Dubai World Cup Night: Spot Plays

March 25th, 2022

No single race day in the world offers more prize money for international Thoroughbred owners than the Dubai international races. The $30.5 million on offer for Thoroughbreds is equaled only by Saudi Cup day, and while one of the seven races on Saudi Cup day is open to locally-bred runners only, all eight Thoroughbred races in Dubai on Saturday are open to all owners around the world.

TwinSpires has an International Bet Back offer on all the races in Dubai, where you can get up to $10 refunded for win bets if your runner finishes second. There are plenty of good wagering opportunities, so let’s have a look at the races.

Race 2: Godolphin Mile (G2), about 1 mile, dirt

#12 Secret Ambition seeks back-to-back victories in this race and comes to the race in decent form, finishing second in the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd 1 (G2) and then seventh in the Saudi Cup (G3). This race will be much easier. #8 Golden Goal, last year’s runner-up and the winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd 1, should also go well again.

The U.S. is represented by #3 Bankit and #13 Snapper Sinclair, both of whom are decent horses. But the one to beat looks to be the improving four-year-old #1 Al Nefud. Placed in his first three starts on British All-Weather tracks, he has since relished being switched to dirt. He won his first two Dubai starts easily and then was the only horse to give Hot Rod Charlie a race in the 1 3/16-mile Al Maktoum Challenge Rd 2 (G2). He ran out of gas towards the end and finished 5 1/4 lengths behind the Dubai World Cup contender, but was still more than 7 lengths ahead of the rest. Back to a mile, he will be very hard to beat.

Race 3: Dubai Gold Cup (G2), about 2 miles, turf

Early markets in Europe suggest that exciting Godolphin stayer #12 Manobo is close enough to a banker here and likely to remain unbeaten. He has improved every start to date, and began his season with an outstanding victory in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) Feb. 18. He has looked very good up to Group 2 level to date and should continue to develop.

However, I’m tipping Japanese stayer #9 Stay Foolish to beat him. His victory in the 1 7/8-mile Red Sea Turf Handicap (G3) over Irish St. Leger winner Sonnyboyliston was his first in nearly four years, but he’d been mostly racing between 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles. The extra stamina trip seemed to suit him, and he should be at backable odds here.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #9 Stay Foolish
  • $1 trifecta: 9, 12 with 9, 12 with all

Race 4: Al Quoz Sprint (G1), about six furlongs, turf

A number of Group and Grade 1 quality sprinters line up here, including U.S. horse #3 Casa Creed, a very good second in the 1351 Turf Sprint (G3) at the Saudi Cup meet. He’s mainly raced in the miler division, but his best moment to date came when winning the Jaipur Stakes (G1) over six furlongs, so this may be a good trip for him.

His opposition includes European Group 1 winners #1 A Case of You, #4 Creative Force, and #5 Emaraaty Ana, but they may all struggle against improving Godolphin runner #10 Man of Promise, an emphatic victor over A Case of You and Emaraaty Ana, among others, in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3) March 5. It was an impressive effort, and he looks very tough to roll.

  • $20 win: #10 Man of Promise
  • $1 trifecta: 10 with 1, 3, 4, 15, 16 with 1, 3, 4, 15, 16

Race 5: UAE Derby (G2), about 1 3/16 miles, dirt

This Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier has drawn a diverse international field with form that’s hard to line up. U.S Grade 1 winner #11 Pinehurst and Japanese black type earner #13 Sekifu produced a great contest in the Saudi Derby (G3), but they have to go an extra 3/16 of a mile here. The form around Withers Stakes (G3) third #9 Gilded Age looks a lot better after the horse one place ahead of him, Un Ojo, won the Rebel Stakes (G2), enough to make him a solid contender.

Taking a line through Sekifu, Godolphin’s Japan-trained #6 Combustion looks a real chance after winning the Hyacinth S. Feb. 20. The stout rallying efforts of the Russian-trained #4 Azure Coast also suggest he should enjoy the extra trip. Both should be included in multiples.

For a real roughie, have a look at the former Argentine #1 Irwin. South American runners #2 Kiefer and #3 Quality Boone have run well in Dubai this season, but they were much lesser-performed horses back home than Irwin, who won two Grade 1 Classics on dirt, the Argentine equivalents of the 2000 Guineas and Derby. The form doesn’t always translate, but he’s worth a try at good odds.

  • $10 win/$10 show: #6 Combustion
  • $10 show: #1 Irwin
  • $1 box quinella: 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13

Race 6: Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), about six furlongs, dirt

The Golden Shaheen has a useful field, but at the top end, two U.S.-trained horses dominate: #2 Dr. Schivel and #3 Drain the Clock, both Grade 1 sprint winners. Dr. Schivel has an advantage on ratings but hasn’t run since his very close second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in November, while Drain the Clock has run twice at Gulfstream Park over winter for an allowance victory and a close second in the Gulfstream Park Sprint S.

Given he has drawn three while Dr. Schivel will have to cover more ground from nine, I’m going to support Drain the Clock.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #3 Drain the Clock

Race 7: Dubai Turf (G1), about 1 1/8 miles, turf

A dominant winner last year, #8 Lord North is back again, though it’s harder to assess his form as his only race since then was a month ago on the Lingfield all-weather. He finished second to Sheema Classic contender Alenquer over 1 1/4 miles, and should appreciate the step back in trip.

Japan took second place last year with #15 Vin De Garde, who also returns, along with fellow Japanese runner #12 Schnell Meister. He beat Vin De Garde clearly in the Mainichi Okan (G2) last October and may start favorite.

The U.S. hasn’t had a winner in this race since it switched to turf in 2000, but it has a real chance this time with #2 Colonel Liam. The son of Liam’s Map was good enough to win the Pegasus World Cup (G1) for a second time Jan. 29 in his first race for more than seven months, and absolutely loves the 1 1/8-mile journey. This is clearly the best field he’s faced, but he looks good enough to compete on an international stage.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #8 Lord North
  • $4 box exacta: 2, 8, 12

Race 8: Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), about 1 1/2 miles, turf

Outstanding Turf Male Eclipse Award winner #14 Yibir arguably faces a stronger field than the one he beat at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). In terms of international ratings, five of his 14 opponents are rated equal or higher. Three of those five are Japanese: Neom Turf Cup (G3) winner #1 Authority, Japanese Derby winner #12 Shahryar, and Hong Kong Vase (G1) winner #4 Glory Vase.

The key form race may be the 2021 Japan Cup, where Authority finished second and Shahryar 1 1/2 lengths further behind in third. Irish raiders Broome and Japan ran in both that and the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and were closer to Yibir than to Authority. The two tracks are very different, but that form suggests Authority’s form is at the very least comparable to Yibir’s.

The biggest question around Authority is whether he’s ready for another peak effort four weeks after the Neom Turf Cup. If he is, he may be at better value than he should.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #1 Authority

Race 9: Dubai World Cup (G1), about 1 1/4 miles, dirt

It’s a strong field as usual, but it’s hard to go past #7 Life Is Good after his scintillating Pegasus World Cup (G1) victory. The biggest question mark is whether the speedy front-runner can stay an extra furlong over what can be a tough 1 1/4 miles at Meydan. I believe he will; however, I don’t think he’s so much of a certainty that I feel comfortable taking him odds-on.

The biggest danger on exposed form is #5 Hot Rod Charlie, who was mightily impressive in the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd 2 (G2) Feb. 4. His opposition was nothing like this class, but I like the fact he didn’t race in the Saudi Cup, ensuring he peaks for this race. With a Rest of the World Bet Back on offer for second-place finishers, he’s a good option.

There’s a multitude of other runners that provide quality competition, including Saudi Cup (G1) runner-up #3 Country Grammer and the forever consistent #9 Midnight Bourbon. Last year's runner-up, Japan's #2 Chuwa Wizard, shouldn't be forgotten either, but I will focus my bets on my top two.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #5 Hot Rod Charlie
  • $1 trifecta: 5, 7 with 3, 5, 7 with all