Japan to steal Dubai thunder

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Japan to steal Dubai thunder

ALMOND EYE gallops at Meydan

Ed Marnane: Dubai – Almond Eye, the equine queen of Japan, is the headline act of Saturday’s Dubai World Cup at Meydan, the world’s richest race day.

Trained by Sake Kunieda, Almond Eye arrives on the international stage with a massive reputation and since touching down in Dubai has created plenty of excitement.

Winner of the Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown and the Japan Cup in a new course record, she has been installed as a warm favourite for the $6-million Dubai Turf, a race Japan has won three of the last five renewals.

Almond Eye impressed in a gallop at Meydan on Wednesday, working powerfully down the turf track in the hands of her regular pilot Christophe Lemaire.

Hailed as a “special filly” by her French-born, Japanese-based rider, she’ll take plenty of beating in the Group 1 event, in which the progressive Dream Castle, unbeaten in three appearances at Meydan this year, is likely to provide the biggest threat.

The main event, the $12-million Dubai World Cup, is wide-open.

Thunder Snow, looking to become the first horse to win the race twice, has plenty to prove on the back of a dull comeback in Round III of the Al Maktoum Challenge, trailing in a nearly 10 lengths behind Capezzano. It was a laboured effort and he is hard to fancy.

Twelve months ago, Capezzano trailed in a remote 13th behind stable companion Heavy Metal in the Godolphin Mile. But he has thrived this year, winning three times, the latest at Group 1 level.

This son of Bernardini possess devastating early pace and, from a plum draw, could be difficult to reel in.

The massively talented North America has yet to fire on World Cup night. Two years ago he struggled in the Godolphin Mile on a sloppy track and 12 months ago blew the start when strongly fancied for the World Cup. He enters calculations if he brings his A-game and avoids last year’s antics.

It’s not easy to weigh up the US challenge, with no standout challengers, unlike in past years.

Audible, Gunnevera, Yoshida, Pavel and Seeking The Soul are all useful performers but not top class.

There is a slight preference for the last-named. His second to City Of Light in the Pegasus World Cup (Dirt) was a solid effort and he has the assistance of Mike Smith, the legendary American rider who rode Arrogate to a famous victory two years ago. His skill in the saddle that night was arguably the greatest seen in the history of the World Cup.

UAE champion trainer Doug Watson enjoyed his first success on Dubai’s biggest race day in the Godolphin Mile, thanks to One Man Band’s triumph three years ago. Two years ago, Second Summer’s shock victory gave the American back-to back wins, and Muntazah, owned and bred by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, chases a third Godolphin Mile in four years for the American native.

The son of Dubawi is a deserving favourite on the back of his romp in the key local trial, the Burj Nahaar. This five-year-old, runner-up in last year’s renewal, would have been a big player in the Dubai World Cup, if connections had opted for Saturday’s showpiece.

Blue Point, Godolphin’s star sprinter, will be a tough nut to crack in the $2-million Al Quoz Sprint. This five-year-old, the winner of the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, arrives in rude health after a couple of comfortable victories at Meydan following his winter break. The shortest-price favourite on the card, he’s regarded as a banker by many and will carry plenty of confidence from the betting public.

The Dubai Golden Shaheen, the world’s richest sprint on dirt, has attracted a strong US challenge, understandable with $2.5 million up for grabs. Their challenge was to have been led by Roy H, dual Breeders’ Cup winner, but the favourite was scratched this week.

It will now be up to Grade 1 winners Imperial Hint, Promises Unfulfilled and X Y Jet. The last-named, who has undergone three knee surgeries, seeks redemption having been mugged close home by Muarrab two years ago. Agonisingly for his connections, X Y Jet was nailed in the dying strides by the fast-finishing Mind Your Biscuits in last year’s renewal. Trainer Jorge Navarro will be hoping third time is a charm.

Prize money in the UAE Derby has been boosted and the purse has risen to $2.5 million, resulting in a big international field. Divine Image sets the standard as she bids to give Godolphin their ninth victory. The Scat Daddy filly, bred by the late Peter Magnier, has blossomed since Charlie Appleby switched her to dirt, winning the UAE Oaks and Al Bastakiya.

Van Beethoven, representing three-time UAE Derby-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien, is entitled to respect as the perennial champion Irish trainer chases back-to-back wins after Mendelssohn’s romp 12 months ago.

Frankie Dettori, arguably the greatest rider on the world stage, has secured a good ride aboard Walking Thunder, one of three runners for leading local trainer Ahmad bin Harmash. Winner of two of his three races, all at Meydan, he has plum draw in stall one and expect he will be ridden forwardly by Dettori, who remains the most successful jockey on World Cup night, with 19 wins, despite having ended his long association with Godolphin at the end of 2012.

BETTING
Race 1:
17-10 TALLAAB AL KHALEDIAH; 7-2 AF MAHER; 5-1 AL SHAMOOS, FAZZA AL KHALEDIAH; 6-1 AL ZAHIR; 8-1 AF AL SAJANJLE; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 2:
12-10 MUNTAZAH; 6-1 COAL FRONT; 7-1 HEAVY METAL; 10-1 TRUE TIMBER; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 3:
17-10 CROSS COUNTER; 22-10 ISPOLINI; 7-2 CALL THE WIND; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 4:
1-2 BLUE POINT; 8-1 SANDS OF MAIL, STORMY LIBERAL; 10-1 WISHFUL THINKER; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 5:
3-1 DIVINE IMAGE; 6-1 WALKING THUNDER; 7-1 JAHBATH; 10-1 MANGUZI, VAN BEETHOVEN; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 6:
12-10 ROY H; 5-1 IMPERIAL HINT; 6-1 X Y JET; 8-1 PROMISES FULFILLED, DRAFTED; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 7:
12-10 ALMOND EYE; 3-1 DREAM CASTLE; 7-1 WOOTTON; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 8:
17-10 OLD PERSIAN; 3-1 REY DE ORO; 6-1 MAGIC WAND; 8-1 SAUVE RICHARD; 10-1 CHEVAL GRAND; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

Race 9:
7-2 NORTH AMERICA; 9-2 CAPEZZANO; 6-1 THUNDER SNOW; 8-1 SEEKING THE SOUL, YOSHIDA; 10-1 GUNNEVERA; 12-1 AND BETTER OTHERS.

SELECTIONS
Race 1
12 TALLAAB AL KHALEDIAH 8 AF MAHER 2 AL SHAMOOS 5 FAZZA AL KHALEDIAH
Race 2
6 MUNTAZAH 12 COAL FRONT 3 TRUE TIMBER 4 KIMBEAR
Race 3
6 ISPOLINI 9 CROSS COUNTER 2 CALL THE WIND 1 MARINARESCO
Race 4
6 BRAVE SMASH 8 BLUE POINT 13 WISHFUL THINKER 10 EKHTIYAAR
Race 5
6 DIVINE IMAGE 1 WALKING THUNDER 9 RAZEENA 14 MANGUZI
Race 6
3 X Y JET 5 DRAFTED 8 TATO KEY 2 IMPERIAL HINT
Race 7
7 ALMOND EYE 1 SOUTHERN LEGEND 2 DREAM CASTLE 4 VIVLOS
Race 8
3 REY DE ORO 2 OLD PERSIAN 1 GRAND CHEVAL 8 DESERT ENCOUNTER
Race 9
5 SEEKING THE SOUL 3 NORTH AMERICA 2 CAPEZZANO 10 YOSHIDA

ED MARNANE’S BETS
Best bet: 6 Muntazah (Race 2)
Best value: 9 Razeena (Race 5)
Best Swinger: 7 Almond Eye and 1 Southern Legend (Race 7)

Jackpot (Races 6-9, R48)
Leg 1: 2, 3, 5, 8
Leg 2: 7
Leg 3: 1, 2, 3
Leg 4: 2, 3, 5, 10

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