Powell's Primer on Dubai Racing
by DICK POWELL
Some thoughts on watching and wagering on the Dubai World Cup (G1) and the fantastic undercard of racing coming up on March 31.
The track at Meydan is similar to Woodbine; the turf course is on the outside and the dirt, main track is inside of it.
The turf course is 2,400 meters (just shy of 1 1/2 miles) and the turns are very wide. It also tends to play softer than it looks as the sandy base makes it a bit “spongy.” It is usually listed as “good” even when it would be listed as “firm” over here so when looking at horses that have already raced there, don’t assume that the turf course was softened up by rain.
The Al Quoz Sprint (G1) is run down a straightaway on the turf course. With a big field expected, the race often breaks up into two or more groups. Speed horses are under enormous pressure since there is no time to rest. I wouldn’t pick a deep closer but would not discount a turf sprinter that comes from mid-pack.
The Dubai Gold Cup (G2) is contested over 3,200 meters (almost 2 miles) of turf and starts up the same chute that the Al Quoz so they run about six furlongs before the first of two turns. The pace will be glacial. Look for horses that have already stayed the distance and can pass horses willingly.
The Godolphin Mile (G2) is run out of a chute with a slight, left-handed elbow. The Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) is run like a typical American dirt sprint around one, left-handed turn.
The $6 million Dubai Turf (G1) is run at almost nine furlongs but starts on the backstretch and only goes around one turn. There is usually serious bunching on the turn and horses will be all over the turf course turning for home. Ground loss is better than boxed in down on the inside.
The UAE Derby (G2) has major Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility points available and looks like it will be an epic match between MENDELSSOHN, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and GOLD TOWN, who has romped in both dirt starts at Meydan including the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) by over 10 lengths last out.
Since going back to dirt, American horses have been a commanding presence.
(Check out the detailed overview of the likely fields for all of the races, including West Coast and Forever Unbridled in the World Cup.)
The Florida Derby (G1) is run the same day so I don’t know which riders will show up but rest assured that Ryan Moore, Christophe Soumillon and William Buick will have quality mounts in all the races and they are a sight to behold.
The major prep races are run three weeks before and don’t put a lot of stock in them. Most of the local horses have March 31 ingrained into their schedules and the prep races are only important in that they are training exercises for the big night. The top local trainers bring their horses to a boil on the big night and I would not put too much stock in them. A good run is what they are looking for and then be at their best for the big money.
The emiratesracing.com web site is a gold mine. Start playing around with it to get used to the format but you can find equipment information that includes tongue ties, cheek piece, hoods, blinkers, etc. For instance, TT- means that the tongue tie has been removed, TT+ means that it has been added and TT means that he has been using one regularly and is using it again.
When looking up past races run in Dubai, you can find detailed comments on every starter in the race as well as a Stewards’ Report which will explain all incidents in the race.
Finally, the video replays are in high definition and vivid quality. One frustrating aspect is that they do not use many pan shots in their camera coverage so you have to be familiar with a horse’s silks and equipment when they show them coming down the long backstretch.
Wagering pools are significant and there is the usual wagering menu that you are used to. With big fields, there can be tremendous value. All you have to be is right one or two times and you can have a profitable day.