score surrounded by smart “wins” in his last four barrier trials. Although unproven on the straightaway, Music Magnate has the sweet action of a good-ground performer who should feel right at home on the surface.

6TH Race, Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), 10:40 a.m. EDT

American stars are entitled to sweep the trifecta, with X Y Jet promising to be speed of the speed, streaking Roy H sure to be in close striking range, and defending champion Mind Your Biscuits doing his best work late. Perhaps that makes value-hunting more of an idle pastime than actionable intelligence here, but if X Y Jet burns off the other speed, why can’t #3 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD (30-1) churn on for the best finish behind the Americans? Sure, he’s 12 years old now, but he can still close stoutly if he gets his prerequisite pace. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dubai’s elder statesman rounding out the superfecta, especially if the track is playing more fairly than on Super Saturday. After the first couple of dirt races, we’ll have an idea if it’s still a conveyor belt carrying the speed.

7TH Race, Dubai Turf (G1), 11:35 a.m. EDT

Godolphin’s Benbatl is likely to revert to his best from a more favorable draw, and his proper European Group 1 form from last season stacks up well. The highest-rated horse in the race, though, is a better price. #2 NEOREALISM (6-1) projects a perfect trip drafting behind the speedy #1 Championship (15-1), who can take this field a long way. If Neorealism’s toppling of Japanese superstar Maurice in 2016, and of Hong Kong’s standout Werther last April, are slightly opportunistic, they nevertheless show the level of form he can reach in the right circumstances. Those might obtain here, with trainer Noriyuki Hori believing this is his best distance, and Moreira, the architect of his QEII Cup (G1) victory at Sha Tin, believing he knows him better now. I agree with my colleague Vance Hanson that Andre Fabre’s #4 TRAIS FLUORS (10-1) is very intriguing in conditions that may well bring out the best in the lightly-raced four-year-old, a genuine tempo on a good surface.

8TH Race, Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), 12:10 p.m. EDT

Aside from the sensible claims of market leaders Cloth of Stars and Rey de Oro, I think #5 POET’S WORD (9-2) can take a substantial step forward for Sir Michael Stoute. Although really a 1 1/2-mile horse, he was regarded highly enough for Stoute to pitch him into Europe’s two premier 1 1/4-mile prizes of the fall, the Irish Champion (G1) and Champion (G1), and he was second in both. His trip to Hong Kong is best forgotten as he was left with too much to do from a wide draw, again competing over an inadequate trip. Yet he still ripped a final 400 meters (about a quarter-mile) in :22.34 despite taking the overland route. Not to be overlooked is #1 MOZU KATCHAN (12-1), the Japanese Grade 1-winning filly with a potent kick. Judging by her replays, she can engage a wicked turbo but it needs to be precisely timed. Might a flat course like Meydan help her sustain her move longer? Moreira has tabbed #8 Satono Crown (8-1) as his best chance on the card, and he would be a prime threat if back after losing his form at the end of 2017.

9TH Race, Dubai World Cup (G1), 12:50 p.m. EDT

West Coast ranks as the deserving favorite and likeliest winner, with the only rival near him in official ratings being the dirt debuter Talismanic. While West Coast’s fellow Americans all have attractive reasons to do well here, from the champion mare Forever Unbridled’s sheer physicality, and Gunnevera’s willing attitude, to Pavel’s on-the-verge talent, his stablemate #5 MUBTAAHIJ (15-1) has U.S. Grade 1 form plus proven affinity for Meydan. His most persuasive argument isn’t his UAE Derby (G2) score from 2015 (no UAE Derby winner has ever won the World Cup), but his performances in the past two World Cups for former trainer Mike de Kock. Second to California Chrome in 2016, Mubtaahij was an heroic fourth last year after a rushed preparation, in just his second start off a layoff, and breaking from post 14. Now he enters race-fit, drawn much better in post 5, and capable of rounding out a Bob Baffert exacta topped by West Coast. If that’s too optimistic a scenario, Mubtaahij nevertheless is an appealing exotics candidate who may get lost in the shuffle. A postscript on the other UAE Derby winner in the line-up, #10 Thunder Snow (10-1): his wide draw actually helps him because he resents the kickback if on the inside.