If you like your top class flat horse racing and you have been suffering withdrawal symptoms from the lack of top flat class action. Well, fear not, as today sees the start of the Dubai Winter Carnival at Meydan and a welcome return of top quality racing and prize money. The season at Meydan actually began on November 3rd of last year but this is the first of the Carnival meeting and also see’s the reopening of the turf track for the first time this season with four races on that surface.
The increasing popularity of the Carnival for punters all over the UK seems to be on the increase. Not just because of the quality of action on offer over the next few months but also due to the fact that the Carnival attracts, horses, jockeys and trainers that are familiar to racing fans in the UK and Ireland.
I think the Carnival provides punters with some great betting opportunities and I have been lucky enough to finish both of the last two seasons nicely in profit. Let’s hope for more of the same this year.
This will be the first of a weekly column that will preview a couple of the races from that day’s card at Meydan and it will run each week up until World Cup Night on Saturday March 26th.
Meydan Thursday January 5th
As I mentioned earlier we have the first turf racing of the winter season at Meydan with three big field handicaps for punters to get stuck into. The action gets underway at 3:05 and can be viewed live on Racing UK and At The Races TV channels, so let’s buckle up for the ride, it should be an exciting one. This week I will look at the first three races on the card.
3:05 – Longines La Grande Classique (Handicap) (Turf) 1m4f11y
A field of 11 are declared to go to post for this 1m 4f handicap with £51,020 on offer to the winner. A field of 11 are declared to go to post for this 1m 4f handicap with £51,020 on offer to the winner. Saaed Bin Suroor saddles Emirates Flyer. The six-year-old won at the Carnival in 2014 and hasn’t been the easiest to keep sound. Ran respectably on three starts here in 2015 all on the dirt and was 2nd at this meeting last year once again on the dirt. Returns to the turf today and hasn’t been seen on that surface since finishing a neck 2nd at Redcar in the valuable two-year-old trophy race in October 2013. Prior to that run, he was no match for Kingman when 2nd at Sandown. Was suited by quick turf as a juvenile and should be fit enough for his first start in 12 months. Rio Tigre starts this years carnival off what looks a competitive mark, now 3lb lower than when a 2 ¾ length 4th behind Battersea here last February. That was over two furlongs further than this race and he could be a better horse at that distance and may need the run his first since March! The most interesting runner Desert God trained in India who last year won the Indian St Léger. It’s hard to weight up the Indian form but the trainer’s In The Spotlight also won that race before being beaten less than a length into 4th in this race off a mark of 103 and Desert God races off 100 today. Interesting to see that good judge Ron Wood has put the horse up as his nap in the Racing Post.
Verdict: Rio Tigre can go well and looks on a good handicap mark but is one to watch for in later races at the Carnival and over a bit further. Emirates Flyer should be fit enough first time up and this could be the time to catch him. Desert God is a fascinating runner who could well give India another Meydan winner and at the very least has each-way claims.
Win – Emirates Flyer
Each way – Desert God
3:40 – Longines Passion in Equestrian (Handicap) (Dirt) 1m1f110y
A field of 9 are set to go to post for this 1m 2f handicap this time on the dirt. It will be interesting to see how forward the Mike De Kock horses are. He saddles the four-year-old Saltarin Dubai. Formerly trained in Argentina, the colt won three races in that country in May and June, including a Grade 1 over today’s trip back in June. Four from six on the dirt in that country he looks to have a good chance on Racing Post Ratings of making a winning start to his career in Dubai. Will be interesting to see how well he has acclimatised to his new surroundings and if his new connections have a World Cup horse on their hands? The pre-race betting will be informative to see how fancied he is after a 194-day break.
Win – Saltarin Dubai
4:15 – Longines Master Collection (Handicap) (Turf) 5f
A 5f handicap sprint with a big field of 16 set to go to post for a race worth £65,306 to the winner. Plenty of horses in this race are well known to punters over here. The short priced favourite is top weight Ertijaal who was a close-up 2nd in the big Group 1 here on World Cup night. This will be his first run since but he won this race last year off a similar layoff. The six-year-old races from an 8lb higher mark than last year but a reproduction of his Group 1 form would see him go close if even off his career high mark. From a value perspective, I am happy to take him on. Paul Midgley saddles Line of Reason, the seven year old likes quick ground and a strongly run 5f and is handicapped to go close if the all the cards fall right. Caspian Prince won the Epsom Dash for his previous trainer last June and continued that improvement for new trainer Roger Fell winning three 5f races at Beverley, Musselburgh and Dundalk in September/October. The eight-year-old was behind Line of Reason at Newcastle just before Christmas but the former C&D winner should be spot on fitness wise today. The Ian Williams-trained Sir Maximilian is on a good mark if near to his best. The 8-year-old won a valuable handicap over C&D on his second start here last February off a 4lb higher mark. Was only 6th in this race last year but ran better than his finishing position suggests as he was drawn in stall 2 and the main action was with those horses drawn high. Gets a 12lb pull in the weights with Ertijaal for a 4 ½ length beating. He has had a couple of runs, since a summer break, recently on the all weather so should be ready fitness wise. Stall 5 might not be the best but he is handicapped to go close if at his best.
Verdict: – Ertijaal is a worthy favourite and most likely winner but there is precious value in his price. I would like to have seen more from Caspian Prince on his last start but he looks to be nicely drawn for a big performance whilst Sir Maximilian is a decent each-way contender if stall 5 isn’t too much of an inconvenience.
Each way – Sir Maximilian