The end of March always brings an exciting night of racing in Dubai, with some of the best horses around the world traveling to Meydan Racecourse for one of the richest racecards in the world headlined by the $12 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline.
One hundred and sixteen horses are currently slated to run in the eight Thoroughbred races, with 16 U.S.-trained horses taking on a card where every race is worth at least $1 million.
This year’s Dubai World Cup card will be televised on Fox Sports’ FS2 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Dubai World Cup scheduled to go off at 12:30 p.m. ET during its “Golden Hour” broadcast from noon to 1 p.m.
$12 Million, Group 1 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline
American-based horses have won three of the last five runnings of this race (including Mystic Guide last year) and 12 of the 25 editions of the race overall.
The likely favorite among the 11 runners is Life Is Good, who is currently on a three-race win streak. The 4-year-old Todd Pletcher trainee was considered one of the early favorites for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve last year before going to the sidelines and coming back in the late summer. He finished second to champion sprinter Jackie’s Warrior in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes but has won every race since then – including the Grade 1 Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and one of the easiest victories we’ve seen this year in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by 1/ST BET. He hasn’t yet raced 1 ¼ miles, which he’ll do for the first time Saturday, but he has done nearly everything right in his career.
Hot Rod Charlie was one of the top 3-year-olds last year for trainer Doug O’Neill and has the advantage of coming into this race with experience over the track. He finished last year with a nose loss to Express Train – a horse that’s currently on a three race win streak – in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes, and Hot Rod Charlie shipped to Dubai soon after. He won a Group 2 route race in Dubai on Feb. 4 by 5 ½ lengths, and we know he can handle competing at 1 ¼ miles well because he placed in two classics at that distance or longer last year and also ran fourth in the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic.
One of Hot Rod Charlie’s main rivals last year was Midnight Bourbon, who is looking for his first victory since the 2021 Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes in the World Cup. While he hasn’t won since last January, Midnight Bourbon has been incredibly consistent with just one off the board finish in the nine races he’s finished since the Lecomte. He’s already run twice this year, finishing three-quarters of a length behind Mandaloun in a Grade 3 stakes at Fair Grounds and third by two lengths in the Saudi Cup last out. Instead of shipping back to the U.S. between the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup, Midnight Bourbon went straight to Dubai, so he’s got plenty of experience training over Meydan’s track.
The final American-based horse in this field is Country Grammer, who finished second by half a length in the Saudi Cup last month. Country Grammar was purchased for $110,000 in January 2021, and though he had a setback that made him miss most of last year, he won the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in one of his two 2021 starts for his new owners. The Saudi Cup was his first start since that May 31 victory, so he should be in even better shape for this run.
$1 million, Group 2 UAE Derby Sponsored by Mubadala
One hundred and seventy Road to the Kentucky Derby points will be handed out in this race (100 to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third, and 10 to fourth) to eligible horses but it should be noted no horse that has win this prep race has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. There are 16 entered in the race, headlined by three U.S.-trained horses.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has been a familiar face in Dubai ever since the first running of the Dubai World Cup, a race he won with Cigar. This year, he ships over Gilded Age in a bid to pick up Kentucky Derby points. A $600,000 yearling purchase, this colt was put into a Kentucky Derby prep one start after breaking his maiden, a move showing confidence from the usually conservative Mott. Gilded Age finished third in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes in February, and the second-place finisher in that race, Un Ojo, went on to win the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in his next start.
Grade 1-winning Pinehurst is a familiar name. He won last year's Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity and finished fifth in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. After finishing second in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes to Forbidden Kingdom in January, he shipped to Middle East and won the Saudi Derby in February. Flavien Prat will be back aboard Pinehurst after winning with him in Saudi Arabia.
Doug O’Neill sent a string of horses to Dubai for its Winter Carnival again this year and Get Back Goldie was among those, winning back in early February. Raced by some of the same connections as his sire Goldencents, Get Back Goldie has won on turf and dirt but has only competed in one stakes in his career. His win over Meydan’s track is a plus but that came going six furlongs – he’ll be racing over 1 1/8 miles on Saturday.
Though he isn’t trained in the United States, Azure Coast is a U.S.-bred by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and out of a mare by 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. He’s taken an interesting route to this Kentucky Derby prep. The colt started his career in Russia, where he broke his maiden by six lengths before his connections decided to winter in Dubai. Azure Coast has won both his starts at Meydan, the last one coming in the Grade 3 UAE 2,000 Guineas Presented by Race of Creativity. If Azure Coast is trailing the leaders going into the stretch, don’t count him out. He’s earned the nickname the “Russian Rocket” because he’s rallied from well back in every race so far.
$6 Million, Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic
There isn’t a U.S. trained horse in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, but recent U.S. visitor Yibir is one of the runners for Godolphin. Last year’s winner of the Eclipse Award as champion turf male, the 4-year-old gelding made two starts in the U.S. last year and set a new course record at Del Mar in his Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf victory. Yibir hasn’t raced since the Breeders’ Cup, but the gelding seems to be able to handle any sort of break his trainer throws at him – he was third in a Group 3 last year off a seven-month absence and then won a Group 2 off a 2 ½-week break last summer, so 4 ½ months off should not be an issue.
Japan has been dominating the international scene in recent months, highlighted by two winners at the Breeders’ Cup and four winners at the Saudi Cup meet. One of those winners was Authority, who was never fully asked to run when he won the Neom Turf Cup in February. That 5-year-old has won two of his last three races, with his loss coming to Japanese Triple Crown winner Contrail back in November. Authority is not yet a Group 1 winner, but he beat a group of good horses in Saudi Arabia so he should prove to be competitive here.
$5 Million, Group 1 Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World
One of the best turf horses in the United States, the Todd Pletcher-trained Colonel Liam is leaving the country for the first time to contest this field. The 5-year-old has done nearly everything right over the past season, winning two editions of the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Presented by Baccarat, dead-heating for first in the Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard last year, and winning a Grade 2 stakes as well.
His only blip came when he finished eighth in the Grade 1 Resort World Casino Manhattan Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard last June. He took an eight-month break after that and came back strong to win the 2022 Pegasus World Cup Turf and appears to be back on track. Colonel Liam is facing a tougher group of horses Saturday than most of the U.S. turf division, but it’s not the best of the best, so this is a good introduction to the international turf scene for him.
Lord North is a familiar name to U.S. racing fans since finished fourth in the 2020 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. A year and a half later, he has some question marks. After his appearance in the Breeders’ Cup, the gelding easily won the 2021 Sheema Classic by three lengths over fellow Dubai Turf contender Vin de Garde, but then he suffered a setback that saw him miss almost a full year. He had a start last month in preparation for this, finishing second in a Group 3 race on an all-weather track in England.
$2 Million, Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Atlantis Dubai
This is another race that the U.S. has had a lot of luck in. Five of the last six winners of the Golden Shaheen trained in the United States and this year there are four American-based contenders. The likeliest horse to continue that streak is Dr. Schivel.
Dr Schivel won five straight races between 2020 and 2021 before finishing second by only a nose in the Grade 1 Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint. After that, he finished seventh by a disappointing 19 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes to close out 2021, the only off-the-board finish in his career. He has never left California to compete, so how he’ll race after shipping halfway across the world is a question but his connections have reportedly been pleased with his training at Meydan.
A winner of four of his last five starts, Wondrwherecraigis will be facing his toughest race yet in this spot. The gelding has never raced at a higher level than a Grade 3 stakes, but he’s won at that level so a step up is warranted – and what better spot to do it than a $2 million race? Three of Wondrwherecraigis’ last four wins have been at the same six-furlong distance as the Golden Shaheen, and the gelding has won those starts by a combined 12 ¼ lengths.
Drain the Clock proved he is a good sprinter when matching up head-to-head with Jackie’s Warrior last summer, but he was given a bit of a break after finishing fourth to that horse in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial last summer at Saratoga. He came back in December to win an allowance optional claiming race and get back in the groove, before he finished second by a neck in a listed stakes in February. The final U.S. contender is Strongconstitution, who is a stakes winner going a mile on the turf in California. The Doug O’Neill trainee earned his first graded stakes placing when second in a Grade 3 going a mile on the dirt at Meydan two starts ago.
$1 Million, Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint Sponsored by Azizi Developments
Last year, the United States earned its first winner in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint with Extravagant Kid, and there are two U.S.-based horses looking to become the second this year.
Casa Creed, trained by Bill Mott, won the Grade 1 Jackpocket Jaipur Stakes on turf last summer over the same six-furlong distance he’ll try Saturday. He finished third in the one-mile Fourstardave Handicap one start later before going a bit off form in the fall. That form seems to be back now, as Casa Creed was just a neck shy from winning the Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint Cup in Saudi Arabia last out.
A consistent runner on the U.S. turf scene, Get Smokin is looking to win his biggest race yet in the Al Quoz Sprint. He is a three-time stakes winner, including a Grade 2 event as a 3-year-old, though he hasn’t raced in anything shorter than 7 ½ furlongs since his career debut and he’ll be running six furlongs on Saturday. Get Smokin will be going up against strong sprinters Saturday, so he’ll have to change his running style a bit to play a part.
$1 Million, Group 2 Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Nakheel
The first Thoroughbred race on Saturday’s card, the Group 2 Godolphin Mile has had only three U.S.-trained horses win over its history. The field this year includes two U.S.-trained horses, both conditioned by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who won the 2008 Dubai World Cup with Curlin and trains current World Cup contender Midnight Bourbon.
A fan favorite, 7-year-old Snapper Sinclair has competed in big dirt and turf stakes in his career, and he’s coming back to Dubai to try and better his fourth-place finish in this race last year. He was a Kentucky Derby trail participant back in 2018, posting a second-place finish in a Grade 2 prep at Fair Grounds, and he also finished second in the 2020 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap at age 5. Having earned over $1.85 million, Snapper Sinclair is a horse you can count on to consistently hit the board as he’s posted 20 top-three finishes in 37 starts.
Another millionaire in the Asmussen barn is Bankit, who’s won five stakes races and hit the board in two graded stakes events through a busy career. Bankit didn’t race in the Kentucky Derby, but won the New York Derby restricted to horses bred in the Empire State back in 2019. Overall, Bankit has posted six wins, 10 runner-up finishes, and five thirds through 32 starts.
$1 Million, Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors
The two-mile Dubai Gold Cup on turf is the second race on Saturday’s card for Thoroughbreds and it’s one of two races without a U.S.-based horse entered.
Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup Stakes winner Baron Samedi has raced in a different country in each of his last five starts and is looking for his first win since last June’s win in New York. He was third in the Group 1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger in September and was last seen finishing fourth behind fellow Dubai Gold Cup runner Stay Foolish in Saudi Arabia.