Reverting to dirt and tearing up the synthetic Tapeta surface at Meydan has been well received on the whole and local trainers such as Doug Watson, who has always trained on dirt, have thrived.
The main reason for the switch last year appeared to be that, with no other racing jurisdiction staging major races on a synthetic surface, Dubai was in danger of becoming isolated in doing so.
As with any new track and/or surface, it takes time to settle or ‘bed-in’ and that certainly appears to have been the case here with slow times at the early meetings being bettered consistently since.
That could also be partly explained by the higher quality action enjoyed throughout the Dubai World Cup Carnival but certain trends have certainly emerged.
Those racing prominently have seemed to enjoy a massive advantage on the new Meydan dirt surface with numerous winners getting to the front and rail to make all.
Tell you right now where the Dubai World Cup value is…Candy Boy. Top dirt trainer at Meydan too.
— Pat Cummings (@DubaiRaceNight) March 12, 2015
Stalking the pace has proved the most successful alternative with those held up seemingly increasingly disadvantaged. In fact, since the first race on the dirt in early November, very few winners have been able to come from off the pace – the sadly now injured Faulkner was one notable exceptions, with Super Saturday victor Shaishee the only other notable one who springs to mind.
A low draw has also proved highly beneficial with, for instance, only three winners in 21 races over the 1600m dirt course and distance of today’s Godolphin Mile, having exited a stall higher than seven.
Previous experience of the surface has also proved advantageous with several ‘domestic season’ runners wining on the dirt and progressing through to the Carnival.
African Story was all at sea on his dirt debut but, with the experience under his belt, bounced back to win the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Turf horses have struggled, as have many with form on similar surfaces in America, so look for horses with Meydan dirt form, drawn low and likely to race prominently.
The most prestigious race in the world? Absolutely not, and nor is it ever likely to be. Depending on your country of origin you would probably argue the Epsom Derby, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, Japan Cup and Melbourne Cup would hold that title.
But the most valuable race in the world? Absolutely. The Dubai World Cup (and meeting) has established itself on the international racing stage as a ‘cash-rich’ event few can avoid targeting – given the right horse.
The World Cup made the perfect start, way back in 1996, attracting the ‘best dirt racehorse in the world’ in the form of Cigar. He did not disappoint, landing the inaugural running of the 200om contest.
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) March 25, 2015
Just 12 months later, albeit five days later than originally planned after torrential rain, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, enjoyed success with 1996 Japan Cup winner Singspiel.
Two World Cups, two serious international winners – the world was seriously taking note. And, on reflection, the image of Sheikh Mohammed mimicking ‘cutting his throat’ to signify the 1997 Dubai World Cup would not take place on the Saturday as intended, is a lasting one in the history of the race.
This was in despite of Sheikh Mohammed summoning numerous helicopters to, as it transpired fail, in drying out the Nad Al Sheba track with the breeze created by their rotor blades.
PICTURE OF THE DAY: Dubai World Cup favourite California Chrome working under the Meydan lights pic.twitter.com/lTFQeQtlIq
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) March 24, 2015
There have been significant highlights since, probably highlighted by Dubai Millennium in 2000 – renamed, when unraced, by Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin team, specifically with this race in mind.
It proved a masterstroke and the Godolphin star outclassed his opposition. No horse has ever won the race twice, something Godolphin’s African Story will attempt to remedy tonight.
That said, it is somewhat of a non-statistic as only 1998’s SilverCharm has tried to win the race a second time. Given its status as the world’s most valuable horse race, the Dubai World Cup is always going to attract a quality cast. And it certainly has this this year.
But, where does it stand in worldwide rankings for an individual horse race? That is actually hard to answer – do connections win the Epsom Derby or the Kentucky Derby and immediately announce the Dubai World Cup as next year’s main target? No, would be my answer.
However, on the flipside, the timing of the race and meeting in March is ideal if looking ahead to other targets later in the year, be it in Europe, America, Hong Kong or Japan.
Ruler Of The World, trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, won the Epsom Derby in 2013 before lining up here, unsuccessfully, 12 months ago while last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes victor California Chrome, is at Meydan tonight, focused on the $10m pot.
It may well be prize money outweighing prestige but, given the same dilemma, wouldn’t you do the same? And what is abundantly clear is that, over 20 race meetings, the World Cup has come an awful long way.
If ever home advantage was going to prove key on Dubai World Cup night it is quite likely this could be the year with trainers based permanently in the UAE well represented. With Saturday night slowly on the horizon, Dubai Racing’s Laura King shares her tips for the celebrated occasion.
KAHAYLA CLASSIC PREVIEW (16:00 – Prize: USD 1,000,000)
Valiant Boy (FR), Its Far From Over (USA), Manark (FR), Callateral (USA), Raaziq (FR), Myra De Monlau (FR), Bigg N Rich (USA), Abu Alabyad (FR), Af Lafeh (UAE), Maseh Asf (GB), Versac Py (FR), Taraf (QA), Richlore (USA), Djainka Des Forges (FR), Vulcain Du Clos (FR).
GODOLPHIN MILE PREVIEW (16:40 – Prize: USD 1,000,000)
Tamarkuz (USA), Free Wheeling (AUS), Quadrivium (USA), Nolohay (IRE), Bradester (USA), Frankfourfingers (FR), Dark Emerald (IRE), Prayer For Relief (USA), Graphic (IRE), Gold City (IRE), Haatheq (USA), Pylon (SAF), Forjatt (IRE), Layl (USA), Sloane Avenue (USA), Surfer (USA).
DUBAI GOLD CUP PREVIEW (17:15 – Prize: USD 1,000,000)
Dormello (IRE), Brass Ring (GB), Cooptado (ARG), Mushreq (AUS), Dubday (GB), Star Empire (SAF), Marzocco (USA), Bathyrhon (GER), Almoonqith (USA), Havana Beat (IRE), Meandre (FR), Vaasa (IRE), Rio Tigre (IRE), Brown Panther (GB), Ahzeemah (IRE).
UAE DERBY PREVIEW (17:55 – Prize: USD 2,000,000)
Mubtaahij (IRE), Motaa (KSA), Alnajem Alfaiz (KSA), Sir Fever (URU), Faithful Creek (IRE), Tap That (JPN), Golden Barows (USA), My Johnny Be Good (USA), Maftool (USA), Dear Domus (JPN).
AL QUOZ SPRINT PREVIEW (18:30 – Prize: USD 1,000,000)
Green Mask (USA), Bundle of Joy (AUS), Hototo (GB), Via Africa (SAF), Farmah (USA), Sir Maximilian (IRE), Sole Power (GB), Mirza (GB), Stepper Point (GB), Amber Sky (AUS), Caspar Netscher (GB), Caspian Prince (IRE), Ahtoug (GB), Distinctiv Passion (USA), Lancelot Du Lac (ITY), Peniaphobia (IRE).
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN PREVIEW (19:05 – Prize: USD 2,000,000)
Montiridge (IRE), Speed Hawk (GB), Krypton Factor (GB), Rich Tapestry (IRE), Salutos Amigos (USA), Big Macher (USA), Secret Circle (USA), Lucky Nine (IRE), United Color (USA), Shaishee (USA), El Padrino (NZ), Super Jockey (NZ), Cool Cowboy (USA), Muarrab (GB).
DUBAI TURF PREVIEW (19:40 – Prize: USD 6,000,000)
Euro Charline (GB), Umgiyo (AUS), Mshawish (USA), Earnshaw (USA), Limario (GB), The Grey Gatsby (IRE), Trade Storm (GB), Cladocera (GER), Farraaj (IRE), Solow (GB).
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC PREVIEW (20:15 – Prize: USD 6,000,000)
Sheikhzayedroad (GB), Dolniya (FR), True Story (GB), Flintshire (GB), Max Sequence (USA), One and Only (JPN), Design On Rome (IRL), Just the Judge (IRE), Harp Star (JPN).
DUBAI WORLD CUP (21:00 – Prize: USD 10,000,000)
Prince Bishop (IRE), Hokko Tarumae (JPN), African Story (GB), Side Glance (GB), Lea (USA), Candy Boy (USA), Long Rier (USA), Epiphaneia (JPN), California Chrome (USA).