What I’m looking for on Dubai’s Super Saturday
The action-packed card at Meydan on “Super Saturday” can be approached two ways: first, for the betting opportunities at hand, and second, for its impact on the March 26 Dubai World Cup night blockbuster.
Let’s go methodically through the program with both perspectives in mind. My top selections and value plays have their odds bolded.
1ST – The Al Bastakiya (7 a.m. EST), the second jewel of the UAE Triple Crown, is contested over the same about 1 3/16-mile trip as the UAE Derby (G2). Although Market Rally dominated the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) on the front end, the time was uninspiring compared to the unbeaten filly Polar River in the UAE 1000 Guineas. That leaves us practically begging for a new shooter. Godolphin’s Blue Creek (who’ll never go off at 15-1) was upset by an older handicapper last time, but the US Triple Crown nominee has raw talent, and a mouthwatering pedigree as Street Cry and Blue Bunting’s son. The Charlie Appleby trainee is still a work in progress, and the addition of cheekpieces could be a galvanizer. If he has a realistic chance in the UAE Derby, never mind Churchill Downs, he’ll need to deliver here – against a short field comprising only the top three from the Guineas.
2ND – The Mahab al Shimaal (7:35 a.m. EST) ought to be a pretty straightforward task for Hong Kong’s world-class dirt sprinter Rich Tapestry (3-2). Not only is he the best horse on paper, having placed in the past two editions of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), but he also just accounted for Muarrab in the Al Shindhagha Sprint (G3) over this same track and trip. The one caveat is that Rich Tapestry is a known bleeder who tends to perform well fresh. For that reason, I had hoped that he’d skip Super Saturday and just train up to the Golden Shaheen. For value hunters, I liked Sweet Swap (10-1) when he was a turf sprinter for John Sadler. His new Saudi connections have been running him over a mile, and the cutback to a sprint may help this full brother to Sidney’s Candy. Note the rider switch to Frankie Dettori. Shaishee (6-1) scored an opportunistic win in this very race last year, and could be rounding into form in his third start off the layoff. The major Golden Shaheen implications, however, revolve around Rich Tapestry.
3RD – The Meydan Sprint (8:10 a.m. EST) on turf serves up a showdown between two proper Al Quoz Sprint (G1) contenders, and maybe even a third. Since defending Al Quoz Sprint champion Sole Power (5-2) often needs a race, reigning King’s Stand (G1) and Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) hero Goldream (3-1) figures to have the upper hand in their prep. We already know they’re specialists at this about five-furlong trip down the straight, so the main intrigue here involves Godolphin’s duo of Jungle Cat (5-1) and to a lesser extent Toscanini (7-1). Both 4-year-olds have proven class, and promising races over the course, but have something to prove at this minimum trip. Jungle Cat demolished handicap foes over six in his reappearance, while Toscanini has run better than it looks in his losses over five, most recently to Sir Maximilian (6-1). If either Godolphin hope passes this speed test, he’ll boost his Al Quoz candidacy.
4TH – The Burj Nahaar (8:45 a.m. EST) often discloses the top local hope for the Godolphin Mile (G2). That may be arguable this time, with Maftool passing on the prep, but Le Bernardin (5-2) can regain the winning thread. Victorious in the Dubai Creek Mile and the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) over this track and trip, he was fourth in the Firebreak (G3) to Confrontation, One Man Band, and Watershed – none of whom are re-opposing. Another reason to forgive Le Bernardin is that he was originally supposed to skip the Firebreak, so his participation was a change in plan if not an afterthought. Doug Watson’s duo of Cool Cowboy (5-2) (a gallant second to Maftool) and Layl (7-2) (who takes the visor off) are the obvious dangers. A sneakier type is the ex-Wayne Catalano runner Top Clearance (7-1), fifth in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and a handicap winner over this metric mile two starts back. If you overlook his Dubai debut off the layoff, and his attempt over much longer last time, he’s in the mix for Dhruba Selvaratnam.
5TH – This Dubai City of Gold (9:20 am EST) just might be the deepest in its history, making it a more informative pointer to the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) than usual. Postponed (8-5) is the deserving favorite in his first start since switching to Roger Varian. Of the highest class as the game winner of last year’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) and Prix Niel (G2), the son of Dubawi projects a good stalking trip with regular rider Andrea Atzeni. The only quibble is how sharp he’ll be off the layoff. Dariyan (3-1) progressed so well over 2015, placing behind the likes of New Bay, Highland Reel, and Flintshire, that the Aga Khan homebred might be ready to take center stage already. Possibly overlooked in the shuffle is King Edward VII (G2) star Balios (6-1), from the yard of expert shipper David Simcock. Arlington and Woodbine fans are familiar with Simcock’s exploits, and his Sheikhzayedroad just crushed Thursday’s Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3) off the bench.
6TH –The Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (9:55 a.m. EST) furnishes the final pieces of the Dubai World Cup (G1) puzzle. American World Cup hopes have lorded it over two preps so far this Carnival, in Frosted and California Chrome, and Keen Ice (2-1) aims to make it a trio. I’m fascinated by the rider switch to Ryan Moore, who may get the best out of him. The burning question is, can Moore cajole that big run in time off a pace that’s probably not going to be as hot as in the World Cup? At least he benefits from stepping back up to about 1 1/4 miles. As far as Mubtaahij (5-2) goes, I’m eager to see just how much he improves off a lackluster fifth in his Firebreak comeback. Mike de Kock doesn’t crank up his horses first time out, preferring to have them move forward race by race. Keen Ice bested him in their two Triple Crown clashes, but not by much. If we see the Mubtaahij of the 2015 Carnival, he’ll be gone by the time Keen Ice gets going. Watershed (12-1) has all-around appeal – pedigree, connections, American dirt background – despite the fact that this has the earmarks of a fact-finding mission. With the two favorites having questions to answer, this Godolphin/Kiaran McLaughlin runner strikes me as the alternative at a price. I confess to being a little gun shy about Gun Pit (8-1) after he bombed out in Japan, but the Hong Kong dirtballer has every right to be in the frame if he finds Meydan’s surface more congenial than Chukyo’s. The subplot is which of the local handicappers may punch above their weight. My gut instinct is that we didn’t see the real Special Fighter (15-1) when he flopped behind Frosted, and I won’t be surprised if he cracks the superfecta. (If you want a read on California Chrome’s Dubai form, note that Storm Belt, who was second in his handicap, isn’t rated as highly as stablemate Faulkner. Yet both are 15-1.)
7TH – The Jebel Hatta (10:30 am EST) would go the way of Tryster (9-5) if he duplicates his late acceleration from the Dubai Millennium on the cutback from about 10 to nine furlongs, the distance of the Dubai Turf (G1). The Godolphin colorbearer is doing something I’m normally wary of – simultaneously stepping up in class and down in trip – but his turn of foot will be too potent again if the pace is slow. The value lies with South Africans Ertijaal (6-1) and Harry’s Son (8-1), each entitled to put a better hoof forward than last time. Ertijaal, who exits a forgettable dirt experiment, was previously a bang-up second to de Kock stablemate Forries Waltz in the course-and-distance Al Rashidiya (G2) in his Dubai debut. I hope they use his tactical speed, and stamina, to good effect and try to steal a march on Tryster. Otherwise, he’s liable to get outkicked. Harry’s Son also turned in a terrific Dubai debut when runner-up to course specialist Safety Check in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2), only to regress a little in the Zabeel Mile (G2). Trainer Paul Lafferty wheels him back more quickly than expected here, a move that’s either inspired or ill-advised, depending on the outcome.
After Super Saturday provides its answers, we’ll have the fun of gauging the strength of these local preps against the fearsome internationals shipping in for World Cup night.
Click here for the Dubai past performances courtesy of Brisnet.com, where international PPs are available for free.
And see the details on TwinSpires' 1 Million Points Super Saturday Placepot.