Hanson: A rundown of the Dubai World Cup card
After numerous hours of studying the Dubai World Cup program (CLICK for full card past performances) the last several days, my main takeaway is how strong several of the likely post-time favorites appear.
#9 WEST COAST doesn't go into the World Cup (G1) with the credentials former stablemate Arrogate did a year ago, but there are no Gun Runners standing in his path and by all accounts he's looked magnificent on the track in Meydan this week.
Similarly, sprint champion #6 ROY H is clearly the one to fear in the Golden Shaheen (G1). Also looking solid are #5 VAZIRABAD in his attempt at a Gold Cup (G2) three-peat using identical preparation as a year ago, and #13 BLUE POINT in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1).
Now, the dirt races could be turned upside down depending on how the track is playing. It was decidedly speed-favoring on Super Saturday three weeks ago, and it would be best to re-examine wagering plans if the first few races Saturday indicate a similar bias.
If all is playing fair, the keying of the aforementioned horses in Exactas, Doubles and Pick 3s are among my wagering strategies.
In the World Cup, I'll be using #8 Pavel underneath West Coast. Bursting on the scene last summer and fall with strong performances in races like the Smarty Jones (G3) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), the Doug O'Neill trainee did not have the luck going his way in a pair of starts at Santa Anita recently. That was especially the case in the San Pasqual (G2), when he had no clear run in the stretch. I still believe he has the inherit talent to be a player in the older male ranks this year. The mare #6 Forever Unbridled is also intriguing stretching out to 1 1/4 miles for her career finale.
I like #2 X Y Jet to repeat his Golden Shaheen placing two years behind Roy H on Saturday, while #12 Big Orange and #10 Frontiersman look useful underneath Vazirabad in the Gold Cup. American challengers like #9 Conquest Tsunami and #6 Holding Gold could give a solid account of themselves over the straight six furlongs of the Al Quoz.
Here are other thoughts on the remaining races:
Godolphin Mile (G2)
With the defending champion in modest form and the U.S. invader potentially compromised by a historical trend that favors locally-based contenders, this race could be ripe for a relatively unexposed candidate. #4 MUSAWAAT fits the bill with three strong efforts over the track this winter, including a third in the Burj Nahaar (G3) on Super Saturday when the track profile was playing against him as much as anyone not on the lead.
#4 Mendelssohn is the class of the field and is bred to handle the dirt as a son of Scat Daddy and kin to Beholder. On the other hand, we really won't know how he handles it until he actually tries it. #5 GOLD TOWN, on the other hand, has enjoyed two blowout victories over it this winter. He was on the lead both times, but guessing he'll be rated behind one or two other speed types and look to get the jump on Mendelssohn. This is one race where I will not be very heavily invested in given the short odds on both main contenders.
Dubai Turf (G1)
Arguably the best betting race on the card with few obvious toss-outs for those that like to play Trifectas and Superfectas. My main longer shot play of the night will be #4 TRAIS FLUORS, who seems highly regarded by trainer Andre Fabre. Second as the favorite behind a loose-on-the-lead Thunder Snow in last summer's Prix Jean Prat (G1), he may have found the Deauville turf too soft when fourth in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) in his season finale. Prepped nicely on the Chantilly all-weather earlier this month, and the stretch-out to nine furlongs will probably suit if he gets pace to run at.
#5 Benbatl is the horse to beat after two strong efforts to start the year over this course and a tough-trip second in the Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday. Japan has won this race the past two years, and 2016 winner #8 Real Steel can bounce back from a so-so try over soft ground he wasn't fond of in the Tenno Sho (G1) at Tokyo last time. #1 Championship is an interesting pace player who might snag a share. Was doing well before injury forced him out of this race last year, and latest try in the Zabeel Mile (G2) a sign he's rounding back to better form.
Dubai Sheema Classic (G1)
From a class perspective, this race appears to boil down to Group 1 winner and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) runner-up #6 CLOTH OF STARS and the Japanese invader #3 Rey de Oro, second in the Japan Cup (G1) two back and reunited with Christophe Lemaire for this. Like the Derby, I won't be too heavily invested here except in multi-race wagers.