Pat's Dubai Picks: Jan. 17

Pat Cummings' analysis of racing Jan. 17 at the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan.

By Pat Cummings

Race 1: $110,000 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Handicap (Rated 95-105) - 1,600 meters (about 8 furlongs) - All-weather
Just three pounds separates this field in the weights, and while it might have the look of a race that’s wide open, we really don’t think that’s the case. 
#2 MARINER’S CROSS is a Godolphin runner with something to prove. He was a winner on debut, well, at least first past the post, and subsequently disqualified from that for a propoxyphene positive. From that win, the second, third, ninth, 10th, and 16th all came back to win in their next starts. After that, he came back to run a very good second in the Newmarket Stakes behind Noble Mission, who came back to run close seconds behind Thought Worthy and Thomas Chippendale, and beat eventual St. Leger (G1) winner Encke. He goes close, and the only question is whether or not he gets over the all-weather. If he does, it’s likely to be an impressive tally.
#1 ELDERLY PARADISE is the top-rated horse in Macau and has won 10 of his last 14, 12-of-19 overall, with wins from 1,300 to 1,800m. They get no better in the special administrative region, formerly a Portuguese colony, but this guy is good and versatile, and normally races forward. If he gets over Tapeta, he’s in the mix. 
Two horses that were featured in the Trakus Carnival Report from last week, #13 IVER BRIDGE LAD and #15 SPIRIT OF BATTLE, are both strong contenders given the likelihood of a strong pace, but both have again drawn way outside.  They’ll have longer runs to the turn and are both expected to drop back, but the Trakus data on each is strong after last week’s closing kick over 1,400 meters, with Spirit of Battle’s trip having been significantly wider. He averaged the fastest speed in that race - the question is whether or not he can back it up on short rest.  He ran well here last year and now goes third off the layoff.  We think Spirit of Battle is THE top contender to Mariner’s Cross.

Race 2: $120,000 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship Handicap (Rated 100-110) - 2,000 meters (about 10 furlongs) - Turf
This race is rather odd, at least in terms of finding the early pace.  #1 NAQSHABBAN, #2 LAAJOOJ, #3 LINDENTHALER, #7 ANAEROBIO, and #9 WAR MONGER have all, within their recent form, gone toward the front or settled well out the back. That’s mind-numbing when considering it within the context of this race. What will each of them do here?
#4 RED DUBAWI is a new addition to the David Marnane operation and gets a step down in company while remaining over the ten furlongs. Think they want to see what they get out of this guy as they have mentioned a switch to Tapeta is possible. The distance is right there for him and he will settle off the gallop. It is surely a question of whether or not he is ready having just shipped in, but it could set up for him well.  His close fourth in the La Coupe de Maisons-Lafitte (G3) behind French Derby (G1) winner Reliable Man and Saga Dream puts him right there. Marnane suggested this guy has had limited opportunities getting over firmer going, which he gets in this spot.
Anaerobio had a perfect trip last week, his first start in ten months, and now gets more ground (which he didn’t look like he needed last week) and another plum draw.  He was ignored in the markets last time out and is likely to get much more attention now. He’s 0-for-7 in the UAE, but ran his best over these longer trips last season which witnessed his best performance, second behind Mutahadee, but came third off the break. He’s going second-up here.
#8 BLUE CORNER is unexposed and offers intrigue as such. He’s back to ten furlongs after falling short over 2,400 meters in the Ballyroan Stakes (G3), where he was behind Bible Belt and Treasure Beach. That was a tough go in his third career start and it’s worth noting the second in that race, Massiyn, came back to just lose a long neck in the Irish St. Leger (G1). He has the feel of a Simon de Montfort, who Godolphin unleashed off five career starts in 2011 and won handily in this spot. 
Overall, it just seems another race where the early gallop should be strong and we like the trips Blue Corner and Red Dubawi are likely to get. Naqshabban is likely to be overplayed given last year’s success and leaves him an expected underlay. 
1st - #4 RED DUBAWI, 2nd - #8 BLUE CORNER, 3rd - #7 ANAEROBIO

Race 3: $50,000 UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial - 1,400 meters (about 7 furlongs) - All-weather
This is definitely the weaker of the two trials, at least on paper, and makes for a race with no clear-cut favorites - all of the Godolphin fillies have knocks, and the lone group stakes winner leaves us looking elsewhere. Mike de Kock and Godolphin runners have won 7 of the last 8 Guineas’ Trials (males/females combined), with last year’s win in the male division by Dark Matter a random standout. 
#10 SHURUQ was a maiden winner in her first try on the all-weather at Kempton, over this same trip, and certainly has the breeding to like it. She is by Elusive Quality out of the Noverre mare Miss Lucifer, a winner of three from 11 lifetime starts, including the Challenge Stakes (G2) as a 3-year-old against older males. The field Miss Lucifer beat that day included past Carnival winners Balthazaar’s Gift and Asset (for whatever that is worth). Shuruq should go forward. A potential issue is that the second, just a length behind Shuruq, came back to run sixth beaten three lengths in her next start, and overall, horses from that maiden are a combined 0-for-10, with no placings since.  Eek.
#9 MUSIC CHART is a real question mark for us in here. She won on debut and was asked for run from Mickael Barzalona a long way from home, finally responding after the rest of the field seemed listless behind.  She edged clear from Sorella Bella that day, a filly who went on to run third in the Peter Willett Stakes (L) at Goodwoodthree lengths behind eventual Royal Lodge (G2) winner Steeler. Four horses came back from that race and won their next start, which did include Sorella Bella, albeit in a Carlisle maiden. 
#8 MORE THAN SOTKA was well-regarded by trainer David Marnane in our preseason discussions. She was a more random purchase as Marnane’s runners at the Carnival have typically been focused in older handicaps, but this filly stood out and they are hopeful she goes on the Tapeta. Having only been in country a few days, she should come on for the run.
We are really willing to go in just about any direction, but the opinion isn’t a strong one. We’ll give the edge to Music Chart, almost exclusively off the back of her win over Sorella Bella, who went on to a decent performance next out. There are questions, surely, and overall, our opinions here are weak.
1st - #9 MUSIC CHART, 2nd - #8 MORE THAN SOTKA, 3rd - #10 SHURUQ

Race 4: $120,000 Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Handicap (Rated 100-110) - 1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs) - Turf
Another brutally difficult turf sprint - proceed with caution.
#1 HAPPY DUBAI, #3 THE REAPER, #5 INXILE, #8 CHEVIOT, #13 STONEFIELD FLYER, and #15 DEVIL’S CUT are all likely to be on or near the pace, with Inxile and Cheviot two likely to have benefited from the run last week.
#4 INVINCIBLE ASH ends up on the stretch out to 1,000 meters, and if the pace is anything like it was last week over 1,000, she surely has a chance to do it. Off the Trakus data, Invincible Ash ran the fastest final 200 meters last week, getting the distance in 11.62 seconds, which was 0.15 seconds faster than longshot winner Fityaan. 
#10 RUSSIAN ROCK has been masterful at Jebel Ali and has had grass success in the past. He went ninth in a similar spot last season on opening night over the 1,000-meter trip and should show prominence to the gallop. 
What do you do with #11 FINAL BUTTON. Well regarded by the camp, they were bullish on him over Tapeta and wheel right back on grass over six. He’s familiar with this trip from his time in South Africa and is another likely to sit off the pace. Did we catch the funeral last week, only to miss the wedding this week? He was well-supported across the board as word on this guy seemed to be out. While the de Kock camp is still high on him, the quick return makes us wonder if this is another good bit of work which will lead to an all-weather renewal later. Brutal position to be in here...
If the pace is keen once again, we think Invincible Ash can get the job done at a price, ignored off the eighth placing from last week. She did win the Meydan Sprint here last season.
1st - #4 INVINCIBLE ASH, 2nd - #10 RUSSIAN ROCK, 3rd - #3 THE REAPER

Race 5: $50,000 UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial - 1,400 meters (about 7 furlongs) - All-weather
#1 SOFT FALLING RAIN gets top weight via the Group 1 penalty, but he deserves it.  They’ve almost assuredly written the Derby off with possible plans of going for the Godolphin Mile (G2) over a shorter trip. He was the top juvenile in South Africa last season and bolted home in the SA Nursery (G1), a race that produced 12 winners and 30 placings from the field through the end of last season. Is he ready? The Mike de Kock shippers from South Africa surely seemed to need a race last week, and this might not be any different. He’s tough to go against.
#4 GLASS OFFICE is unbeaten over all-weather surfaces, at Kempton anyhow, and each race got slightly better. He won the Sirenia Stakes (G3) in his last start and this gray just bolted in, uncorking a clean stride in the last 250 meters when it looked wide open just before. If he repeats that effort, he’s definitely in the mix.
Mike de Kock stated in the Dubai Racing Comprehensive that unequivocally, this trip is too short for #2 EL ESTRUENDOSO - farther is better for the son of Giant’s Causeway.  We have to take that for what it’s worth and operate accordingly. 
#3 ZAHEE seems the real question mark off his Australian performances. De Kock has won these races in the past with his second string, and there is no question Zahee fits that bill. How he goes over the all-weather track is anyone’s guess, but he is more race-fit based on his schedule, having run in mid-September, compared to Soft Falling Rain. 
This race seems to have plenty of pace, and it’s really just a question of whether or not Soft Falling Rain is ready to run, as we’ve pretty much written-off El Estruendoso until later in the Carnival. Glass Office was wildly impressive last time at Kempton, a race that while it hasn’t produced any winners since, does offer four decent placings, including the second behind a well-regarded Tamayuz Star in a Tattersalls sales-race. 
It’s tough to go against Soft Falling Rain, but we will. 
1st - #4 GLASS OFFICE, 2nd - #1 SOFT FALLING RAIN, 3rd - #3 ZAHEE

Race 6: $110,000 Dubai Duty Free Full of Surprises Handicap - 2,410 meters (about 12 furlongs) - Turf
This has the look of a very well-balanced race as far as the pace is concerned.
#3 IN THE SPOTLIGHT is en route to the Dubai Gold Cup (G3) on World Cup night, getting the two-mile trip. This is shorter for the champion mare from India, but fits within the plan, and she rarely runs a bad race. When she has, it’s been a function of a very fast pace and moving too soon. Her last such event took place when she was asked to go over 2,200 meters and the pace was misjudged from the start. This bunch is far from top notch and she fits well in the weights. She is a deserving favorite and while the overall class of her competition is the best she’s ever faced, she’s spent most of her time toying with them back home. For much more, check out the Dubai Racing Comprehensive, where we identified this mare as a key one to follow at the Carnival.
#9 AHZEEMAH is just always in the mix. Through ten starts, he’s been out of the placings only twice, but overall, he’s just a middling handicapper looking to get a Carnival win. Those performances at the end of last season are definitely enough to put him in the mix on Thursday. The top-weighted Godolphin runner #1 ANATOLIAN showed up once in three starts last season, but that win in September 2011 got our eye. The victory over Tmaam stands out in that he is now in the UAE, and has done nothing in five starts this season. We are more interested in Ahzeemah.
#8 SHAM SHEER ran well considering the step-up in company, the drop back in trip, and his first run off a significant break. He verified his Bahraini form as legitimate, and now a second start over farther has us interested.
1st - #3 IN THE SPOTLIGHT, 2nd - #9 AHZEEMAH, 3rd - #8 SHAM SHEER
2013 DWCC Stats: 6 top selections: 2 - 0 - 0 ($2.16 ROI)

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.