Probing for value on Dubai’s Super Saturday

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 8th, 2019

Last year’s Super Saturday card was a virtual graveyard for favorites, with the top betting choice overturned in six of seven races at Meydan. That makes sense since the final preps for Dubai World Cup night attract runners at varying stages of race-fitness with different objectives: the classiest entrant might be coming off a layoff and using it as a tightener, while Carnival runners peaking now consider this as their “World Cup” because the waters will be too deep on March 30. The typical pattern holds again on Saturday, with the main questions being which favorites are more vulnerable, which Carnival winners may have already peaked, and which well-priced alternatives may be sitting on their best efforts. Here’s my idea of the runners eligible to outperform their odds: 1ST Race (post time 7 a.m. EST) – Mahab al Shimaal (G3), prep for Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) On paper, the about six-furlong dash should set up well for 3-1 favorite Drafted, who packs a strong closing punch as evidenced in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) last out. Yet #2 Switzerland (6-1) could end up beating the other speed to the early lead from his inside draw, and jockey Mickael Barzalona is a master at controlling the pace on this track. The Steve Asmussen trainee ran better than it appears in defeat last time, trying to give the rampant improver Lavaspin 14 pounds from post 7. The situation is neatly reversed here, with Switzerland better drawn and at level weights. The son of Speightstown and the speedy Czechers has the class as the winner of the Frank J. DeFrancis (G3) and Maryland Sprint (G3), and he can be forgiven his first run here since he exited with an issue in his left front leg. Switzerland put that behind him second up, and should be firing on all cylinders in this third start of the Carnival. 2ND Race (7:35 a.m. EST) – Al Bastakiya, stepping stone to UAE Derby (G2) The 2-1 favorite Estihdaaf benefited from two factors in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) – the rail and a first-time visor. The headgear stays on, but the Godolphin sophomore faces a whole new ball game being drawn in post 13 of 14, making him perhaps the most vulnerable favorite on the card. The trick is landing on the right one among no shortage of candidates to oppose him. I’ll take a stab with #5 Moshaher (12-1). The Kentucky-bred son of Goldencents looked a budding star on debut, traveling best of all before opening up at will, only to flop in the Guineas after a slow start. Trainer Doug Watson explicitly compared that effort to his well-regarded filly Razeena, who similarly botched the UAE 1000 Guineas but came back with a terrific third in the UAE Oaks (G3). Considering how sharp Moshaher was first out, he deserves a mulligan for last time, and I’m hopeful of a rebound from post 5. 3RD Race (8:10 a.m. EST) – Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3), prep for Al Quoz Sprint (G1) Even-money favorite Blue Point warrants his status as the unambiguous class of the field, and the Charlie Appleby trainee was simply devastating in his Meydan reappearance. If you want to nitpick, though, there are two factors to note: this is a deviation from the original plan, and he’s been well beaten in his last two tries over six furlongs. Blue Point was supposed to bide his time after his five-furlong blitz on February 14, but Appleby opted to give him another tune-up ahead of the Al Quoz. That’s not in itself a negative, other than my usual overthinking when the game plan gets changed. The step up from five to six shouldn’t matter in principle, since he’s been highly effective at this trip in the past. Perhaps his results over five are more indicative of a sprinter coming to peak strength rather than a change in distance proclivities. His most interesting rival is #1 Ekhtiyaar (7-1), on the strength of a demolition job over course and distance for Watson. What made his handicap score so impressive was the combination of his time, the way he traveled, and the fact that he ran roughshod over rivals who’d already won this season. He’s got to prove himself against Blue Point’s standard of form, wheeling back from February 21, but there was a sense that Ekhtiyaar could be the next big thing on this circuit. Also worth mentioning is #7 Mazzini (7-1) who brings a winning streak along with better spacing (since February 7) for Fawzi Nass. 4TH Race (8:45 a.m.) – Burj Nahaar (G3), prep for the Godolphin Mile (G2) As a card-carrying fan of 8-5 favorite Muntazah since his promising second on debut, it pains me to say that he strikes me as vulnerable in these circumstances. An imperious winner of the Firebreak (G3) last out over several of these, and the runner-up in last year’s Godolphin Mile, he’s more than good enough. The concern is his post – ironically, the rail. While that would be a godsend for a horse with tactical speed, Muntazah is reserved off the pace, so he could find himself in need of room at the decisive stage. Also, Watson had seriously thought about giving the Dubawi blueblood a chance in the World Cup prep later on the card rather than sticking to a mile, and I’d half-hoped he would. The 4-1 Axelrod is a solid alternative in his Dubai premiere for Salem bin Ghadayer, based on his U.S. form through McKinzie. But given all of the variables going on in this race, including whether Heavy Metal is past his prime, I wouldn’t be shocked if #7 Moqarrab (30-1) got involved. Granted he’s the joint-lowest rated, and apparently Sheikh Hamdan’s third-stringer, yet he rolled late in his dirt debut to miss by a head, despite a poor post (12). An unexposed type with any amount of upside for Musabbeh al Mheiri, Moqarrab is a $400,000 Speightstown colt out of a half to Uncle Mo. 5TH Race (9:20 a.m.) – Dubai City of Gold (G2), prep for Sheema Classic (G1) Considering that Godolphin has practically owned the Meydan turf all Carnival, the classiest of the four-strong team in this spot, 9-5 favorite Old Persian, should be tough. And Appleby won this last year with the form horse, and favorite, Hawkbill off a similar layoff. That said, his signature wins came versus fellow sophomores last season, albeit one of them was future Melbourne Cup (G1) winner Cross Counter, and now he resurfaces against elders. Although his morning-line price does not reflect much value, #6 Racing History (7-2) may go off at somewhat better odds, and he has the advantage of steady improvement throughout the Carnival for Saeed bin Suroor. The full brother to Farhh has had a stop-start career, but he’s never lacked talent, and this could finally be his time as he stretches back out in trip. 6TH Race (9:55 a.m.) – Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), prep for Dubai World Cup (G1) If even-money favorite Thunder Snow is ready to deliver in his comeback, the reigning Dubai World Cup winner would outclass the field. But that’s the rub. Freshened since his commendable third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), he’s prepping for his World Cup title defense. While bin Suroor is well known for his ability to win off the layoff, this isn’t the ordinary Carnival handicap. No horse has ever won the World Cup twice, and you can imagine what it would mean to Sheikh Mohammed if a Godolphin homebred is the first to accomplish it. Thunder Snow will presented to run well, but he can’t be fully cranked when he needs to move forward from here. Is he good enough to win anyway? Perhaps, but remember that he lost his 2018 Carnival comeback and won second out. A similar pattern would see him bang-on for the World Cup. The likeliest upset candidate is #3 New Trails (10-1). On a dramatic upswing since trying dirt for new trainer Ahmad bin Harmash, the son of Medaglia d’Oro just chased home World Cup threat North America in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2). New Trails was gaining ground hand over fist in a clear second, and he promises another potent effort here. #7 Cosmo Charlie (15-1) has an upset shot if he gets loose early, but that’s his only win scenario. 7TH Race (10:30 a.m.) – Jebel Hatta (G1), prep for the Dubai Turf (G1) As with the City of Gold, Godolphin’s turf supremacy again comes to the fore in both quality and quantity. This time the 2-1 favorite Dream Castle is razor-sharp off a pair of major Carnival wins over course and distance. The son of Frankel is a reformed character since being gelded, so he can’t be judged properly by his prior career. Unlike the City of Gold, however, there is a serious win contender outside the Godolphin ranks in #4 Century Dream (5-1). Trained by Simon Crisford, who sent out two winners on the February 28 card, Century Dream has proper European Group 1 placings, and the benefit of a recent tune-up when second in the Zabeel Mile (G2). He can be headstrong, but if jockey Oisin Murphy harnesses his tactical foot, he’ll go close. Good luck! Be sure to take advantage of the TwinSpires special Super Saturday offer: Opt in and play $5 Win bets on Saturday in Dubai. Only your first $5 Win bet will count as your contest wager. Each Winning bet will earn one 'chip' (a $2 free bet) to use on the Dubai World Cup. Earn up to 5 'chips' to use on World Cup day. Learn more here: https://www.twinspires.com/bet/offers Photo of New Trails (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen