The “Dark” Dubai World Cup Day Preview

March 28, 2015 09:49am
African Story DWC 615 X 400
Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins

Hello racing world! After a six month layoff, the Dark Horse is back and I’m happy to be behind a keyboard writing about horse racing again! While I’m definitely starting to get my annual derby fever, there is one main event that I absolutely cannot pass up; and that is the Dubai World Cup. Horses, jockeys, trainers, media, and fans come from all over the world to watch not only the world’s richest horse race, but some of the best competition the sport has to offer. 

(Sunrise doesn't last all morning in Dubai... Photo by Dave Zenner)


Interesting to note about this year’s races is that the main track at Meydan has been converted from a synthetic surface to dirt. It will be interesting to see how the track plays and how the horses react. Will the track play fair? Will the rail be dead or alive? That remains to be seen, but for now let’s take a look at the field for the 2015 $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup! 

(Meydan's grandstand - photo by Dave Zenner)

Here is the video from last year's Dubai World Cup featuring runners from this year including Prince Bishop, Hokko Tarumae, Side Glance, and winner African Story.

#1 – Prince Bishop (IRE)


Expected pace: Mid-pack


Case for: This eight year old son of Dubawi really seems to have taken well to the dirt as his last two races have been on the new dirt track at Meydan. Oh, and those were his first two dirt races ever. Those two races were at or close to the distance of the World Cup so distance doesn’t seem to be an issue. In fact he has won three times in 13 tries at that distance. In fact, if you throw out his last two turf races, he hasn’t finished out of the money since…


Case against: …the last two Dubai World Cups. In 2013 he finished 7th well behind the leader, and last year he finished 9th even further back behind a dominating African Story. Is he just not up to the competition? He is following the same path to the World Cup, by running in a pair of Al Maktoum Challenge races (winning both last year and finishing second in both this year). Still this horse hasn’t won on dirt yet and that may pose a challenge.


#2 – Hokko Tarumae (Jpn)


Expected pace: Just off the pace (I think)


Case for: This horse has a great record on dirt having won eight, and finished in the money 15 times, out of 17 races on that surface. The horse has also already proven that he can win at 10 furlongs, so distance isn’t a problem at all (winning 5 for 8 lifetime at this distance). You can’t beat his recent form coming into the race, winning three in a row and finishing no worse than second in all but three of his last 12 races. However one of the “out of the money” races was…


Case against: …also last year’s Dubai World Cup. Following the same story as Prince Bishop, Hokko Tarumae finished an abysmal 21 lengths behind the winner with a 16th place finish. Following a somewhat similar path to this race (via the Tokyo Daishoten) as last year, will history repeat itself here?


#3 – African Story (GB)


Expected pace: Just off pace or maybe mid-pack


Case for: Well, here was last year’s winner of this very race.  Now eight years old, this horse won last year’s Dubai World Cup in stunning fashion, never letting the pace out of his sight, and winning by over two lengths. Similar to Prince Bishop, African Story has also only ever run on dirt twice, both times at Meydan, winning his last race by a neck (over the aforementioned Prince Bishop).  So if you throw out his first dirt race where he finished 7th, it looks like he figured out the new surface. This horse certainly likes Meydan as well as he has six wins here from 11 tries.  So what’s not to like?


Case against: Two wins of his last three races isn’t bad, but in his last eight races, it seems like every other race is the good one. If that pattern holds true, this won’t be one of the good races.  Also, it does seem that his better performances have been on synthetic surfaces.


#4 – Side Glance (GB)


Expected pace: Mid-pack

(Side Glance - photo by Dave Zenner)


Case for: Hard to find a lot here. Side Glance did finish fourth in this very race last year but was well behind the winning African Story. Perhaps the jockey switch and five months away from an official race is what the doctor ordered. Side Glance has also faced some good competition with the likes of Adelaide and Main Sequence so perhaps that experience will work to his advantage.  He also had his best finish in quote some time in his most recent start, only losing by a neck in a graded stake in Australia.


Case against: This horse has never raced on dirt.  In my handicapping I generally like to see horses with form on a particular surface before they are worth a win wager. This horse also hasn’t won since November of 2013 and that was down in Australia. Perhaps the surface switch will help?


#5 – Lea

(Lea running in this year's Donn Handicap)


Expected pace: A length or two off the pace


Case for: Lea is in the best form of his life right now. Lightly raced over the last couple of years, his last four races have yielded three wins and a place, all at Gulfstream in the Hal’s Hope and Donn Handicaps. A beaten favorite, he just missed winning the Donn by ¾ of a length in his last race. Joel Rosario maintains the mount for trainer Bill Mott and these two hit at a 24% win rate together in recent times. Lea has also faced some stiff competition in the past and that experience should help him here. He has faced foes, and raced well against, such as Constitution, Will Take Charge, Jackson Bend, and the great Wise Dan.  Also, since switching to dirt, he has won three of his four career starts on that surface.


Case against: Distance. Lea has never raced longer than nine furlongs and he ships overseas to run in the longest race of his career. With names like Giant’s Causeway and Galileo in his pedigree, it sure seems like the extra furlong wouldn’t be a problem, but this is sure a tall order for heading this far for the first time.


#6 – Candy Boy


Expected pace: Coming out of the clouds


Case for: I’m puzzled by his entry into this race, but there are a few things to note.  First, his three most recent Beyer Speed Figures are all triple digits and the best of his career to date. He was just nipped by a nose in the West Virginia Derby and rallied strong in both the Pennsylvania Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. He’s also faced some good competition with the likes of Shared Belief and Kentucky Derby winning California Chrome.


Case against: The horse has two lifetime victories. A maiden breaker at the now defunct Hollywood Park and a Grade 2 win in the RB Lewis at Santa Anita against a weaker field in February of last year. On dirt he has one win in eight lifetime tries. Recent form isn’t all that great going into the race…granted he hasn’t raced since last November.


#7 – Long River


Expected pace: Off the pace or mid-pack


Case for: Also puzzled by this entry as well. Anyway, Long River has faced some of the better than average North American competition with foes such as Tonalist, Itsmyluckyday, and Moreno. He won three in a row back in late 2013 and perhaps he can return to form again.


Case against: Long River just seems over his head in this race. He got absolutely shelled in his last race in Meydan by over 31 lengths.  Perhaps the connections were trying out the new surface, or attempting to darken his form, but he fared no better in the Woodward at Saratoga or the Monmouth Cup a few races back. This horse’s only victories have come in minor stakes and optional claiming allowance races.


#8 – Epiphaneia (Jpn)


Expected pace: Near the lead


(Epiphaneia in the Japan Cup 2014)

Case for: Having only raced on turf, this horse has a decent overall lifetime record with six wins and nine in the money finishes in 13 lifetime starts. He won by four lengths in the Japan Cup back in November.  Since that was at a mile and a half, it appears that distance isn’t a problem.  It seems that Epiphaneia has faced the best competition that Japan, and Hong Kong, has to offer. I really want to like this horse…but…


Case against: …he has never raced on dirt either. It’s really difficult to tell how turf form in Japan translated to dirt form in Meydan. Still, his final finishing times are very good. Hard to know what to do with this one.


#9 – California Chrome


Expected Pace: Near the lead

(California Chrome in Dubai - photo by Dave Zenner)


Case for: “Chrome” had a brilliant campaign as a three year old.  Obviously he won two of the three triple crown races and six in a row during that process. After a clunker in the Pennsylvania Derby, he had a real solid third place finish (by a neck) in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a two-length victory in the Hollywood Derby, and finished second in the showdown against Shared Belief in the San Antonio Invitational. With nine victories in 17 starts, the horse just knows how to win, and dirt is his preferred surface. He has been training well leading up to this race, and folks over in Dubai say he’s been looking great.


Case against: Yes he won a majority of the big races in 2014. However the three year old crop was classified by some as “weak.” So how was his overall competition?  Outside of Shared Belief, was it just average?


What to expect:


I’m not expecting a suicidal pace duel in this race, and I foresee two packs of horses (with Candy Boy behind early - and that won't help him). The pace should actually be a little slower with Epiphaneia,“Chrome” or Side Glance in the lead. The potential winner will have to remain just a few lengths off the lead to be in a good position to take the race.


My pick:


My top three include California Chrome, Hokko Tarumae, and African Story. It will be real interesting to see what the turf horses do. Epiphaneia was impressive in his last race.


Other picks for the day:


Godolphin Mile: Tamarkuz, Layl, Surfer

Dubai Gold Cup: Brown Panther, Almoonqith, Marzocco, Dubday

UAE Derby: Maftool, Golden Barows, Mubtaahij

Al Quoz Sprint: Bundle of Joy

Dubai Golden Shaheen: Montiridge, Muarrab

Dubai Turf: The Grey Gatsby, Solow, Cladocera

Dubai Sheema Classic: Main Sequence, Designs On Rome, Flintshire



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 (Whoa - it's me - the DARK HORSE)
Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
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