Solow’s withdrawal & random thoughts on Dubai World Cup night fields

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 17th, 2016

Solow photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins.

When seeing Wednesday’s Twitter reports that Solow struck into himself during a routine piece of work, my first thought was “Uh-oh.” Although the incident was first described as trivial, you never want anything like this to happen 10 days out from a race, and I was already contemplating other possible top selections for the Dubai Turf (G1).

So it wasn’t exactly a bombshell Thursday morning when trainer Freddy Head ruled Solow out of a title defense on World Cup night. So far, the setback still appears to be minor in the scheme of the things, and just a classic case of bad timing.

“The leg isn't as good this morning and he is not as we would want him to be,” Head told Racing Post. “We won't take the risk as we are short of time with the flight leaving tomorrow (Friday). He will have some tests done but at the moment it doesn't seem anything serious, just a haematoma.”

Thus the Dubai Turf has suffered another blow. The about nine-furlong test was initially expected to pit Solow’s 10-race winning streak against Maurice’s six-race skein, only to have the Japanese Horse of the Year call it off when needing more time. Then with the emergence of Godolphin’s Tryster during the Carnival, we had a renewed eagerness for a proper showdown with Solow.

But Solow’s absence doesn’t necessarily hand the trophy to Tryster, for his turf form leaves a little room for questioning, especially at a short price.

The primary question is, who benefits most from the likely hot pace? The presence of Ghaamer among the list of invitees ensures there will be no hanging about early. That may pose a conundrum for Godolphin’s filly Very Special, who has wired the Cape Verdi (G2) and Balanchine (G2). Conversely, a fast tempo may help Euro Charline to settle better. Japan’s Real Steel and Great Britain’s The Corsican may also appreciate the set-up.

Here are a few other thoughts on the likely fields announced by the Dubai Racing Club:

Japan fields a strong team with representatives in six of eight Thoroughbred contests on World Cup night, skipping just the shorter dirt races (Golden Shaheen [G1] and Godolphin Mile [G2]). The best Japanese hopes rest in the Dubai Turf and the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), where the island nation has one-third of the field. The Sheema trio is led by champion Duramente, so it’s very much quality as well as quantity.

Hong Kong could also have a successful night, with a potential sprint double in the offing. Aside from Peniaphobia and Not Listenin’tome in the Al Quoz (G1) on turf, Hong Kong has no fewer than four in the Golden Shaheen. While Rich Tapestry may or may not bounce back to form, Super Jockey is a serious chance after just missing here last year, and Master Kochanwong is an intriguing type. And Gun Pit flies the flag in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1).

There were a couple of surprises with horses switching targets. Sheikhzayedroad has popped up in the Sheema, despite trainer David Simcock’s emphasis on the Dubai Gold Cup (G2). That diminished him from a must-use to a toss. Andre Fabre has pitched Vadamos into the World Cup after reportedly pointing to the Dubai Turf. I know Fabre has lauded him as a champion, but it’s difficult for me to get too enthusiastic – his flop in last October’s Champion S. (G1) has left a mark and dented my confidence. Watch him pull an Arcangues now!

[Update: Shortly after posting, I had a brainstorm: what if Vadamos reroutes to the Dubai Turf after all, now that Solow's out? Just wondering...]

[Update II: My lack of enthusiasm about Vadamos is strictly regarding a World Cup tilt. I'd have a much more positive attitude about him in the Dubai Turf.]

[Update III: It didn't take too long for the "Solow effect" to lure Intilaaq out of a World Cup dirt experiment and into a very winnable Dubai Turf. Great move, Sheikh Hamdan!]

A happy switch was orchestrated by Godolphin: Marking, who was supposedly bound for the Golden Shaheen, instead appears among the probables for the Godolphin Mile. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee has swapped with stablemate Confrontation, originally a Godolphin Mile candidate but now shortening up for the Golden Shaheen. That move likely suits Marking, both from an experience and distance standpoint. Given his past success at six furlongs, Confrontation might be OK with his new objective too.

McLaughlin may have a career evening, with Frosted in the World Cup and Lady Shipman in the Al Quoz adding to his prospects. Like Marking and Confrontation, Frosted sports the royal blue silks of Godolphin, which naturally sends out a battalion for Dubai’s signature racing spectacle. But aside from the Dubai Turf, Godolphin’s hand appears generally stronger in the dirt races.

Team USA understandably finds its center of gravity on the dirt. The World Cup really ought to return stateside with a five-strong phalanx of California Chrome, Mshawish, Keen Ice and Hoppertunity in addition to the aforementioned Frosted. X Y Jet doubles our heft in the Golden Shaheen, and Frank Conversation tackles the UAE Derby (G2). On the turf, however, there are no US runners in the Sheema or Dubai Gold Cup, and Flamboyant has a tough assignment in the Dubai Turf. American rooting interests have a better shot in the Al Quoz, but only if Mongolian Saturday and Lady Shipman can transfer their game to the straight course.

Team British Racing is well represented in all of the turf races, as you'd expect, but also fields a proper contender in the Godolphin Mile in Sloane Avenue, who missed by inches last year.

Aidan O’Brien dispatches a single runner, proven globetrotter Highland Reel in the Sheema. It’s good to have the maestro from Ballydoyle back at Meydan after skipping the 2015 World Cup program. It would have been even better if he’d brought a traveling companion for the Dubai Gold Cup, but I won’t complain.

Stay tuned for further Dubai coverage on the blog, until I go into lockdown next week to churn out the World Cup night Daily Selections for

In the meantime, the likely fields as released by the Dubai Racing Club (with trainer and home base):