x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Dubai World Cup: Frontrunners come into focus after Super Saturday

With Mike de Kock and Godolphin looking strong, Geoffrey Riddle asks, what did we learn from Super Saturday at Meydan Racecourse ahead of the big night?

Hunter’s Light, centre, looked formidable in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
Hunter’s Light, centre, looked formidable in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.

The Americans failed to thrown down the gauntlet

The Dale Romans pair of Little Mike and Dullahan were desperately disappointing.

Little Mike finished eighth in the concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge behind Hunter's Light and surely must go for the Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup night.

Little Mike is tailor-made for the turf feature on March 30. He simply did not handle the Tapeta and, if he can replicate his Breeders' Cup Turf form, the run at Meydan Racecourse will have acted as a decent pipe-opener.

Dullahan had never run over a mile, but by finishing 11th in the Burj Nahaar it was his first reverse on a synthetic surface.

The four year old had certain factors working against him - he was running for the first time in four months, he was ninth behind Little Mike at Santa Anita in November, and was racing without Lasix, the anti-bleeding agent which is banned in the UAE.

Kieren Fallon rode both horses but it has been reported that Romans has called for John Velazquez to ride the two stablemates on World Cup night.

The trainer-jockey combination won the Dubai World Cup in 2005 with Roses In May.

Velazquez will need to be at his best to get Dullahan to be competitive in the World Cup in three weeks because he looks well short of what is required at this stage.

What a difference a year makes

Last year, before Monterosso beat Capponi in the Dubai World Cup, there was talk that Godolphin were experiencing a relative drought in the world's most valuable race.

They had not won since Electrocutionist scored for Saeed Bin Suroor in 2006. How things change. Hunter's Light was an emphatic winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge and fully deserves his chance.

Kassiano, who was second, also fully deserves to run for a slice of US$10m (Dh36.7m).

He has a similar profile to Allybar, who improved throughout the 2010 Dubai World Cup Carnival for Godolphin to finish third to Gloria De Campeao in the World Cup. Monterosso finished one place behind Little Mike in 10th but we know he relishes the Tapeta and it was the defending champion's first run since July.

Mahmoud Al Zarooni's charge was six-and-half lengths behind Capponi in the Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge last season before scooping the big one so is a little behind. Godolphin were pleased with the run, however, and Monterosso should defend his title with gusto.

Igugu has a lot to prove

Igugu ran a huge race in defeat to Sajjhaa in the Balanchine last month but she was far less impressive in defeat to the same rival in the Jebel Hatta.

Where in the Balanchine she went down all guns blazing under Christophe Soumillon, posting fast fractions and tiring under a sterling effort, she was limp for regular partner Anthony Delpech.

You could sense the frustration in Delpech, who was fined Dh1,500 for using his whip incorrectly. Delpech had Igugu placed perfectly in the race in third but when he asked his mount for a raking stride Sajjhaa simply had much more.

Igugu is entitled to improve once again - this was only her second start for 13 months, but whereas there was hope of better ahead of Super Saturday she has a tough task to lift her disappointed fans now.

De Kock likely to be in the winners' enclosure

The South African trainer may be scratching his head over the performance of Igugu but in Shea Shea and Await The Dawn he has two cracking chances on World Cup night.

Shea Shea blitzed the track record over 1,000 metres when winning the Meydan Sprint and looks virtually unbeatable if lining up in the same form in the Al Quoz Sprint - he won barely breaking sweat.

Await The Dawn had to give way to Jakkalberry in the Dubai City Of Gold but it was one of the most slowly run races ever staged at Meydan over the distance of 2,410m.

Await The Dawn is a big, galloping type that needs races to be run at a true and even pace. He is more likely to get such conditions in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

If Little Mike runs alongside Shareta, the filly from France, and Gentildonna, the much-vaunted Japanese raider, the Sheema could be the highest quality race on World Cup night.