As Cheltenham fades into the past and the flat racing season gets going for real, there’s a feast of international racing on tap this weekend. In the United Kingdom, you know it’s time for the flat season when the Lincoln Handicap is to be run at Doncaster (Saturday, March 28; 3:55 p.m. GMT – 10:55 a.m. local CDT). Then, over in the Emirates, it’s Dubai World Cup Day featuring the World’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup (5:30 p.m. GMT; 12:30 local time). And finally, the Road to the Roses kicks off in earnest in Florida with the 58th running of the Florida Derby (5:44 p.m. EDT in Florida; 9:44 p.m. GMT; 4:44 p.m. local time). So, let’s get the show on the road.

The William Hill Lincoln (Heritage Handicap; 0-110; 1 mile straight; good-firm)

The forecast rain has not come to Donny and there are thousands of fingernails chewed to the bone as long time ante-post “certainty” Expresso Star is unlikely to run if rain does not come. Even if the skies open, though, I would not be advising plumping the old hard-earned on him at such cramped odds simply because this is a speed biased race and a speed biased track and the favourite showed improved form in the autumn of 2008 over 10 furlongs. Now dropped back to a mile in a competitive race like this, he may well be a Group horse in a handicap but it is a very fierce handicap indeed and he will have to put every foot right. Stable companion, Charm School, who would also rather some give in the ground, would have been preferred regardless as he is proven at the track and is better suited to a mile than the favourite. He has his quirks, though and so both are bypassed in favour of TITAN TRIUMPH who has been a revelation on the polytrack this winter winning 5 of his last 6 starts ending with continued improvement to beat Majuro by 1 ¼ lengths in a Class 2 Handicap at Lingfield on Feb 14. He has secured an excellent high number draw and possesses a nice turn of foot which will be vital in this sort of race. The problem, with writing 48 hours before the race is that he is ground dependent (needs top of the ground) so, if the rains come, readers should switch to another likely spring type, MIA’S BOY who has been laid out for the race; is equally well drawn; and has a most progressive profile as well. Either will return 20/1 or thereabouts so run, do not walk, to the betting windows and make sure you oppose this short priced favourite with one of the above two, depending on the state of the going.


The Dubai Carnival comes to a end on Saturday with a Big Bang in the form of the World Cup meeting featuring the world’s richest race the mile and quarter US$6 million Dubai World Cup. There is no superstar in this year’s race like previous winners Cigar, Silver Charm, Dubai Millenium or Curlin so this makes for a competitive event and an opportunity for punters and purists alike to enjoy the race. The English Bookies (no betting allowed in Dubai) have given the Keiran McLaughin trained Albertus Maximus pride of place at the top of the betting and, although he is a very smart performer who shapes as though he should stay this trip, this will be only his second attempt at it (beaten before stamina became an issue on only other try in 2007) and there must be a question mark about his seeing it out in the best company. It is also important to note that his best win came at a mile in the oddly named Breeders Cup Dirt Mile (run on pro-ride at Santa Anita) and his 2008 successes were all on the synthetic California tracks in races whose quality are suspect. This is the ultimate test and I doubt very much that he is value at 5/2 or thereabouts to pass it and from a wide draw to boot. I for one will look elsewhere for the winner.

My shortlist must include the fancied Japanese contender Casino Drive and last year’s gallant runner-up the South African Asiatic Boy. Casino Drive has been working like a racing certainty at home and the Japanese are cock-a-hoop about his chances. He failed to make all in the Breeders Cup Classic on the Pro-ride at Santa Anita but he is a half brother to two Belmont Stakes winners and a very lightly raced, unexposed type who goes on all types of dirt surfaces. This will be important as there is a lot of rain about in Dubai and I am confident that, even if they seal the racetrack, it will be riding wet and fast on Saturday so watch out for something like Casino Drive making every post a winning one. Asiatic Boy, second to the great Curlin last year, is on top of his game right now, the pick on form and will be very hard to beat if the going is not wet. However, as much as I respect the chances of both these top contenders, I have a sneaking feeling that the winner will not come from anything already mentioned. The trends fans among you ought to know that this race has never been won by a horse trained outside of the UAE or the U.S.A. and since Godolphin’s best hope, My Indy, is suspect at the trip; somewhat inexperienced still; and victimized by being drawn in the car park, I will be looking to SNAAFY, an unexposed 5yo very much on the upgrade, to land the spoils. He has been a revelation at Nad Al Sheba this year winning 2 handicaps and the Grade 3 Burj Nahaar. He could not have been any more impressive in the latter, travelling well and staying on strongly to beat Honour Devil by 2 ½ lengths, going away. On a line through My Indy (beaten 3 times comprehensively by Honour Devil in 2008), SNAAFY is actually very well off in this race and is picked to snatch the race from the ever trying Asiatic Boy close home with a tiring Casino Drive in third. A reverse forecast with the selection and Asiatic Boy could prove very profitable indeed.

A short preview of the World Cup undercard follows

THE GODOLPHIN MILE (Dirt; Group 2; 1:40 p.m. GMT; 8:40 a.m. local time)

Two Step Salsa from the Godolphin camp is high class at 6 furlongs and will be in front for a very long way today but it could pay to take a chance with dirt track debutant CAT JUNIOR to catch him late. He’s a Storm Cat colt who was just short of classic class last year in England (3 3/4l 3rd to Henrythenavigator in the St James Palace Stakes) and Jamie Spencer is just the sort of jockey to give him the patient ride he needs.

THE UAE DERBY (9f; Dirt; Group 2; 2:15 p.m. GMT; 9:15 a.m. local time)

It won’t take much for Godolphin’s DESERT PARTY (BANKER BET) to make a mockery of this race. He beat Officer as a 2yo in America and is unbeaten in two runs at Nad Al Sheba this year. He steps up in trip today but by former UAE Derby winner, Street Cry, there are no stamina worries whatsoever.

THE DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (6f; Dirt; Group 1; 2:55 GMT; 9:55 local time)

Bob Baffert’s Indian Blessing will be all the rage and she did win the Prioress Stakes at Belmont at 6f in the slop in 2008 but she has not run in 2009 and there remains a nagging doubt that she is not a true sprinter. Also, she runs a straight race for the very first time and is drawn all alone on the stands rail in 12. The one I very much like to defeat her is the former Jose Pinchin inmate BIG CITY MAN who won 3 of 4 starts for “Pepito” at Calder as a 2yo before missing his 3yo career. He returned with a bang in 2009 winning two over course and distance before running a narrow second to Gayego in a Group 3 sprint there on March 5. He is still very much unexposed; will love the conditions; and is sure to get a good tow in the middle of the track from likely trail-blazer Black Seventeen who is another USA trained contender trying a straight sprint for the first time.

THE DUBAI DUTY FREE (8.9f; Turf; Group 1; 3:55 p.m. GMT; 10:55p.m. Jamaica)

British hope (and betting favourite) Paco Boy has been drawn in the car park which had his trainer seething all week. But, for me, he was never going to win this as he is best at 7 furlongs and is definitely the LAY OF THE DAY. Jay Peg (last year’s 50/1 winner); Presvis (a high class and progressive son of Sakhee); and Archipenko (the pick on form from the all-conquering Mike DeKock stable) all have claims but I am confidently expecting them all to fall victim to 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile hero KIP DEVILLE (NAP) who is perfectly suited by this and has been tuned to the minute to report cherry ripe.

Get in early and often!!!

THE DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (1 1/2M; Turf; Group 1: 4:40 p.m. GMT; 11:40 am)

If the going remains on top (unlikely) then the Mike DeKock trained Front House will be a very good thing indeed and if the enigmatic Youmzain is on a going day, who knows but, on the assumption that the rains continue (as they are forecast to do) we must look at the likes of King’s Gambit (dull so far this year on firmish going; sure to wake up with give); two late bloomers in the shape of former Godolphin inmate Eastern Anthem (improved out of sight by current conditioner Mohammad Bin Shafya) and Spanish Moon (ante-post favourite for the Epsom Derby before he even raced); and my idea of the winner namely QUIJANO, a soft ground specialist who was ½ length second to Front House on good to firm on last. That was his reappearance run and you can confidently look for better on this rain softened turf but this is a wide open race and any of the above mentioned can play.

And, FINALLY, when the World Cup meeting is over, there is the Florida Derby on tap for hungover punters needing just one more fix. It will be run at Gulfstream Park and feature two progressive types in Quality Road and DUNKIRK (BANKER BET). This DUNKIRK is something special, trust me, and if anybody is bred to win the Kentucky Derby, he is it. By the Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled sire, Unbridled’s Song (who won the 1996 Florida Derby) out of the Preakness/Belmont winner A.P. Indy mare Secret Status (winner of the Kentucky Oaks), he was the most expensive yearling sold in the U.S.A in 2007. He is undefeated in 2 starts (both at Gulfstream), the second an allowance race over this trip. He is stepping up in Grade but the manner of his victories suggest that it will not be a problem and with the rabbit Europe being entered to carry the front running Quality Road and set the race up for the favourite, it will be plain sailing tomorrow. He is currently around the 10/1 mark to give Todd Fletcher his first Kentucky Derby winner and you should snap up those odds before Saturday’s race.

Good Luck!




  1. Howard Hamilton Says:

    I like DUNKIRK and

  2. Howard Hamilton Says:

    I like DUNKIRK and

  3. pj Says:

    I like the double Kip Deville and Dunkirk

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