News that had become more likely with the passing of time broke this week when it was announced that Arrogate would in fact make the trip to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup. A good thing, right? Well, yes in that it is important that the second richest race in the world attracts the best horses – and there is no doubt Arrogate is that on dirt at the moment – but as a spectacle, is the race now going to be hideously one-sided? Probably. That even factors in Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij losing little in defeat when prepping last week. He finished second to Etijaah, giving that one 15lbs. De Kock was doing cartwheels out of Meydan afterwards, but not before he had another little dig at the dirt surface. “I didn’t want him to run again before the Dubai World Cup as I don’t want him to visit that track more than he has to,” the trainer remarked. Work that one out for yourself.
Super Saturday is unlikely to unearth a credible challenger to Arrogate, with the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, which is a Group One, being the official prep. Furia Cruzada and Second Summer are renewing rivalry from the second round, the latter fully expected to reverse form given he should have won last time. Special Fighter is back to defend his crown, although he has not been seen since finishing fourth to California Chrome last March. He also hails from a stable in turmoil in recent weeks, after Musabah Al Mheiri was banned for 12 months for cobalt use. Special Fighter would be a fairytale winner of sorts for Maria Ritchie, who has taken over the reins at the yard, but his absence is an obvious concern. Then there is Lani, who won a bad UAE Derby last year and has since looked fried after an American campaign. Godolphin have rolled the dirt dice one last time, Move Up arriving on the up but completely unproven on the surface. Second Summer is the deserving favourite and gets the vote from these quarters.
A competitive Al Bastakiya kicks things off and the clear temptation is to oppose Fawree, who will have to break from stall 12. Concerns over his temperament have been well voiced by De Kock, but so far he has behaved impeccably on the racecourse, albeit only winning a maiden last time at the expense of Bee Jersey. Fawree was beaten by Capezzano on his debut but looks more progressive than that one, particularly as the latter has shown a tendency to pull and the longer trip is a worry. There are interesting newcomers in the form of Zumurudee and Thegreatcollection but with all of these stepping into the unknown stamina-wise, it looks a race to leave alone.
The betting for the Mahab Al Shimaal is dominated once again by Muarrab, who hasn’t looked himself this season. A more aggressive ride last time may have seen him account for Cool Cowboy with only a neck separating them at the finish but an aggressive ride saw him beaten by Reynaldothewizard the time beforehand, so there is no middle ground with him at the moment. Reynaldothewizard has been kept fresher than that pair and, with the heart perhaps ruling the head, I would just favour him again.
Postponed is arguably the star attraction on the whole card as he preps again for the Dubai Sheema Classic in the Dubai City Of Gold, the six-year-old looking in good form as he breezed clear of his work companion King Bolete on Wednesday morning. His long odds-on status is fully justified and there seems little point in trying to oppose him, even if the Godolphin pair of Prize Money and Emotionless are fully up to speed and this will be their cup finals.
The Burj Nahaar is probably the weakest of the races on the card with Le Bernardin heading the market despite a poor draw in stall 10. He impressed in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge but broke from stall one then, while stalls six and nine have been enough of an excuse for him not to win previously this term. Stormardal is the one for me, despite having had a setback that has ruled him out of the entire Carnival thus far. Prior to Christmas he looked a much improved performer and is a horse with an excellent record fresh. He has now won his last three, listing defeats (emphatic ones) over Heavy Metal and Nathr in that time and from stall one he can get a perfect ground-saving trip under Adrie de Vries and earn his spot in the Godolphin Mile.
The Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint is a typically competitive affair, and many connections are no doubt relieved that Ertijaal stayed at home. In Jungle Cat and Baccarat, Charlie Appleby has a strong hand but they are priced accordingly. Fityaan is possibly the value given he tends to pop up when least expected, and won this last year at 50-1 although that is hardly sound reasoning for a bet. Talking of Ertijaal, the De Kock-trained version does go in the finale, the Group One Jebel Hatta. Not out since finishing fifth to Light The Lights on the opening night in January, we still haven’t seen the best of him in Dubai. However, the absence hardly suggests things have run smoothly in the interim. Roger Charlton’s Decorated Knight is favourite and very much going the right way. In all likelihood this does not require a massive amount more despite it being a top-level race compared with the Listed race he won last time. For the same reasoning, Promising Run and Earnshaw firmly enter calculations.
One that needs an even bigger step up, but with grounds for believing he can, is Folkswood and he looks the value. He got a perfect ride when beating Elleval in handicap company, but the time compares well to what Promising Run achieved over the same course and distance earlier in the Carnival with Folkswood carrying significantly more weight. Stall 12 need not be an issue as William Buick is likely to have him well-positioned in a race that lacks too much pace. Time and time again we see the benefit of thriving horses at the Carnival doing well when perhaps ratings suggest they may have a bit to find.
Stephen Molyneux’s Super Saturday bet selections:
08:45am (ET) Meydan: Stormardal
09.55am (ET) Meydan: Second Summer
10.30am (ET) Meydan: Folkswood