By Pat Cummings
For Thursday, Feb. 21
Race 2 - $175,000 Al Naboodah Commercial Group Trophy Handicap (Rated 100+), 2,000 meters (about 10 furlongs), Turf (10:15 a.m. EST)
There should be no question where the early pace is coming from as #4 STARBOARD absolutely goes from the front; that’s what he knows and that’s what he’ll do. The better question is whether anyone tries to match him on the pace. #2 MIKHAIL GLINKA does most of his best running from the front, and #6 SALON SOLDIER has found himself there as well. Mikhail Glinka’s run last time out was solid enough when top-weight and he likely gets the added ground he wants.
#1 AWAIT THE DAWN is subject to substantial improvement in this spot. He ran the second-fastest final 200-meter split in the Maktoum Challenge Round II (UAE-II) last time out despite only finishing ninth. He was unusually off the pace emerging from the layoff and just stutter-stepped the start to keep him off the pace. While we could easily find him back on the all-weather track later, progression back on grass is well within range, especially considering the improvement we’ve seen from Mike de Kock’s runners in their second start.
The interesting horse to us is #5 SO BEAUTIFUL. He tried the all-weather last time and while it shows he finished 11th, honestly, it wasn’t a terrible run. The form from that race is going to continue to be difficult to interpret given the slow early and mid-race pace, where the first three horses throughout finished that way. So Beautiful ran a very even race and was never going to do anything after a :28.12 first 400-meter split. There is a smaller field in this spot, but the pace could easily draw him into the race much more so than his first two starts. In our mind, it’s a toss-up between So Beautiful and Await The Dawn.
1st – #1 AWAIT THE DAWN, 2nd - #5 SO BEAUTIFUL, 3rd - #2 MIKHAIL GLINKA
Race 3 - $110,000 Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Agencies Trophy Handicap (Rated 95-105), 1,900 meters (about 9 1/2 furlongs), All-Weather (10:50 a.m. EST)
While this race has a short field, the pace will likely be legitimate, with #2 TREBLE JIG knowing relatively no other way, and several others including #1 CON ARTIST, #5 YAA WAYL, and #6 NOT A GIVEN all liking to remain in close attendance. #7 SPECIFIC GRAVITY has run two solid races on grass and from high draws, albeit in company rated lower than this event. He has never gone on the all-weather, so it is a question mark, but this son of Dansili surely trains over it. Last week, according to the Trakus data, he covered seven meters more than winner Jawhar when beaten less than a length. Two weeks earlier, he went 10 meters more than winner Nawwaar. Drawn in four and with speed to his inside, he is very likely to catch a ground-saving trip and kick on from there.
Con Artist has found significant form-franking from Kassiano, who came back for another win, and Banna Boirche, twice placed on grass and behind Con Artist last time. He’s definitely the main threat to the top pick.
1st - #7 SPECIFIC GRAVITY, 2nd - #1 CON ARTIST, 3rd - #5 YAA WAYL
Race 4 - $200,000 Balanchine (UAE-II), 1,800 meters (about 9 furlongs), Turf (11:25 a.m. EST)
Well, there is no doubting the star here is #6 IGUGU. A winner of South Africa’s biggest races, the Vodacom Durban July (SAf-I) and the J & B Met (SAf-I) over males, she is the most exciting prospect at the Carnival. The question is: how will she do in this spot when other goals down the line are more to her aim? This mare could even take a spot in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) if the interest is there from the owners.
The runners that came to the UAE from South Africa endured a long, arduous quarantine. Of the 19 horses making a first up run at this Carnival for trainer Mike de Kock, the two who turned the trick were UAE 2,000 Guineas winner Soft Falling Rain and Al Rashidiya winner The Apache, both group I winners in South Africa. Igugu has done it off the shelf before and on occasions when not everything was going her way. In a level-weight setting, she has to be the pick regardless of the layoff.
Amazingly, #4 SAJJHAA actually gets a weight penalty here and carries slightly more weight than Igugu. She was impressive in that first-up run and now gets over a longer trip. which is sure to be to her liking. She traveled wide in the Cape Verdi (UAE-II), moved at the right times to keep Amanee boxed in a tight spot, then got a bit distracted when First City ran to her and briefly passed her before she regained her stride and lengthened away. A whole lot happened in that race for Sajjhaa, but it was good work.
#1 LILY’S ANGEL, the first Thoroughbred winner of this year’s Carnival, has the look of a horse whose connections would love a group II stakes placing behind Igugu for her broodmare career. They might be running for third in here.
1st - #6 IGUGU, 2nd - #4 SAJJHAA, 3rd - #1 LILY’S ANGEL
Race 5 - $110,000 SMKA Trophy Handicap (Rated 95-105), 1,600 meters (about 8 furlongs), All-Weather (noon EST)
#10 FAMOUS WARRIOR and #13 MYSTICISM both have to run forward. If one of them doesn’t break well, and we’d suggest that Mysticism is much more likely to have that problem, then it could leave the pace rather lonely to Famous Warrior. So much will have to go right, however, for that to happen, but Famous Warrior has a Carnival win in just that scenario from a few years ago.
Is #9 SANDAGIYR a sucker-bet in here? He’s done his best running when first up, upsetting eventual Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) winner African Story here last year. This season, he flew home from off the pace in his first-up run and backed it with a lackluster run over a longer trip last time. Back to a mile and drawn inside, he’ll save ground and get plenty of attention, but is he just a first-up wonder? If he isn’t, he’s a massive win contender, especially if Mysticism challenges Famous Warrior to run quick up front.
It’s a bit confusing to figure out why #11 MY FREEDOM has only been on all-weather once. That race, in April at Lingfield against an arguably suspect bunch, was explosive. He covered plenty of extra ground under Frankie Dettori, was drawn wide, and just moved away with push-button acceleration. He had a leg-stretcher on grass here a few weeks back when Nawwaar walked the dog on the lead. That is unlikely to happen in this spot. If My Freedom shows an inkling of the penchant he had for the all-weather at Lingfield, he could turn some heads.
1st - #11 MY FREEDOM, 2nd - #9 SANDAGIYR, 3rd - #10 FAMOUS WARRIOR
Race 6 - $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-II), 1,600 meters (about 8 furlongs), Turf (12:35 p.m. EST)
#10 MUSIR suffered from low fertility and was un-retired, and is now back in training, and honestly has a banner shot. He won first up last year and has had a vacation since a credible seventh in the BMW Champions Mile (HK-I) in Hong Kong last May. On par, he seems like he’ll get a good stalking trip in this spot, but you have to question his mindset after stallion duty. Still, horses with a history of running well fresh in Dubai have repeated that form year after year. Musir was a first-up winner here in 2010, second behind an eventual Godolphin Mile winner in 2011, and another first-up winner in 2012. This field leaves something to be desired; if Musir comes back running, he might just do it, but our confidence is limited.
Just take a look at the form of #3 DO IT ALL and remind yourself that this guy is a potential winner should he find his form from his Zabeel Mile (UAE-II) win of last year. Otherwise, he’s much more a famine case than a feast. He has speed, and will get going up front along with potential speed presence #4 MASTER OF HOUNDS, and also the returning #7 ACROSS THE RHINE, whose past form indicates he needs to go forward.
#6 MANDAEAN surprised slightly winning over the mile last time and did it well, but seems tough to back yet again. The third-place finisher last time came back to win in a local event at Meydan on all-weather, and Trade Storm, 11th behind Mandaean last time, was super impressive last week. This isn’t a killer field, but it is a definite class upgrade.
#2 MUSHREQ gets a class test after confirming the all-weather probably isn’t his favorite surface. He did run so well Jan. 31 over a longer trip and now cuts back. He moved forward enough on the grass when given a clear run but the only question might be whether or not this trip is too sharp. Mike de Kock trainees could very easily fill the first three positions in this race, and that’s how we call it.
We find it very difficult to put Mushreq or Master of Hounds on top, Mandaean beat a suspect field, #1 DON’T CALL ME is far from reliable, as is Do It All. There are many questions about Musir, but maybe he just wants to go racing.
1st - #10 MUSIR, 2nd - #6 MANDAEAN, 3rd - #2 MUSHREQ
Race 7 - $175,000 Al Naboodah Construction Group Trophy Handicap (Rated 100+), 1,000 meters (about 5 furlongs), Turf (1:10 p.m. EST)
Another grass sprint, and those who regularly follow our analyses know our thoughts on these races.
Trainer Mick Halford has two horses in here, #5 RUSSIAN SOUL, who likely will be among the favorites, and #3 INVINCIBLE ASH, a winner here on Super Saturday last year and one likely to be a much higher price than Russian Soul. Weird things happen sometimes, so don’t count out the higher price. Russian Soul, however, has the highly unusual label of consistent grass sprinter. He’s been in the top three on nine of 11 occasions. Invincible Ash, however, has done her best running when given a few starts to come into it. She was second over 1,200 last year in her third start of the campaign before winning fourth-up at today’s distance. You could logically make a case for almost every runner here, and we wouldn’t talk you off of it.
1st - #3 INVINCIBLE ASH, 2nd - #6 TEMPLE MEADS, 3rd - #5 RUSSIAN SOUL
Pat Cummings, of Trakus and Dubai Race Night, has partnered with AmWest Entertainment to provide enhanced handicapping analyses. Cummings, who has covered Dubai Carnival racing since 2008, will establish the morning-line odds for each Carnival program as well as offer selections and both pre- and post-race analysis.