Three Group 1 races and a Group 2, with prizemoney ranging from $1 million to $6 million, highlight a strong turf card on Dubai World Cup Day.
Much interest will center on whether the Japanese contingent, which won all three turf races on Saudi Cup day, can continue their dominance.
Dubai Gold Cup (G2) – Race 2 (8:55 a.m. ET)
A $1 million staying test run over 3,200 meters (about 2 miles), the Dubai Gold Cup has been won by true international-class stayers such as Vaziribad, Cross Counter, and Subjectivist. This year’s field doesn’t look as deep as some previous stagings, but it does include Godolphin’s most exciting distance horse in some years in Manobo.
The son of Sea the Stars has raced just five times but has won them all. After a maiden victory, a novice 1 1/2-mile contest and a listed event in France, he then won the about 1 7/8-mile Prix Chaudenay (G2) at Longchamp in October. Transferring to Dubai, he thrashed a useful field in the about 1 3/4-mile Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) Feb. 18.
He may be a short-priced favorite, but he faces much tougher opposition here. The opponent best-known to American racegoers is Baron Samedi, winner of the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup (G2) at Belmont Park Jun. 4. That victory extended a winning sequence for the Irish-trained gelding to seven; he hasn’t won since, but he did finish third in the Irish St. Leger (G1) Sept. 12. At his last start he was fourth in the about 1 7/8-mile Red Sea Turf H. (G3) at Riyadh Feb. 26.
The winner that day, Japanese galloper Stay Foolish, also runs at Meydan. His victory in Saudi Arabia was just his third in 30 starts, and his first since May 2018. But he has spent most of his career taking on the best in Japan around 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 miles, a highly competitive division. The Saudi victory was his first race at a distance beyond 1 1/2 miles for four years, and the trip may suit him. He looks the biggest danger to Manobo.
Also from Japan is the four-year-old Veloce Oro. He was sixth in the about 1 7/8-mile Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1) Oct. 24, and was fifth at his most recent start, the about 2 1/8-mile Diamond S. (G3) Feb. 19. Japanese staying form is invariably top-class and he should be strongly considered.
From Britain come Alignak, second in the about 1 3/4-mile Al Khail Trophy at Meydan Jan. 28; East Asia, a distant runner-up to Manobo in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy; and Rodrigo Diaz, fourth in the Doncaster Cup (G2) last year. Irish export Emperor of the Sun was fifth in the 2 1/2-mile Ascot Gold Cup (G1) in June, while South America is represented by former Argentina Horse of the Year Mirinaque, who was sixth behind Stay Foolish in the Red Sea Turf H.
Apart from Manobo, the Godolphin team also includes Passion and Glory, eighth in the about 1 5/16-mile Neom Turf Cup (G3) at Riyadh, and Volcanic Sky, whose form since winning the Nad Al Sheba Trophy last year has been patchy. Other Dubai runners include Castlebar and Al Madhar, third and fourth, respectively, in the Dubai City of Gold (G2) Mar. 5.
Al Quoz Sprint (G1) – Race 4 (9:35 a.m. ET)
This $1.5 million turf sprint has been won by horses trained in Dubai, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia, Britain, France, and the United States, the latter courtesy of the hardy Extravagant Kid last year.
This year the American challenge in the 1,200-meter (about six-furlong affair) is twofold. Casa Creed, winner of the Jaipur (G1) at Belmont last year, runs after a close second in the 1351 Turf Sprint (G3) at Riyadh behind Japan’s Songline, who won’t oppose him here. Also representing America is the Mark Casse-trained Get Smokin, a Grade 3 winner at a mile who runs a sprint trip for the first time since his career debut.
Four of the 16 runners are from Godolphin stables, including the likely favorite Man of Promise. An American-bred by Into Mischief, Man of Promise was an easy winner of the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3) Mar. 5 and should be primed for another bold effort for trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick.
Appleby also starts British Champions Sprint (G1) winner Creative Force and Naval Crown, who won the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) at Meydan Jan. 21 prior to a disappointing run in the 1351 Turf Sprint. Godolphin’s other runner is the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Mutafawwig, who has yet to contest a race beyond listed status.
As Songline showed at Riyadh, Japanese form needs to be respected and they are represented by two horses. Lauda Sion looks the better chance, having finished fourth in the 1351 Sprint; he has a Group 1 victory to his credit. Entscheiden hasn’t won since May 2020 and was a disappointing 12th in the 1351 Sprint, but did show top level ability when third to Space Blues in the Prix de la Foret (G1) Oct. 3.
From Britain come Emaraaty Ana and Happy Romance, first and fourth, respectively, in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup (G1) Sept. 4. Both have raced once this season, with Happy Romance third in the 1351 Sprint and Emaraaty Ana well beaten by Man of Promise in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint. Ireland has one representative in A Case of You, winner of the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) Oct. 3 and second to Man of Promise in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.
France is represented by three runners: Suesa, winner of the King George (G2) at Goodwood July 30; Berneuil, winner of the Prix du Petit Couvert (G3) Sept. 21; and Prix de l’Abbaye runner-up Air de Valse.
The field is completed by former British sprinter Khuzaam, now trained by Doug Watson in Dubai and recently a listed winner at Jebel Ali; and Qatar-trained Taxiwala, winner of his last two races over six furlongs at Doha.
Dubai Turf (G1) – Race 7 (11:20 a.m. ET)
Todd Pletcher’s primary goal in Dubai is the World Cup with Life Is Good, but he has a decent chance of taking out the $5 million Dubai Turf with his three-time Grade 1 winner Colonel Liam. He comes to the race after taking his second Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) after a seven-month layoff. By international ratings he is the second-highest rated horse in the field and he gets to race over his favored about 1 1/8-mile journey.
Colonel Liam will need to be at his best as he is facing 15 high-quality opponents. Most notably, there is a three-strong Japanese contingent, including the likely favorite Schnell Meister. The German-bred is one of the best milers in Japan, having won the NHK Mile Cup (G1, beating recent Saudi Cup day winner Songline) and the Mainichi Okan (G2), while placing in both the Yasuda Kinen (G1) and Mile Championship (G1). He stays 1 1/8 miles and is top class.
Also from Japan is recent Nakayama Kinen (G2) winner Panthalassa and last year’s Dubai Turf runner-up Vin De Garde.
Last year’s Dubai Turf winner Lord North also returns. Trained by John and Thady Gosden, Lord North didn’t race again in 2021 after last year’s triumph, but he showed his fitness with a second-place finish behind Alenquer in the Winter Derby (G3) at Lingfield Feb. 26.
English trainer William Haggas starts two in the Dubai Turf: Mohaafeth, one of the likely market leaders after his fourth in the Juddmonte International (G1) at York last year behind Mishriff, and the 2021 Earl of Sefton (G3) winner My Oberon.
Other British-trained runners include the evergreen Lord Glitters, winner of the Singspiel (G2) at Meydan Feb. 11; Finest Sound, second in the Jebel Hatta (G1) March 5; Neom Turf Cup fourth-place finisher Harrovian; Queen Anne (G1) third placegetter Sir Busker; and the Sun Chariot (G1) winner Saffron Beach.
Rounding out the field is a quartet of Dubai runners: Alfareeq and Ursa Minor, first and third in theJebel Hatta; Al Rashidiya (G2) winner Desert Fire; and Abu Dhabi listed scorer Haqeeqy.
Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) – Race 8 (11:55 a.m. ET)
The richest turf race on Dubai World Cup day at $6 million, the Dubai Sheema Classic sees the reappearance of the Eclipse Award winner for champion turf male. The Appleby-trained Yibir earned that title with a stunning two-race campaign stateside that landed him the Jockey Club Derby at Belmont and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar.
Yibir will be one of the favorites but he faces strong opposition from around the world, with runners coming from Japan, Turkey, and Dubai.
The Japanese challenge is five-strong in the Sheema Classic. They are led by Glory Vase, twice a Group 1 winner in Hong Kong, and Authority, winner of the Neom Turf Cup against an international field in Saudi Arabia last month.
Other Japanese runners are Shahryar, the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1) winner who was subsequently third behind Contrail and Authority in the Japan Cup (G1) last year; Tokyo Yushun third-place finisher Stella Veloce, and Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1) winner Uberleben. They make up a formidable quintet.
As in the Dubai Turf, Haggas has two high-quality contestants for the Sheema Classic. Dubai Honour is the highest rated as thewinner of the Prix Dollar (G2), second in the Champion (G1), and fourth in the Hong Kong Cup (G1), but may want soft ground, while a strong tempo would suit Alenquer, second in the Juddmonte International.
Britain’s other runners include Pyledriver, winner of the Coronation Cup (G1) and second in the Hong Kong Vase, and the first two home in the Dubai City of Gold, Hukum and Without a Fight.
Turkey provides a runner with Burgas, fourth in the Dubai Millennium S. (G3) Feb. 25, while the former German Kaspar, runner-up to Authority in the Neom Turf Cup, represents Saudi Arabia. The Dubai-trained runners are the former Argentinian Grade 1 winner For The Top, who has most recently been competing on dirt, and Godolphin’s Dubai Future, most recently fifth in the Red Sea Turf.