Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Kate Hunter
Dan : Calum, a real international feel to this year's Dubai World Cup. In some quarters there's an opinion that this lacks a top international star, what with the withdrawal of The Fugue, is that a tad harsh?
Calum : No, I don't think it's harsh. It's a race that regularly hasn't been as strong as similar races of its kind, especially for the prize money, but this one seems particularly weak. It's a shame there is very little American interest and little has come through the Carnival that looks out of the ordinary either.
Dan : America, America, where for art thou America.... A Mucho Macho Man or Will Take Charge in this field certainly would've made it look considerably deeper, but we do get another Coolmore invasion. Ruler of the World...Can he bring his top game here or is he vulnerable?
Calum : I really do think he's vulnerable here. Regularly this race is slowly run and this is a genuine twelve furlongs turf horse. Albeit he's a very good one, I think he's vulnerable at this trip and on an unproven surface. He's without doubt the best horse in the field, but will he run to his best? The jury is out for me.
Dan ; I can't help but feel he's not the best twelve furlong horse and may arguably find his home in a truly run ten furlong contest in time, but whether this is it I'm not so sure. Another who looks a true out-and-out ten furlong horse is Mukhadram. Do the Haggas yard come here with a real chance of giving Paul Hanagan his first thoroughbred Group I in the Hamdan silks?
Calum : That's my exact view on him and in terms of Mukhadram I'd much rather be on him at close to three times the price of Ruler of the World. He's very straightforward. The ground at Ascot was too soft for him when last seen and his form before then is strong. If taking to the surface I see him running really well.
Dan : Let's shift our attention to Hong Kong, and another rematch between Akeed Mofeed and Military Attack. A slight concern from me here as to whether Akeed Mofeed has reached the end of his season, whilst Military Attack is thriving yet again after a busy campaign. He won three top races after his Hong Kong Gold Cup win last year, can he do it again here on the grandest of stages?
Calum : I honestly don't see why not. Akeed Mofeed looked to really have been trained for the Hong Kong Cup in December so whether, like you said, he's still in that form remains to be seen. Military Attack hit big form in February last year and his last run suggests that the same could happen again. Both have to show they can handle the tapeta and if they do, they have to go on the shortlist. Military Attack probably leads the way.
Dan : What about the home team? Is Prince Bishop getting the respect he deserves, can Hunter's Light do a Monterosso and bounce back to his best or will African Story finally show that he can perform over the distance?
Calum : I think it's probably fair to say a home team win would be a touch disappointing. Prince Bishop looked totally exposed this Carnival, but has found sufficient improvement to win two Al Maktoum Challenges. If the draw is kind, then he has a good chance of a place. African Story simply isn't a ten furlong horse for me and I can't see him landing a blow.
Dan : I think a lot has to be said for the relationship between Prince Bishop and Kieren Fallon, who are three-for-three as a partnership, but I tend to agree that the race cannot have him as a winner if it is to be truly considered a top class international Group I. The last pocket of raiders come from Japan - any thoughts on Hokko Tarumae and Belshazzar?
Calum : The Japanese raiders are fascinating contenders. Both are talented dirt performers, but my suspicion is Japan have much better chances in other races on World Cup night.
Dan : The word from Japan prior to the February Stakes was that Belshazzar was the horse for the prep race, with Hokko Tarumae a longer term hope - mainly on World Cup night. Hokko Tarumae finished ahead of Belshazzar in that race, and comes to Dubai with an astonishing record of having only failed to place on one occasion. He's one to keep on the shortlists, especially given the way he rates in his races. We can't end without looking at Red Cadeaux - thoughts on him in this season's renewal?
Calum : Well there's no Animal Kingdom to pass this year! He's clearly a totally different horse on his travels and is still in great heart, so he's definitely not here to make up the numbers.
Dan : Selection time - where is your money going for this one?
Calum : At the prices at this stage I think Mukhadram is a pretty fair price. I'm looking forward to your selections as I really don't have a clue who you'll go for..
Dan : It's a tough one for me. Last year I was hugely confident on Hunter's Light, but I don't think he is in the same vein of form this year and I have it between Japan (Hokko Tarumae) and Hong Kong (Military Attack), with a slight preference for the latter. I'll be chucking an exacta on, and laughing as I put a trifecta with Mukhadram for third but I also respect Sanshaawes' progression - he could be a dark horse.
Dan : Moving on to the Sheema Classic, and if we felt the World Cup lacked an international star this one certainly doesn't - what a line up.
Calum : A superb race Dan and for me it's the highlight of the night.
Dan : We should probably start with Japan's strong hand here - not one, but two raiders. Your thoughts on Gentildonna and Denim and Ruby?
Calum : Both are well worth their place in the field. Gentildonna ran well last year to finish as runner up, though since then she' 1-from-4 back in Japan. That said, her victory did come against Denim and Ruby by the closest of margins over this trip in the Japan Cup. Denim and Ruby is less exposed and she certainly looked pretty unlucky in the Japan Cup when getting checked for a run. You get the suspicion there's more to come from her.
Dan : For me the booking of Ryan Moore is huge for Gentildonna, and I feel that he was what she was lacking in this spot last year. However, I'm very sweet on the chances of Denim and Ruby too who has just continued to progress with every race. She'd be one of my biggest fancies of the entire night, but there is a Breeders' Cup Turf winner to contend with.
Calum : Moore is a master of his craft, and I would agree that he would've made plenty of difference last year. Yes, Magician who Moore has also had direct involvement with. I've always really liked this horse but I was stunned to see him win at the Breeders' Cup after not running since he went wrong at Ascot in June. O'Brien knows how to get them ready for Dubai and he is the one to beat.
Dan : It was a shock to see Magician win that, particularly with such a strong late run off the lay off and O'Brien also has one with a similar lay off coming into this called Festive Cheer. Does he have a chance based on his Irish Derby form?
Calum : Not for me. The form of that isn't strong and he flopped in the Derby at Epsom. It's a huge ask.
Dan : O'Brien is of course responsible for last season's winner St Nicholas Abbey, and it's a real shame that we won't get to see him strut his stuff again, but what about the previous winner Cirrus Des Aigles coming off one of his better first-time-out performances in the Prix Meydan Hotel?
Calum : A brilliant horse at his best and though last year it took him a while to get back to his sort of standard, he had had a setback. He was beat in the same race as his prep before taking this in 2011, but I don't think he's the power of old and over twelve furlongs on fast ground I think he's vulnerable.
Dan : I actually think he has a good chance, though he's not on a par with the Japanese duo, but I do feel that he could really take on Magician with the pace likely to suit. Can you make a case for any of the outsiders in this field or is it very much a market leading race?
Calum : I think Dominant can go well. On a strict form line with The Fugue he's clearly up to running to a high standard and this is his best trip. Excellent Result cannot be totally dismissed either consider he's going the right way and fast. Incredible to think that he was beaten off of 99 in January.
Dan : I remember him being beaten out of sight by Feel Like Dancing in a Newbury maiden last year, but he is rapidly going the right way now. As for Dominant, I'm not keen on him in this spot but one I am keen on is Meandre. He was luckless behind Excellent Result last time out and he just needs a split to grab a place here. Mars is interesting back over the twelve furlong, if not a bit of a troublesome individual to place, whereas Mount Athos is surely in the wrong race here isn't he? Dubday is an enticing price at 50/1.
Calum : Wow, just seen Dubday's price. I thought 10/1 was very short the other day, but 50/1 is a good each way price considering he was visually impressive last time when winning in Qatar. Very Nice Name was placed with a similar profile. I agree on Mount Athos, although Meandre is not for me and neither is Mars, who has shown nothing for De Kock so far.
Dan : A final word before we nail down our selections - can Dunaden run into a place again or is he one for later in the year?
Calum : He is such an honest horse, but I think he will do well to match last year's performances.
Dan : Time for a selection, I sense a confident opinion coming from you?
Calum : I could hardly say confident, but I think Magician and Denim and Ruby will fight this out. The latter has to be the play at their respective prices, and I'm sure you'll agree with me.
Dan : A clean sweep here; Denim and Ruby is the one for me and the price available is a gift!
Dan : The Dubai Duty Free certainly lacks the numbers of previous year, but is this a match race between Just A Way and The Fugue?
Calum : It's actually the toughest race to find a real answer. It was certainly surprising to hear The Fugue runs here, the shortest trip she's encountered since her Guineas third on just her second star. Is it the right race to go for?
Dan : I feel that a run on the tapeta in the World Cup may have been the perfect spot for her, this looks a tougher test and Just A Way is no mug. A four length defeat of Gentildonna may be the form line which most have heard of, but her last performance in the Nakayama Kinen oozed quality. I'd go as far to say that the Japanese runner is arguably the one to beat here.
Calum : I would agree. He seems to have a very high cruising speed and his win over Gentildonna in the Tenno Sho was deeply impressive. To back that up after a five month lay off two weeks ago, and over a furlong less, strongly suggests this is a horse that needs considerable respect.
Dan : Where do we place Dank and Vercingetorix in these equations? Are both under respected at the prices?
Calum : No, I think the market has them spot on. They both has to post a career best to win this. Dank needs to prove she can run to this sort of standard without lasix. If she does, then she's well in with a chance. Vercingetorix is a very tough individual and I like his chance.
Dan : I'm puzzled by Dank. All training indications suggested that she would be heading to the World Cup itself, so to drop down in distance marginally into this spot back on grass is of concern. Vercingetorix is a lovely type and always does just enough to win his races. 6/1 is a ridiculous price for what this undefeated horse has already achieved, but it may be factoring in De Kock's 2-for-31 over the last three years on the big night.
Calum : She has got plenty of speed though and considering how hard she pulled in the Breeders' Cup, a better race could suit her? The statistic on De Kock is true, though if I thought his runner was good enough it wouldn't put me off backing them.
Dan : Agreed on both counts. From the sublime to the ridiculous, on all known form does Mshawish deserve to be around the same price as Vercingetorix? A raw form line through Anaerobio suggests not and you surely have to consider Trade Storm at a much larger price if you like the Delzangles raider?
Calum : Plenty suggests Mshawish is a touch below genuine Group I level and I think we'd both agree this race deserves its status at that. Trade Storm had a torrid path in he Zabeel Mile but had less excuses against Vercingetorix. He was beaten a similar margin in that to what he was in the Duty Free last year, so if anything that enhances the chances of the De Kock horse.
Dan : We spoke earlier of the Hong Kong Cup form, does that give Tokei Halo an outside chance here? Blazing Speed is also progressing from his sixth in that race.
Calum : Six lengths or so is too much to make up between Tokei Halo and Just A Way. It's interesting to see Tokei Halo was actually favourite that day too. Blazing Speed might find this trip ideal, and isn't one to dismiss lightly at 20/1, but it just goes to show how strong a race this looks.
Dan : I feel Tokei Halo has a better chance that the other Japanese raider, Logotype, but it's a deep race - much deeper than just the match race we spoke of. For me, my money is going on Vercingetorix. You can only beat what is put in front of you and he has done that nicely thus far. Calum : I'd agree with Vercingetorix, though Just A Way is the one to beat. The pair are the standouts.
Dan : The last race to look at and it's the Dubai Gold Cup - Cavalryman looks a bit on the big side at 4/1 if you take his last run at face value, doesn't he?
Calum : It almost seems a price that is too good to be true. He was extremely impressive last time out and I certainly didn't expect him to put up a performance like that off a break. He won this very easily last year and I'm struggling to find reason why he won't run to a very high standard again.
Dan : What is it about Cavalryman that sees him at his exceptional best in Meydan?
Calum : I think he is suited by how the races are run. He's not really your genuine two mile stayer, but he does get the trip and he has a very good turn of foot. That is a perfect combination for these sorts of races where they crawl their way round before sprinting for home.
Dan : There's definitely a strong Godolphin hand in this race - what do we make of Pengali Pavilion and Songcraft? Surely the former is one for the softer going in Europe later in the year?
Calum : Yes, he seemed to love softer ground in France, though he did run an eyecatching debut here last time. Songcraft surprised us both last time in the same race, as his record fresh is very good but regularly he fails to go on from that and he did that well this time.
Dan : Do we see Songcraft stepping up again here or it too tough a test? Looking back at his form, he has only failed to place at Meydan once in a Sheema Classic.
Calum : He's also 0-for-7 in Graded company. I think it depends on how the race is run. If it turns into a sprint, that will suit his tactical speed, but I'd be disappointed if something wasn't better than him.
Dan : Let's talk about Ernest Hemingway, who looked like he would finally show the promise we'd hoped last year, only to falter in two Curragh contests. Back on fast ground, he's sure to go well here isn't he?
Calum : He should appreciate the ground, but I'm still wary of both of those runs which were well below par. He looks ready for a step up in trip, and on official ratings he's right in there, but is a mark of 116 one that he has really justified?
Dan : It's a rating which was inflated by a five length defeat of Royal Diamond - a subsequent Champions Day victor, but I think it's a tad too high. Did he really lose to stars in the Irish St Leger? Voleuse de Coeurs and Ahzeemah would be well beaten in this renewal surely?
Calum : The latter finished second in this race last year, and Voleuse de Coeurs put up a bit of a freak performance that day, but Royal Diamond certainly didn't have to run to a rating of 116 to win on Champions Day. Let's not forget Imperial Monarch flopped in this last year too for O'Brien.
Dan : The Canadian International form is well represented here; can we make a case for Joshua Tree to repeat his second placed finish of 2012 or is Now We Can a horse on the up? Take his Prix Foy run outof the equation and his form book looks very consistent.
Calum : You can make a big case for Joshua Tree. He ran a really good prep behind Prince Bishop over ten furlongs. He was second in this to Opinion Poll in 2012 and is a touch unexposed as a stayer. I think he will be versatile with however the race is run. Now We Can prepped well, though you are taking a real guess on if he's going to improve sufficiently over the trip.
Dan : What are our feelings on Simenon? Is he truly an internationally competitive stayer, or does he find the test of Dubai, Japan and the like just that one step too far?
Calum : I think he's just about up to this standard, this is certainly easier than races such as the Japan and Melbourne Cups. He ran on last time out, but didn't appreciate a slowly run race, and he'd be vulnerable again if the race was run like that.
Dan : It's fair to note that he's also winless since that double victory at Royal Ascot in 2012. One that did run well behind Cavalryman is Star Empire, but surely the deficit is too large to reverse. Mad to think that he's so lightly raced as an eight year old.
Calum : He is definitely slowly but surely improving. He never runs a bad race around here, but we know his level and it's not one that you would think would be up to winning this. I think he's not without a chance of placing though, and similar comments can be said for Certerach.
Dan : Time for your final selection - are you siding with Cavalryman?
Calum : I think he has to be the one to beat, but at over double the price I'm with Joshua Tree.
Dan : I can't have Joshua Tree here, and I'd be surprised if either he or Pengali Pavilion place. With that in mind, it's another chance to bring out the Cavalryman and Star Empire exacta to reap some rewards, with the former scooting home the clear winner.