The Dubai World Cup Carnival opens Thursday, and the 132 expected shippers, as listed by the Meydan Group, hail from all over the globe.
Although the number is down from 217 acceptances last year, and 181 on the list released for 2016, there is no shortage of notable names engaged. And that’s not counting the horses who’ve been based with U.A.E. trainers or those with Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby. Nor does it reflect all candidates for the March 31 Dubai World Cup night gala itself, just horses in line to see action during the Carnival season that runs through the March 10 “Super Saturday” card. That explains the lack of North American-based horses on the Carnival list.
The likely 10-horse French squad may be relatively small, but it packs quite a punch. Andre Fabre’s quintet is led by Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Talismanic and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) runner-up Cloth of Stars, along with Godolphin stablemates Rosa Imperial (who defeated males in the Prix de Ris-Orangis [G3]) and Group 3-placed Franz Schubert. Fabre’s only non-Godolphin acceptor is Haras de Saint Pair’s homebred Trais Fluors, a Group 3-winning miler who was a fast-finishing second to Thunder Snow in the Prix Jean Prat (G1). Alain de Royer-Dupre plans to send star stayer Vazirabad, ultimately seeking a three-peat in the Dubai Gold Cup (G2), and up-and-comer Canndera, last seen beating males in the Prix Scaramouche. Also noteworthy on Team France is the Pia Brandt-trained Called to the Bar, unraced since his runner-up effort in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1).
The British deputation is much more numerous, with more than four dozen on the list. David Simcock’s nominees include nine-year-old veteran Sheikhzayedroad, back for his fifth Carnival, as well as the classy milers Arod, Lightning Spear, and Mr Owen, and progressive Legacy Cup (G3) hero (and Eclipse [G1] third) Desert Encounter. Roger Varian has earmarked Hardwicke (G2) runner-up Barsanti, Connecticut (still trying to work back to his Group 2-winning form after a two-year absence), and the promising Cape Byron. Highlighting Richard Hannon Jr.’s list are Group 2 victor Across the Stars (picked up from Sir Michael Stoute), current Cumberland Lodge (G3) winner Danehill Kodiac, and newly turned three-year-old Tangled, twice Group 3-placed. Jeremy Noseda has an eye-catching sophomore in Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ 300,000-guineas purchase Gronkowski, reported by Thoroughbred Daily News as a potential Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect.
Among other British acceptors are Group 1 veteran Robin of Navan from the Harry Dunlop yard; William Haggas’s Dal Harraild, a progressive staying type, and Mubtasim at the shorter end of the distance spectrum; Clive Cox’s pair of Khalidi (the King Edward VII [G2] runner-up formerly with John Gosden) and Tis Marvellous, winner of the 2016 Prix Robert Papin (G2); last year’s Balanchine (G2) heroine, Opal Tiara, for Mick Channon; fellow distaffer Absolute Blast, a grand servant for Archie Watson; David Griffiths’ Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) fourth Duke of Firenze; nine-year-old sprinter Sir Maximilian, a Meydan regular who’s been freshened specifically to peak for the Carnival this time by Ian Williams; and Paul Midgley’s Final Venture, who took a pair of sprints here last Carnival.
Norway has a total of 11 from Niels Petersen, led by Group 3 winners Tinnitus and Trouble of Course as well as Scandinavian champion filly Icecapada. Denmark and Sweden, in contrast, muster five between them.
Ireland itself fields just five hopefuls for the Carnival. Michael Halford has two Aga Khan homebreds involved – three-year-old Riyazan, successful in the Star Appeal on Dundalk’s Polytrack, and Group 3 vixen Rehana – while sprinter Hit the Bid enters on an upward curve for Darren Bunyan. (Aidan O’Brien, of course, is holding fire until the March 31 World Cup card.)
The pride of Poland, Va Bank, is now technically representing Germany since his recent switch to Andreas Wohler. Co-owned by Team Valor International, the son of Archipenko had his 2017 campaign cut short by bone bruising and spent time recuperating at Gestut Fahrhof. Va Bank, unbeaten through his first 12 starts including the 2015 Polish Triple Crown, proved up to international standard when extending his streak in the 2016 Preis der Sparkassen Finanzgruppe (G3) at Baden-Baden. Peter Schiergen’s Ross, second in last year’s Godolphin Mile (G2) but unplaced in both the Forego (G1) and Kelso (G2), returns in hopes of finally snaring a win in Dubai.
Dios Corrida, the lone Japanese runner penciled in for the Carnival season (as opposed to World Cup night), is eligible to do better in his second Meydan stint. Up against it as a three-year-old taking on his elders in the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) and Golden Shaheen (G1), the Kane Hekili colt is readier for prime time after his breakthrough in the December 10 Capella (G3) at Nakayama.
Of the four from Singapore, Gilt Complex just turned the Raffles Cup/Singapore Gold Cup double, dethroning Bahana in a thriller in the latter.
Six Australian-based horses are in the mix – Bjorn Baker’s 2016 Doomben 10,000 (G1) victor Music Magnate, who just took the Christmas Classic in his comeback from ankle surgery; Group 1-placed campaigners Supido and Wyndspelle (a Kiwi transplant) for Michael Kent; and David Hayes’ triumvirate of Oakleigh Plate (G1) runner-up Faatinah, Shaf, and Mutamayel (who’s still trying to live up to his A$900,000 purchase price), all owned by Sheikh Hamdan.
South Africa’s highest-profile shipper is Sun Met (G1) star Whisky Baron, trained by Brett Crawford. Carnival mainstay Mike de Kock has a reduced footprint, but still several intriguing additions to his existing Dubai string. S.A. Derby (G1) winner Al Sahem and Group 2 heroine Smiling Blue Eyes (both previously with Sean Tarry), and Group 2 scorers Janoobi and Icy Trail, join such established Carnival performers as Noah from Goa, 2017 Singspiel victor Light the Lights, Liquid Mercury, Sanshaawes, and Suyoof.
U.A.E. trainers Doug Watson and Erwan Charpy both have new recruits on the list. Watson, champion trainer for the past two seasons, boosts his already loaded yard with Laz Barrera (G3) runner-up Kimbear (formerly with Eric Kruljac); ex-Cox trainee Blue Laureate, snapped up for 150,000 guineas at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale; former Richard Fahey pupil Picture No Sound, who RNA’d for 46,000 guineas at the same venue; and €120,000 Arqana Arc purchase El Loco (bought from Markus Klug). Charpy welcomes back last year’s Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) winner, Furia Cruzada, from her forgettable European sojourn, and adds two more South Americans – Chilean Group 1 hero El Rey Brillante, presumably a candidate for the UAE Derby (G2) trail, and multiple Group 2-winning and Group 1-placed distaffer Silver Look.
Click here for the complete list of 2018 Dubai Carnival acceptances, as released by the Dubai Racing Club.