Saturday’s Dubai World Cup fixture at the futuristic Meydan racecourse (above) has attracted some superb horses from across the globe competing in seven high-quality races worth a staggering total of $29 million.
It’s never easy to gauge the relative merits of horses from Japan, South Africa, the USA, Great Britain & Ireland, France, and Dubai, among others, but it’s always a thrill to see how top horses from different jurisdictions measure up against one another. Proof of this came eight years ago with the stunning victory of the ex-Brazilian star Gloria De Campeao, trained in France by Pascal Bary, who sprang a 16/1 shock in the 2010 Dubai World Cup having been relatively unconsidered due to his South American background.
Mendelssohn To Call The Tune in UAE Derby
One of the most fascinating races on Saturday and one of the main focuses of today’s horse racing tips, is the Group 2 UAE Derby (1430UK). Godolphin’s Gold Town, trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by the excellent William Buick, is the current top-priced 6/4 favourite with BoyleSports, the son of Street Cry having made all to win his last three starts, including a stunning 10-length romp in the UAE 2000 Guineas again at Meydan last month.
Gold Town is a fast-improving colt, but there are question marks over the value of his two recent wins. He had an uncontested lead on both occasions and was able to easily grab the ‘golden highway’ stretch that is close to the far running rail. But tomorrow there are a number of front-runners and he may be taken on for the lead over an extra furlong-and-a-half, possibly setting the race up for the Aidan O’Brien-trained Mendelssohn.
Mendelssohn, (a best priced 5/2 with Coral), won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in the USA last November. He had previously belied 50/1 odds when runner-up to the subsequent top two-year-old on the international classifications, US Navy Flag, in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
With the great Ryan Moore on board, and in the hope he can pounce inside the final furlong on those who have battled for the lead from the start, the Scat Daddy colt may well be of interest to punters on a night of thrilling international racing. A big run from the Irish colt could also book him a place in the famous Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in five weeks’ time so there is plenty of incentive for connections to have him spot on for this task.
Will Talismanic Be Lucky in $10 million World Cup?
The biggest race of the night, of course, is the $10 million Dubai World Cup (1750UK). It may no longer be the world’s richest race – having been surpassed earlier this year by the initial running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida – but it is still a coveted title with a far greater international flavour and more prestige than its American rival.
Five of Saturday’s ten Dubai World Cup runners are from the US, including the Bob Baffert-trained hot favourite West Coast, the mount of Javier Castellano. The four-year-old won five of his seven races last term, ending the campaign with a very creditable third to the high-class Gun Runner in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.
West Coast again found Gun Runner too good for him when chasing the star US horse home in the Pegasus World Cup (pocketing more than £1 million for his troubles), and doesn’t have that rival to concern him this time. The now-retired Gun Runner’s only defeat in his final eight races came when he had to settle for second behind the enigmatic superstar Arrogate in last year’s Dubai World Cup.
The form is there for all to see, and it will take a very good horse to stop West Coast from providing his outstanding trainer with a fourth win in Saturday’s race, following previous glories with Silver Charm (1998), Captain Steve (2001), and Arrogate 12 months ago. Bet365 offer Evens West Coast becoming the fourth US winner in the last six renewals of the Dubai World Cup.
Poring over the form in the quest for a horse to make a real race of it with West Coast, this correspondent’s eye has been repeatedly drawn to the French representative, Talismanic. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, the five-year-old son of Medaglia D’Oro is trained by the genius that is Andre Fabre, a man who has won nearly every race in the world worth winning. He’s never won a Dubai World Cup though, and I’m sure he would love to add that achievement to his towering CV.
It certainly won’t be easy as Saturday’s race is run on dirt, a surface the American horses are very familiar with. Seventeen of Talismanic’s 18 career starts have been on grass, most notably his surprise 14/1 victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar last November when partnered by Mickael Barzalona, who will be in the plate again on Saturday.
But three weeks ago, in a test to see if this son of a fine US dirt performer could handle a surface other than grass, the wiley Fabre ran Talismanic on Polytrack in the Prix Darshaan, at Chantilly in France. He stepped up to beat his better-fancied stable companion Cloth of Stars in good style, showing a smart turn of foot, beating a Group 1 winner who finished runner-up to the mighty Enable in last October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Even allowing for the fact that Cloth of Stars might have needed the run, this was a very good effort and gives hope that he may also act well on dirt. At current odds of 8/1 (each-way with 10Bet), Talismanic looks worth a sporting interest to serve it up to West Coast in what should be a great race.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.