The flat season is just getting underway around these parts, but over in Dubai they’ve been at it for the last couple of months. It all comes together for a day of top quality horses, a load of Group 1 races and wallowing around in piles of money at the Dubai World Cup this weekend.
There’s positive vibes from the Aidan O’Brien camp about So You Think’s assault on the richest race in the world, the $10m Dubai World Cup. Last year’s Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes winner’s cause was helped by a stall four draw for Saturday’s showpiece and will be ridden by O’Brien’s son Joseph. A slice of that prize money would certainly beat the hell out of any pocket money we got when we were that young.
Frankie Dettori was adamant that Godolphin should plump for stalls eight to 13 so his mount Prince Bishop (stall 12), Mendip (13), Monterosso (8) and Capponi (11) will try to defy the stat that only two horses drawn wider than nine have finished in the first six in the last two World Cups at Meydan.
Second favourite Smart Falcon will shadow So You Think from stall five but trainer Ken Kozaki has expressed concerns that his runner lost 20kgs on the seven-hour flight from Japan. That’s good if you’re doing Weightwatchers, not so good if you’re hoping to take home a few million in prize money.
Game on Dude has been drawn widest of all in stall 14 but would provide a welcome tonic for American trainer Bob Baffert who’s recuperating in a Dubai hospital after a heart operation earlier this week. Local favourite Capponi has been given a good chance by handler Mahmood Al Zarooni who also trains Monterosso, the mount of Derby winner and flamboyant celebrator, Mickael Barzalona.
O’Brien the younger also gets the leg up on St Nicholas Abbey in the Dubai Sheema Classic, where Jamie Spencer rides Treasure Beach. In the Dubai Duty Free In the UAE Derby, Ryan Moore gets the leg up on Wrote for Ballydoyle while Colm O’Donoghue rides Daddy Long Legs. In what could be a big day for him, O’Brien junior will also be responsible for Await The Dawn’s tilt at the Dubai Duty Free at 5.25pm.
Sole Power, who’s owned by our beloved leader, Paddy Power’s mum runs in the Al Quoz Sprint at 4pm. In the past he’s claimed a Group 1 with a shock win in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York and a Group 2 by winning the Temple Stakes at Haydock. Prior to each of his previous major wins, Paddy told us it wasn’t worth backing him only for him to bolt up. This time around, he’s telling everyone to get on, so given his track record with tipping, it’s probably best to look for another option.
Closer to home, ante-post favourite Eton Forever heads a maximum field of 22 runners in the traditional one-mile handicap that couldn’t be more of a cavalry charge if Mel Gibson was roaring his head off at the front of it. The Lincoln Handicap kicks off the British turf flat racing season at Doncaster on Saturday and it’s a new season, but very much the same old ‘anyone can win it’ story. Roger Varian’s five-year-old, drawn seven, missed the cut for the contest 12 months ago, but bolted up in the consolation Spring Mile ahead of it.
William Haggas has an enviable record in this race saddling High Low (1992), Very Wise (2007) and Penitent (2010), who was withdrawn on Thursday. He relies on Fury, in stall nine, who was fifth in last year’s 2,000 Guineas behind Henry Cecil’s winner, the unbeaten Frankel. There’s no Frankel in this line-up and with Paddy Power paying 1/4 the odds the first five, Fury looks a solid-each-way option. Former John Oxx inmate Cocozza, drawn 15, makes his debut for English-based Italian Marco Botti. The Godolphin pair of Man of Action and Start Right were drawn 20 and 18 respectively. If you haven’t already broken out the blindfold and pin this year, this is the perfect time to start, especially with our five places.