Angus McNae - Thursday 17th January
(Read Angus's column every Thursday and Saturday)
Did we learn anything from week one of the Dubai International Carnival? The plain and simple answer is no.
The meeting featured some decent racing, but I would hesitate to say that we saw an outstanding performance.
We did see something quite remarkable, though, in the form of a rejuvenated Barbecue Eddie, who won round one of the Maktoum Challenge at the age of nine.
This horse has been a consistent performer over the years in the States and in Dubai, but he has never suggested that he would one day launch himself into Dubai World Cup night contention with a cosy win in a significant trial.
The first question to ask is whether he had to improve much to win the race and I suspect the answer to that is no. He was rated 111 coming into the contest and as such did not have to make a big leap forward.
Where the story becomes interesting though surrounds the improvement that the horse has made at Meydan since the start of the season late last year. He has now won four in a row, which in a largely inconsistent career is incredible.
He is now a 115 plus horse and it was not long ago that he was simply running respectably off a mark of 100.
New-found consistency, enthusiasm for the job and actual improvement have all come whilst under the care of Doug Watson. He has clearly done a tremendous job in getting this old boy to realize his potential.
I suspect he will not be able to get this horse to figure on Dubai World Cup night itself, but then again this is a Tapeta surface we are talking about, part of the synthetic family where if past evidence is to be believed anything goes.
The turf track was raced on for the first time last week and it is clearly in tremendous shape. Two track records were broken, which suggests not that the ground is firm but that it has plenty of spring and cushion allowing horses to properly let themselves down.
More track records await I suspect. As far as the Tapeta was concerned, it is best summed up by saying that winning from the front or from a long way back is very difficult.
Making all is particularly hard and built in to that is a suspicion that the rail could be bad, but this will only be established when we have a good deal more evidence.
Godolphin had an excellent start to the meeting and they look set to dominate the big races at the Carnival, but I wonder if I was the only one to think that it's just not the same without Frankie Dettori.
Of course we will have to get used to Mickael Barzalona now, but he is unlikely to ever be as good as Dettori. In fact let me qualify that, he will never be anywhere near as good as Dettori.
More importantly Dettori was Godolphin and Godolphin was Dettori in the eyes of the betting public and to ask Barzalona to become synonymous with those blue colours in the same way as Dettori was is a very big ask.
One final observation for last week came in the form of a horse to follow. Invincible Ash is a mare who won in Dubai last year. She finished a close-up 8th behind Fityaan on her return last week and did well to get so close having been badly outpaced early on.
She looked rusty and Jamie Spencer looked after her, but nonetheless she shaped promisingly. Last year she also took a while to find her feet before beating the Group One winner Sole Power in March.
She is worth keeping an eye on over five furlongs on the turf track. I have noted that she runs today over six furlongs. I expect her to need the run again and she is better at five.
As for today’s action, you will notice the dominant colour is the blue of Godolphin. They have seventeen runners in the six races and will no doubt bag a few winners. The two feature races are trials for the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas and whilst Godolphin may well take the former with one of their three runners, the latter is a race in which Mike De Kock properly flexes his muscles at the Carnival for the first time.
De Kock has three runners and all appear to be horses of some potential. The number one is probably El Estruendoso, an Argentinian bred who won his maiden ion South Africa and is clearly highly regarded.
The added bonus with him is that he will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon, who in the last two years has been brilliant at Meydan. There are some good noises doing the rounds about this horse and on a day that is set to be a blue one, a bit of yellow would not go amiss.
On a final note keep an eye on Lui Rei in the six furlong Turf sprint. He shaped very well last week when fourth to Fityaan and when his trainer gets to grips with a sprinter the sky's the limit. Krypton Factor showed us that last year when capping an extraordinary season by winning the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
(The Dubai World Cup Carnival from Meydan Racecourse is live on this afternoon)
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