Dubai Racing Carnival – 16th February 2012

This afternoon sees the return of the Dubai Carnival at Meydan for the ninth meeting of the campaign, and this is certainly one of the trickiest and most competitive cards I have come across in recent weeks, but I believe there are a couple of bets to be had here.

The last meeting here saw us round off the day with a profit of (+8.88) to advised stakes and prices, and I had toyed with the idea of tipping up Mendip before deciding against doing so, and as the law of sod dictates – he won.

We kick things off at (2:30) with a handicap over a mile on the Tapeta and this is definitely one of the trickiest handicaps I have come across whilst previewing the Carnival meetings for the blog, but one thing I can be sure of the race is likely to be run at a solid tempo. With the likes of The Rectifier, Navajo Chief and a couple of others in the line up that like to go forward, it is a really tough race to get a handle on but wouldn’t be surprised to see Red Gulch or Yaa Wayl there at the finish. However it is impossible to form a solid opinion about the race and is best left alone from a punting perspective in my opinion.

Moving swiftly on to the (3:05) and things really don’t get much easier, as this is another race that delivers us a puzzle which is near enough indecipherable. A race which sees Mike De Kock’s South African import Anaerobio switch back to the Tapeta after a couple of solid efforts on turf recently. The added distance should be another factor likely to suit him but he has been far from convincing away from grass in his previous efforts and I’ve formed an opinion that he is a better horse on turf. Strictly on my figures it looks between Nationalism and Prince D’Alienor although I’d be taking a slight risk on the French horse as that rating behind Iguazu Falls last time wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. He does however have the fact he is unbeaten on all-weather in two attempts, and switched back to Tapeta after a recent blow out on turf suggests he is primed to run well, but whether he is up to beating Nationalism is anyone’s guess, and I’d probably narrowly favour Nationalism under Frankie Dettori but this is another race I would simply watch, rather than bet in.

The third race on the card (3:45) is an excellent handicap on the turf which see’s recent Al Shindagha fourth Captain Obvious, top the weights back on turf for the first time after a couple of solid efforts on Tapeta, but the grey would need to put up his best performance yet to win off top weight against classy rivals but it wouldn’t be out of the question.

One thing I am fairly confident about is that the former Michael Stoute trained Dux Scholar needs more distance to be seen at his best; this looks like a prep-run for something over a longer distance and is worth keeping an eye on. Five Cents has been improving rapidly this season on his second season out in Dubai winning a string of races at Jebel Ali but he hasn’t been so good here and a mark of 107 will make things difficult for him.

Rerouted ran big last time behind Hitchens in the Al Shindagha and ran the fastest closing sectional in the race out of the whole field after being out with the washing turning in. The return to turf and a longer distance here will certainly suit him, and he does have good turf speed figures in his locker from his juvenile season to suggest he has very solid claims off a very low weight, but a wide draw and the enigma that is Christophe Soumillon on top could make things difficult.

If this race was on Tapeta I would have to give a solid chance to Tamaathul who has come right back to the form he promised since being fitted with the tongue-strap but there is a question mark over if he is as good on turf as he is on the synthetics and he isn’t helped by the draw either.

On a tenuous line through Super Easy, The Comedian has form to go very close with Captain Obvious getting 9lb in the weights and is another import from Singapore that has potential to run big first time up. Last time out he defeated the yards Al Fahidi Fort runner Always Certain by 3.25L in receipt of 15lb and looks to be thriving at present, and with the first time tongue-strap applied to his usual blinkers you have to expect him to be on the scene late in the day under Vlad Duric.

One final angle worth looking at here is the class angle in the race Delegator who despite racking up a few respectable wins in his career to date has been somewhat a disappointment after early promise shown at three. However when you look into his form a pattern emerges, suggesting the horse is at his very best on his first outing off a layoff. If you take his runs off a break of 3 months or more his figures improve to (111) each of those runs coming on his seasonal re-appearance. He does however have to put behind him two rather abysmal runs but he will be primed to run well today one would imagine and can slot in from a wide draw.

All of this presents a rather large conundrum, of which I’m not sure I have the answer and although I’d initially harboured thoughts about a small play on Tamaathul, my attentions then switched to The Comedian through Captain Obvious, and then the freshness angle on Delegator confused me further, all in which my knowledge of these situations tells me to sit back and enjoy the race, from a non-financial point of view.

Back onto the Tapeta for race four at (4:20) which see’s Swedish raider Verde-Mar top the weights off a rating of 110. His rating here last year behind Our Giant would give him a squeak but nothing more, and has a real task on hand to give away weight and a beating to these rivals, let alone doing it from stall 13.

Looking through there appears to be plenty in way of pace, and you can expect the likeable grey As De Trebol to blast out given his usual ‘point and shoot’ running style, but he disappointed last time after going steady fractions in the early stages and needs to bounce back here.

Happy Dubai despite coming back to form at Jebel Ali last time is held on these terms by Reynaldothewizard who once again gets a good draw, and didn’t have the run of things in a conditions race behind Captain Obvious and posted the second fastest closing sectional in that race behind Hitchens, who went on to be successful in the Al Shindagha next time. They clearly have enough ability to be winning a handicap off this current rating of 108, and I feel he holds the aces over the remainder of the field.

Of the rest Ariete Arrollador looks likely to hit the places once again, but has it to find on the ratings with Reynaldothewizard and I don’t think 6lb is enough to stop the Satish Seemar trained six-year-old.

The (4:55) sees the best race on the card in the shape of the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, a race which brings back fond memories of the excellent Gladiatorus making all to win in style at Nad Al Sheba in 2009, before following up in the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup Night. This is a race I have had decent success in having backed last year’s winner Derbaas at double figure odds, sadly he couldn’t follow up like Gladiatorus did on World Cup Night but ran a respectable race in defeat.

It is a tough race to pick apart really with Master Of The Hounds probably topping the ratings with back-to-back performances on the clock, but he returns to turf for the first time since his juvenile days, and it is questionable if he is as good on the turf as opposed to synthetics and I’m not sure I have the answer.

Always Certain is a big price given the form of the Singapore imports so far, but he will find life difficult having to give away 5lb to this level of opposition which includes Viscount Nelson, who comes here after a solid second the ever impressive Mutahadee last time out. Strictly on my ratings he has it to find with a few of these and is underpriced in the market. I am surprised Rio De La Plata hasn’t been tried out here more given his owners patronage of the Dubai scene, but he was very disappointing here in the Zabeel Mile in 2010 and the first time cheek-pieces suggest the evergreen seven-year-old is thinking about things these days, and is seriously short at the head of the market.

Albaasil comes into this in good form after narrowly being denied by Dark Matter, but is 9lb worse off with Time Prisoner for 0.25L, and you’d have to expect the son of Elusive Quality to reverse that form with a more tactically astute ride. There is a question mark over whether he’ll stay the extra furlong here running a mile for the first time, but I can’t see any reason why not after an attacking ride last time out, and he should be about 5-1 which makes his current price of 15-2 value.

Maraheb clocked a big rating for his latest win on Tapeta; following up a similarly big rating behind Capponi on his race previous (watch out for Nationalism earlier on the card). He is unexposed on turf but I can’t see him improving much on that last effort given how sternly he was ridden to the line, and he is likely to come up just short at this level I think but is a big price at 14-1 should he improve.

One which really catches my eye though is Derbaas, who gets to run back on turf for the first time since his comeback run when third to Mahbooba in January beaten 6.5L. In my experience Derbaas isn’t a horse that runs his best fresh and usually takes a few runs to come right so his proximity to Mahbooba and Laajooj in what was a very quick time reads really well considering he had been off for almost a year. He has since followed up with two solid runs which have posted big figures on the Tapeta but he is arguably a better horse on grass according to my figures.

He is looking to defend his crown having won this race last year, and posted a rather excellent speed figure in the process. I think he will be primed to run to around that level over what without doubt is his trip and is an excellent price at 11-1, and his prominent racing style should negate his bad draw.

The closing race on the card at (5:30) is another race on the turf, this time a ten furlong handicap with the class angle Shimraan heading the weights under Frankie Dettori. A repeat performance of that third placing behind Byword and Cirrus Des Aigles could turn this into a rout and is a very dangerous prospect in a typical competitive handicap.

The question is just how forward Shimraan is for this outing, and is he being aimed at something more valuable on World Cup Night? Something like the Sheema Classic looks most likely but he is difficult to get a real handle on.

Quick Wit posted a big figure when winning over this course and distance last time, and did it with some authority too under today’s pilot Silvestre De Sousa. He has risen 5lb for that run, and is clearly still improving at the age of five and his turf form is far superior to his synthetics (21121) – he holds Fallen Idol on that outing and I can see him confirming form again, but he is priced about right in the market.
Al Shemali ran well back on turf last time to finish third behind Quick Wit and is weighted to go close again here. He was a Dubai Duty Free winner in his day and although not getting any younger at the age of eight, it would be churlish to rule him out.

Treble Jig comes into this contest off the back of being (to my knowledge) the first horse ever to complete the Jebel Ali Stakes, Jebel Ali Mile double and won both races with some authority over really good horses. The form of his last win has been boosted by Haatheq running a close second to Mendip in an electric speed figure and if Wayne Smith can harness this free-going sort into a nice rhythm at the head of affairs, he is sure to go very well – despite there being a bias against front-running sorts on the turf track at Meydan.

Finally my selection Belgian Bill comes back onto the turf track after disappointing behind Capponi on the Tapeta last time (Maraheb would be a good pointer to his chances). However his run prior to that over this course and distance behind Songcraft (since repeated that rating to win again). He is 2lb higher for that run which put him forward is a potential Group 2 performer, and off a mark of 104 with a favourable draw and a good pace to track he really should be going close here under Ted Durcan.

My Bets:
1pt win Derbaas @ 14-1 with Bet365
1pt win Belgian Bill @ 16-1 with Ladbrokes [/notification_box]


Dubai Racing Carnival – 26th January 2012

Today sees another instalment of the excellent Dubai Racing Carnival (#DRC) over at Meydan, and there is plenty of competitive action to get our teeth into. A meeting like this is really appreciated by us flat fans at this time of year, especially with the current dross on offer on the home front it helps warm the cockles and brings April that little bit closer.

I didn’t expect much from Ariete Arrollador last time, but the son of Kingsalsa travelled extremely well on the inside rail, and looked like throwing down a challenge to Barbecue Eddie at one point until flattening out inside the final furlong. The time for the race was fairly respectable, and you’d expect him to go pretty close this afternoon based on that effort from a decent draw.

Strictly on figures the race is topped by Silaah based on his rating behind Captain Obvious last time, but I just can’t see him being able to give away weight to this field off a mark of 105, and is more likely to lead them in and weaken on the approach to the final furlong as the weight begins to tell. Another which will go well dropped back in trip is Krypton Factor who undoubtedly got the run of the race last time up behind Iguazu Falls but has posted some good figures on the Tapeta in the past, and back down to six ought to suit him, but is most likely to find one or two too good for him.

In the next race (3:20) and I really like the claims of As De Trebol, who is massively overpriced in this at around 7-1. Third in the Burj Nahaar last year behind Mendip on the Tapeta, the time clocked for that race was brilliant and would give As De Trebol a favourite’s chance of winning this, if you can forgive him his run in the Godolphin Mile (went off too quick) then he looks a solid proposition back on the Tapeta for the first time.

Last time out on the turf and his first run in Dubai he set an absolutely outrageous pace with the Mubarak Bin Shafya trained Iguazu Falls. They’re miles clear on the approach into the straight and As De Trebol quickens away from that horse travelling extremely well. He continued to roll up until around the furlong marker, until Time Prisoner comes through and picks him off and the closers begin to reel him in inside the final furlong, to eventually finish fourth.

Iguazu Falls was well beaten in the end, but came out and won next time out at 25-1, beating Krypton Factor who has posted some good figures for me at the Carnival last year, so I think it is worth upgrading this run of As De Trebol given his jockey blew his brains right across the desert.

Hopefully Borja Fayos can ride the grey son of Tapit with a little more restraint on the front end and with more tactical nous and I think he’ll go very, very close. Should he go off too quick, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Spectacle Du Mars pick up the pieces with a sustained late burst, and he is too big at 16-1 in the current market.

Next up at (4:00) is a competitive seven furlong handicap on the turf which see’s last time out impressive winner Time Prisoner returns to do battle. He has to give away weight to 2000 Guineas Trial winner Dark Matter, but I really think that horse was a beneficiary of how the race panned out the last day, and arguably would have been beaten by Kinglet, had that got a better run at things.

Time Prisoner is having to give away 8lbs to Dark Matter, but on my figures he should be up to doing just that and although I think he will win there is no value in his price at 7-4 (Boylesports).

Next up the (4:40) and a handicap back on Tapeta where if Belgian Bill can produce his latest turf effort should make this pretty much a formality. His speed figure last time was that of a group class animal and has only been raised 2lbs for that effort, and considering he has ran well on all-weather before you’d have to think he’ll have no problems with the Tapeta surface.

One I expect a better run from is Nationalism who was given no chance by Ajtebi last time out, but kept on eye-catchingly well into the straight down the widest outside and narrowly missed out on third place behind Rostrum. He is untried on all-weather/Tapeta and is potentially the type of horse that’ll go well on it, he has his chances at around 12-1, and is a few points overpriced in my view.

Sarrsar is unbeaten on the all-weather and ran well to run down Capponi last time (who had run of race and no excuses) but the time of that contest suggests they’ll have to improve rapidly to feature with the principles in this, and as such they are massively underpriced.

Up at (5:15) is the Al Rashidiya which sees Musir return after an imperious success on the Tapeta last time. Trying turf this time he has to give away 3lb to Presvis the Dubai Duty Free Winner from 2011, and the pair are very closely matched on my numbers. I think at the prices Presvis would be a better bet of the two but neither price makes me want to get involved really, so I’m going to sit back and just enjoy the contest – I also expect a big run from Win For Sure at around 16-1, and he could rank as an each-way alternative to the front two.

Finally we round things off at (5:50) with a handicap on the turf where Fallen Idol is priced up as 3-1 favourite. I said something similar last week with Naqshabban being the most ridiculous price I’d ever seen at Meydan and it ended up winning but I think this one is very similar in levels of ridiculousness.
His best form as come on right-handed tracks hasn’t looked the quickest of individuals and generally doesn’t win very often yet somehow has found himself at the head of the market here – I’d be looking at taking him on for sure.

There are a couple of alternatives in this in the shape of Rostrum (4-1) and Al Shemali (12-1) and I’ll take one of the two to get the job done here.

[notification_box]1pt win Ariette Arrollador @ 6-1 with Ladbrokes
2pt win As De Trebol @ 7-1 with Bet365, Ladbrokes
1pt win Belgian Bill @ 11-2 with William Hill
1pt win Nationalism @ 12-1 with William Hill. [/notification_box]


Dubai Racing Carnival – Night 3 Roundup

Another good quality Meydan card for their third meeting of the Dubai Racing Carnival (#DRC), and without doubt the talk of the night was the explosive performance from MUSIR who got back to winning ways at The Carnival under Christophe Soumillon.

The six-year-old son of Redoute’s Choice put in a masterful performance on his first run back since his Veliefendi win in early September, and surely must have surprised even Mike De Kock with the manner of victory here – in a time just 0.08sec off the track record set by Skysurfers in 2011. Given the way he was ridden throughout the final furlong, it wouldn’t be insurmountable to suggest he could have set a new track record has he been ridden out to the line, but it is understandable with other targets in mind why Soumillon allowed him to coast home inside the final half furlong.

The performance that caught my eye was by that of stable-mate Master Of The Hounds, who hadn’t been seen since splashing through the mud in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in the summer of 2011. He was a very good second here in the UAE Derby earlier in 2011 when narrowly worn down late by Khawlah, and judging by the run he posted here he has a major say in the outcome of the Dubai World Cup at the end of March.

Beaten just 3L by Musir in the end, Master Of The Hounds ran 9m further than his stable-mate which accounts for roughly 3.75L which given you’d expect Musir to be capable of pulling out a little extra under pressure would put these pair very close together indeed if both got ideal perfect trips.

A quick look back at the race replay footage on YouTube tells you just how big a performance Master Of The Hounds has put up to run second from as wide as he has, the remainder of the field seem to all (roughly) stay in the same position up the straight, on a day where the home straight at Meydan was riding like a scene of the travelator from Gladiators (thanks goes to Liam Kirk for that one).

My pace figures suggest Musir posted the best performance in the race overall, but Master Of The Hounds closed off the 6F -1M sectional the fastest in the race, and with an extra couple of furlongs and a better trip through the race, I think he is a live World Cup bet at this early stage – (16/1 StanJames, Bet365).

Earlier on the card there is little doubt in my mind that the Singapore raider Dark Matter stole the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial through the benefit of a perfect trip. Trained by Steven Burridge this win will provide great encouragement for fellow compatriots but I can’t see how this horse can get as good a trip as he did on Thursday, and until he does there is absolutely no way I can see him confirming form. [frame_right src=”” href=”#”]Dark Matter[/frame_right]

Ted Durcan rode the rail route aboard the son of Stratum, and had a perfect tow through from the free-going Rassam who raced with the choke out throughout. Once Rassam gave way at the furlong pole, Durcan allowed his mount to slip through up the inside and go and win his race off the back of very modest pace figures throughout – citing him the beneficiary of brilliant placing.

Watching back the replay it isn’t hard to be immediately drawn to Kinglet who was out with the washing being ridden along shortly before turning for home, but the way he has accelerated down the outside (particularly inside the last furlong) signalled to me that this horse is by far the best animal in the race, and that is also what my pace figures tell me. On my pace figures alone, Kinglet comes out on top by a margin of (+14) which may not seem like a lot, but when you factor in that he ran 14m further than the winner – which equates to around 5.5L, it is a somewhat brilliant performance to get as close as he did, especially given he ran the final furlong in 11.62sec (thanks Trakus).

I am extremely confident that Kinglet will turn out to be the best of these horses, and I fully expect him to account for the UAE 2000 Guineas when these next meet, and I wouldn’t rule out a possible tilt at the UAE Derby on World Cup Night in March perhaps?

Two other horses from the race which come out with some credit are both Prepared and Mickdaam, who finished 7th and 6th in the race come out 3rd and 4th best on my figures and I could see these horses taking a hand over further than this distance, and could both potentially pick up a decent handicap along the way.
[frame_right src=”” href=”#”]Naqshabban[/frame_right]

Away from these two principal races we had a couple of rather interesting middle distance handicaps on the turf, with the first of those being won by Naqshabban and Frankie Dettori. I had previously blogged the night before about what shocking value the 2-1 available price was for Naqshabban, but the way he won this suggests he will be winning more races at ‘The Carnival’.
Sat in roughly second place throughout off what was a pretty modest pace, he made his bid for glory shortly after turning into the straight and won the race a touch cosily in the end, outclassing his opposition with the benefit of a race run to suit his tactical position. A horse which caught my eye in this race was Emirates Champion, who has a pretty dire record on turf compared to Tapeta – but this was a really promising effort back in third. Considering he was towards the rear and making ground up the inside rail turning for home, but was hampered by Glens Diamond running into the rail, and had to re-gather his momentum after taking back on the heels of Glens Diamond before launching another effort up the home straight – plugging on into around a five length third at the wire.

If you take into account the trouble encountered, and where he was positioned in a tactically run affair, my pace figures suggest he could have pressed Jedi for second, and would probably have just taken it at the line – a return to Tapeta would be an interesting next move for this son of Haafhd but he is rated 10lb’s higher over it off 111, which makes life difficult for him, and rules out almost all handicap races.

The second of the two races of interest for me on the turf was the last race on the card, a handicap run over ten furlongs and won by the lightly-raced Songcraft who extended his unbeaten run to three. The manner in which this son of Singspiel recorded this victory suggested to me he isn’t going to be a handicapper for long, but he has been raised 5lb to 110 on both surfaces so has the option of taking in one more handicap for further education, before being pitched into group company. [frame_right src=”” href=”#”]Songcraft[/frame_right]

My pace figures for the race pretty much fall in uniform with the official result. The front pairing of Songcraft and Belgian Bill pretty much fall in-line with each other’s (very closely matched) until Songcraft put in a big final quarter mile and sealed the race with plenty of petrol in the tank.

I would expect both of these horses to go onto better things throughout the remainder of the Dubai Racing Carnival 2012, and a possible audacious tilt at the Dubai Sheema Classic wouldn’t be the worst suggestion on the cards for Songcraft, who clearly has plenty of class about him, in what will be an open year – but will he step forward and make himself known on a wider scale on his next start? We’ll have to wait and see!

Belgian Bill on the other hand has been raised 2lb for that effort to a mark of 104, which allows connections the opportunity to explore further handicap prizes before stepping him up in grade as the Carnival draws on. On the basis of this I see him as an absolute good thing for any handicap at around this distance, or possibly a furlong or so shorter – and would be strongly on his side when he next lines up (providing he isn’t a ridiculous price that is!).

Of the remainder I have to give a mention of Nationalism, who comes out third best on my ratings and after having a very slow start ran faster than Belgian Bill from 4 furlongs onwards, before clocking the fastest rating in the field between 6F-1M, and wasn’t far off Songcraft (-6) between 1M-1M2F and that is without factoring in that he ran wider round the last bend, and covered 9m more than the winner (approx. 2.25L), which would give him an honourable third placed position, narrowly ahead of Mikhail Glinka.

Trained now by Mahmood Al Zarooni, the Pivotal gelding remains of interest in his next couple of races providing he gets the right sort of trip to run at, and has been dropped 1lb off the back of that recent effort. I am almost certain he’ll take some beating in a similar handicap with better luck, and if he doesn’t win one he should go very close judged on this showing.

That is all for my views on the meeting from 12th January 2012. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post and have hopefully gained a little extra insight into the racing over at Meydan.

For those of you on Twitter you can follow us @OHRacing, and for all things Meydan you can use the hashtags #Meydan, and also #DRC.

Thanks for reading.

Dubai Racing Carnival – 12th January 2012

We’re back at Meydan again on Thursday for the third meeting of the Dubai Racing Carnival, and we have the delights of a mix of competitive handicaps and the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, a group 3 over a mile – throw in a UAE 2000 Guineas trial and it is by far the best quality of racing on offer on what has been a very quiet week so far.

We kick things off in the (3:05) after the Arabian event, with a handicap over seven furlongs on the Tapeta. It is looking like Red Gulch is going to head the market running for Godolphin for the first time and I can see him going off plenty short enough – which paves the way for Barbecue Eddie, who is a course & distance winner and pretty much a standing dish around here.

He missed the break last time and was rushed up into an otherwise modest pace, and I think had he broke on terms he would have got a lot closer to Reynaldothewizard who in my eyes, is a very nice ‘dark’ horse to keep on side at the Carnival this season. Third placed Russian Rock then won easily (by 4.5L) next time up beating Firestreak (who then won a competitive handicap on turf next time) so the form is being franked left-right and centre, and will probably be a value price against horses with good British form.

Global City is another that could be dangerous if he gets into the race, and shouldn’t be overlooked if doing so.

We then switch to the turf for a competitive handicap over six furlongs at (3:45) and after going through my ratings this is one of the tightest races I’ve ever seen at the Carnival since it being switched to Meydan.

There is one or two points separating the whole field, and while I feel he is better at five furlongs Addictive Dream holds a favourites chance after seeing off my selection Nocturnal Affair last time with a front-running display. I can also see a big run coming from Bohemian Melody who looked an improving type in the first-time blinkers when last seen, he could go close also – as could Rock Jock at a potentially double figure price.

All in this entire race is just screaming to be watched instead of played, and I simply cannot get involved.

Back onto Tapeta for the (4:25) and for the UAE 200 Guineas Trial where Rassam has already been strongly supported on Betfair. An easy winner on his debut at Kempton, he is lightly raced and looked a class act when making a winning debut in November. A repeat of that performance would hold him in good stead here, but he is far too short. If Mehdi could reproduce his turf efforts over shorter trips on Tapeta for the first time one would expect him to go close, but in truth this is another race I’ll be watching rather than playing in.

The (5:00) is a turf handicap over twelve furlongs, and another race in which I’m struggling to form a solid opinion about anything. Emirates Champion would have been a confident enough selection had this been on the Tapeta but his grass form hasn’t really looked all that in amongst some impressive synthetic form – which is a worry.

Naqshabban in truth is probably the most likely winner after a switch to Mahmood Al Zarooni but you’d have to be completely mental to be getting involved in this one at 2-1. He has decent form in the book to date, but has to be the worst price I’ve seen about a runner potentially at the Meydan Carnival ever, and therefore cannot be backed.

Another race which I’m struggling with really, and I’m going to leave this one alone also – it could literally go twelve or so ways.

Finally! We have some class amongst some competitive handicaps, and that comes with the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge at (5:35). The favourite Mendip holds a solid favourites chance, and is a worthy favourite from what my ratings tell me – but he is just a smidge too short on the prices. He is top-rated out of all of these on (113) but there isn’t much meat in his 9-4 price tag, and for that reason alone I’m forced to look elsewhere (I do really like the horse though), but I expect a big performance back on Tapeta after a wild decision to run him on grass when last seen.

Musir is another with solid claims in this trappy event, but I expect to be getting bigger than 7-2 about this one as well to be honest, and he is another I have to pass up purely on that basis.

I can envisage a big run coming from Master Of Hounds now switched to Mike De Kock, and a repeat of his UAE Derby form would put him in the mix here, he ran to (105) on my ratings that day, and certainly isn’t a forlorn hope at around 12-1 in a tough race, and could be one for the placings, despite seemingly being the second string.

One which I’m going to side with though purely on a value basis is Snaafy. A horse which let me down for a massive five figure payout at the Dubai World Cup in 2009, this veteran son of Kingmambo has posted some serious numbers on both conventional dirt and synthetic over the last few years and is a much better animal than on turf. He may be an eight-year-old nowadays, but he showed no signs of age catching him up with a solid display behind Mendip when last seen on the racecourse, and has shown proven ability to go well first time up off a layoff in the past. At 20-1 he is ridiculously overpriced, and has run to a rating of (109) in his most recent starts, and simply cannot be left alone with Tadgh O’Shea taking over from the increasingly useless Richard Hills.

Which then leaves us with our final race on the card at (6:15), and we’re back on the turf for a handicap over ten furlongs. There are two or three which I don’t hold ratings for (Songcraft, Rostrum and Happy Valley), but I’m pretty much guessing they wouldn’t be troubling the judge if I had in any case to be honest.

Alkimos is high up on the shortlist after a good performance at Ascot when last seen in the summer, and has been given plenty of time to freshen up and strengthen over the last six months or so. Sadly his price is absolutely ridiculous at around 2-1, and although he could prove too good for these, he has to be taken on.

Zain Shamardal doesn’t look good enough on the ratings I hold, and Summit Surge has to prove he retains all ability on the return from a long layoff of 418 days – and I couldn’t really be talked into backing either.

My first interest is Belgian Bill, who at a 14-1 (Ladbrokes) wouldn’t be a forlorn hope in this race, and only has a couple of points to improve upon to have a say in the finish here. He hasn’t been beaten far in majority of his races to date, and was a good second to Dordogne at Veliefendi when last seen. He should improve on his three-year-old career this year, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him go close here.

The main one in this race that catches my eye is Nationalism, who simply is a massive price at 16-1. He has solid form in the book with The Rectifier from Windsor, and wasn’t beaten too far behind French Navy at Goodwood on his final run of the season.

That Windsor form has worked out exceptionally well with winners galore coming from it, and I’ve always thought Nationalism would be the type to improve for the hotter climates of Dubai and expect him to play a big hand in this with how races are run out here. The first run for Mahmood Al Zarooni is an interesting angle, and although he gets plenty of stick Ajtebi rides this circuit pretty much better than anyone on his day – and he can’t be left alone at a massive price.

My Bets:
1pt win Snaafy @ 20-1 with Bet365, Ladbrokes, William Hill
1pt win Nationalism @ 16-1 with Bet365, Ladbrokes, William Hill
0.5pt win Belgian Bill @ 14-1 with Ladbrokes [/notification_box]