Saturday night's Dubai World Cup is a clash of champions from multiple continents. In addition to the high level of competition, toss in the conundrum of the race being on a synthetic surface and you have the makings for a legendary race. Let's take a look at all runners trying to capture the $6 million lion's share of the $10 million purse.
1. Master of Hounds (12/1 ML odds) was many wise guys’ pick when he ran up the track in the last year’s Belmont Stakes. Since switching from trainer Aiden O’Brien over the winter, Master of Hounds has made 4 starts for Michael De Kock at Meydan, hitting the board in all attempts and winning the Group 1 Jebel Hatta last out. Master of Hounds appears to prefer turf, and does not look like a win factor while trying to capture his first race on a synthetic surface in the world’s richest race.
2. Eishin Flash (10/1), winner of the 2010 Japanese Derby, appears to relish distances longer than the World Cup distance of 1 ¼ miles. Not seen since last December when falling short to Japanese triple crown winner, Orfevre, Eishin Flash should only be considered a win canididate should a scorching speed dual develop.
3. Zazou (15/1) is a globetrotting German-bred who is undefeated at 1 ¼ miles and a on synthetic tracks. In his last start, Zazou defeated Cirrus des Aigles (2011 Cartier Award winner for champion European older horse) going 1 3/16 miles on synthetic at Chantilly back on March 3rd. Zazou is a versatile runner that must be considered a major player.
4. So You Think (5/1) was last seen finishing 6th in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Though never tested on a synthetic surface, So You Think is a multiple group 1 winner on 2 continents. In fact, 7 of So You Think's 8-Group 1 victories have been at the World Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles. Also, So You Think performs well following layoffs for trainer Aidan O'Brien and will be heard from inside the final furlong.
5. Smart Falcon (10/1), earner of over $11 million, invades from Japan. Winner of 23 races from 33 starts, Smart Falcon retains the services of legendary jockey Yutaka Take and has a record of 13-9-2-0 at the World Cup distance. Smart Falcon is 29-22-4-1 on dirt tracks, but only 4-1-0-0 on grass. With the ability for a lot of horses to transfer their grass form to synthetic surfaces, worries arise that Smart Falcon will not excel on this surface.
6. Planteur (20/1) appears overmatched and does not run well off layoffs. Jockey Christophe Soumillon gets off in favor of Master of Hounds.
7. Royal Delta (8/1) has been pointed for this race since winning the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Her 8-length defeat last time out to Awesome Maria should not deter her backers, as that was a prep race for tonight according to her trainer, Bill Mott. Royal Delta won at 1 ¼ when capturing Saratoga’s Alabama Stakes last August and won her only start on synthetic when winning an allowance race at Keeneland last April.
8. Monterosso (10/1) came within ¾ of a length of winning last year’s World Cup when finishing 3rd. In his only start since then, Monterosso finished a well-beaten 4th in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge (the last & most important prep for Saturday’s race). There’s no doubt he needed that race, and will only improve off that effort.
9. Silver Pond (20/1) was 2nd in the aforementioned Al Maktoum Challenge last out. He appears to be a bridesmaid whenever facing top-flight competition and should be included in exactas, tris and supers.
10. Transcend (8/1) is trying to improve off his runner up finish in last year’s World Cup. In his prep for tonight’s effort, Transcend finished 7th in the group 1 February Stakes at odds of 1-2. Another checkmark is the fact that Smart Falcon was favored (1/5 odds) against him when they squared off on 11/3/11. It’s possible that Transcend is a synthetic freak, but I lean toward the idea that he had everything he own way when setting a soft pace last year, but just got caught in the final stages.
11. Capponi (8/1) is a synthetic specialist (7-4-2-0) and dominated the local prep, Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge by 4 lengths last out. His previous race was the toughest competition he has faced to date, and must take another step forward to get in the winner’s circle Saturday night.
12. Prince Bishop (15/1) was 3rd to Capponi last out. He is another taking a monstrous step up in class. Difficult to consider him a serious win factor when he is getting beat at lower levels over this track.
13. Mendip (15/1) seems at home when running at Meydan (8-5-0-1), but he was throttled by Capponi last out (11th beaten 31 ¼ lengths). He also appears a cut below the serious candidates.
14. Game on Dude (3/1) invades from California for legendary trainer, Bob Baffert. This ultra-tough competitor prefers dirt, but has run well enough on synthetic tracks. Jockey Chantal Sutherland should have the son of Awesome Again in his usual front-running position. One-dimensional front runners usually have difficulty navigating Meydan’s long stretch, so look for Sutherland to try and hold off the stampede in the late stages, the same way the duo tried to hold off Drosselmeyer in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
4. So You Think appeared over the top when entered the BC Classic as an afterthought to a tough 2011 campaign. He’s been pointed for this race from the start of the year, and the only question is the surface.
3. Zazou defeated a champion on a synthetic surface last out in preparation for this. That effort should set him up for an optimum effort on Saturday night.
7. Royal Delta has been pointed toward this race since last November, and no one is better at pointing a horse for a specific spot than Bill Mott. Would not be a surprise if Royal Delta was the first female to capture the Dubai World Cup.
Bet $2 exacta 3-4-7/3-4-7-8-9-11=$30
$2 exacta box 3-4-7=$12
$4 exacta 4/3-7=$8
Please be sure to follow me on Twitter-@Cappercorner and/or friend me on facebook.com to continue the horse racing conversation!