Angus McNae's Racing UK Blog
|Saturday 17th May 2014|
It has been an interesting week and here is my take on the two big issues - firstly the switch from Tapeta to dirt at Meydan in Dubai, which was announced on Wednesday.
There is undoubtedly a desire to entice the Americans back to Meydan, and with synthetic tracks being ripped up in the USA and replaced with dirt there is some symmetry with what is happening at Meydan.
There is also a desire to return the race to the glory days of Dubai Millenium, because since the richest race in the world has been run on Tapeta the race has not really stirred the soul or produced a champion.
If you read this blog regularly you will remember that I bemoaned the passing of Nad Al Sheba, and the loss of the dirt that had produced so many champions. At the time I felt that it was a positive move in terms of welfare but a retrograde one for the richest race in the world.
I think I have been proved right. The race no longer produces champions, but is merely a ten-furlong race which is more about which horse gets the best trip than anything else. It is, however, clear that the surface is much kinder to the racehorse.
We cannot have it both ways. We want champions that can run two minutes flat over ten furlongs but we want them to race on the safest surface. This is not possible. Dirt is the surface that is conducive to horses grinding out fast fractions and running fast times, whereas synthetic surfaces are safer.
It is easy to sit on the fence on this issue. I cannot hide my liking for dirt racing because in my opinion it produces proper champions in races where the fastest horse wins. In essence it is the purest form of the sport, but I cannot ignore the welfare issues associated with racing that has such an attrition rate. Perhaps we should heed the words of Bob Baffert, the legendary American trainer, when I interviewed him when the synthetic revolution began. He told me that the problem with many dirt tracks there is that they have not been properly maintained, and as such had become dangerous to the racehorse. The implication was that he had no problem with well-maintained dirt surfaces.
Let's hope Meydan is well maintained. Let's also hope that we see horses of the calibre of Captain Steve, Cigar, Street Cry and Dubai Millenium again.
In my opinion he is miles better than he showed in the Dante, and the reason he did not show how good he was is that he bounced.
His effort in the Fielden Stakes was one that produced a very fast time. He had to race very hard and that physical effort must have taken a big toll first time out this season. He clearly felt the effects of that effort on the Knavesmire and we should treat his run as a chuck out race and still consider him as a live candidate for the Derby. Whether the Godolphin operation agrees, and actually run him at Epsom is a completely different matter. He has been pushed out to 16-1 by some firms and that is a very tempting each-way price.
There is some fantastic action on today, including the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico in the evening which I have the privilege of presenting alongside James Willoughby and Timeform’s Mark Milligan.
My selection today is a big price and comes in the 2.40 at Newbury. Monsieur Chevalier ran well at Windsor last time out, where he was not given a hard time at all. He is well treated now and his hold-up style will be suited to a race that looks set to be run at a strong pace. He should be backed each-way.
2.40 Newbury: Monsieur Chevalier each-way at 11-1 BetVictor