Top 8 questions to be answered on Dubai World Cup card
Lots of questions will be answered Saturday. Here are the posers I’m most eager to see solved:
What kind of history will be made in the UAE Derby (G2)? Everyone in the field except Lazzam would be an historic winner, so barring that unlikely turn of events, this UAE Derby will go into the record book. Polar River would become the first filly to win three UAE classics, a UAE “Fillies’ Triple Crown” including the UAE 1000 Guineas and Oaks (G3). Vale Dori would become the first South American-bred filly to win, and the first offspring of a UAE Derby winner to emulate the sire (Asiatic Boy). Frank Conversation would be the first American-based winner, while Lani, Yu Change, and On the Rocks would rank as the first Japanese shipper to capture this race.
Will Doug Watson’s superb Carnival translate into a first success on World Cup night? Polar River is the obvious candidate to do just that in the UAE Derby, but Watson is triple-handed in the Godolphin Mile (G2) with Faulkner, Cool Cowboy, and One Man Band. In addition to outsiders Basateen (Dubai Turf) and Meadow Creek (Dubai Gold Cup [G2]), he sends out Candy Boy off a year-long layoff in the Dubai World Cup (G1).
How many races will Sheikh Hamdan win? Sheikh Mohammed’s brother, and the architect of Shadwell, fields serious contenders in five races. Handassa spearheads Sheikh Hamdan’s trio in the opener for Purebred Arabians, which could set the tone for the evening. Next comes Maftool (my pick) in the Godolphin Mile (G2). Sheikh Hamdan has another three-strong squad in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1), led by likely favorite Ertijaal (Ire) and the proven Muthmir. Two more sport his colors in the Golden Shaheen (G1), Muarrab and Kifaah. Capping them all is his foursome in the Dubai Turf (G1), chief among them the highly regarded Intilaaq (my pick).
How many races will Godolphin win? Not as mob-handed as in World Cup nights past, Sheikh Mohammed’s elite operation may still have a banner night. Marking, if he breaks without incident, can start it off with a bang in the eponymous Godolphin Mile. Manatee and Haafaguinea (newly promoted back up to the royal blue silks after a productive Carnival) contest the Dubai Gold Cup, Jungle Cat mixes it up in the Al Quoz Sprint, Confrontation has been pitched into the Golden Shaheen (tempted to say Marking threw him under the bus!), Tryster and Very Special give Godolphin major chances in the Dubai Turf, and Frosted (my pick) is primed to run the race of his life in the World Cup.
Will the sprints showcase front-running speed machines or dashing closers? I’ve split my verdict, going for an off-the-pace type in Not Listenin’tome in the Al Quoz on turf and siding with wire threat X Y Jet in the Golden Shaheen on dirt. But it would be no surprise if both set up better for closers. It’s also possible that someone in the Al Quoz vanguard could hang on, although that looks a bit tougher to manage. Of course, I could also have it exactly backward, if speed holds in the Al Quoz and a closer gets up in the Golden Shaheen.
Will the Dubai Turf serve as a revelation or a dead end? Historically it’s been a bit of both, but Solow became a bona fide international star here last year, and followed it up by continuing his streak throughout the season in Europe. My hopes are very high that someone will use this edition as a similar launching pad to stardom. Fingers nervously crossed that it’s Intilaaq. But if Tryster can pass them all, he’ll be something else too. Those are the two obvious rivals for supremacy, but that’s not to overlook Real Steel’s capacity to deliver a breakthrough.
Will the Sheema Classic (G1) rank as the year’s first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) prep? There may be as many as four Arc candidates in this race, from Japanese champion Duramente (my pick) and Postponed to Highland Reel and Dariyan. An about 1 1/2-mile contest this early in the season, and going left-handed, might end up being a bigger pointer to October than usual.
Which American classic form will hold up best in the World Cup? One of the fascinating World Cup subplots is the respective strength of the 2014 versus 2015 US Triple Crown form. In one corner, the 2014 classic generation led by California Chrome and his old foes Hoppertunity and Candy Boy. In the other corner are American Pharoah’s pursuers Frosted, Mubtaahij, and Keen Ice.
Best of luck and happy World Cup!
Lovely scenic shot of one of Sheikh Hamdan's battalion, Muthmir, courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Mathea Kelley.