Author: Stephen Molyneux

A first week of the carnival that not far off had it all with International winners, local successes for Raven’s Corner and Al Hayette plus the usual couple of races that were completely dominated by Godolphin. The first week also brought to my attention the continuing dominance of class acts in the sprint handicaps, to the point now of me asking the genuine question of whether such races are too heavily biased in favour of those towards the head of the weights. Last year we had Ertijaal win off 118 carrying 60kg, Hit The Bid win from 108 carrying 60kg and Faatinah win off 112 carrying 60kg. Fast forward 12 months and the latter repeated the dose on Thursday off 110 carrying, yep you guessed it, 60kg.

Baccarat and Jungle Cat are two other examples that can be thrown into the mix from 2017 where again Ertijaal won a handicap off top weight. Why is the gap harder to bridge in sprints? Probably because sprinters are built to carry big weights and don’t feel the pressure of carrying 60kg for 60 seconds as much, as opposed to having to lump a bigger weight for longer over extended trips where fatigue can set in more. To that end, I am not sure enough is being done to spread out the handicap in these sprints, highlighted by the fact Faatinah only went up three pounds for his victory (the equivalent of one length) despite winning by two and a half lengths.

Put simply if Faatinah were to meet Hit The Bid again in a handicap he would be expected to win again by one and a half lengths whereas surely the point of reassessing a handicap is to ensure that the also rans have a chance of reversing form. Now there are other circumstances to consider here, namely Faatinah didn’t build on his reappearance last year, that rating Faatinah much higher than 113 would have him amongst the elite sprinters in Australia when that has already proven not to be the case, and that Faatinah is unlikely to run in a handicap again at Meydan this season, but to my mind none of this should really be considered when assessing a handicap.

We saw last year that the sprints became disappointing events as the season went on, to the point that on February 17th we saw a five runner affair won by Baccarat, and I hope the same doesn’t happen again this season. It could just have been one of those things, and the entries for Thursday’s sprint are certainly encouraging, but something to keep an eye on as we go through the carnival nonetheless. I understand the task of rating horses from different jurisdictions is a thankless one, and I am certainly not having a pop at Melvin Day and Neil Jennings as they have explained their stance to me and I can understand the logic, but I just don’t always necessarily agree with it! On to this week and an early opportunity to see the Classic power of Saeed bin Suroor with Royal Meeting and Royal Marine both holding entries.

It was assumed that once they both won Group Ones last season they would winter here yet not race but this to me signals Bin Suroor’s intent on trying to win a Kentucky Derby, as opposed to a European Guineas. Whilst bin Suroor hasn’t landed the UK 2000 Guineas since 1999, you feel it is a maiden success in the Kentucky Derby, which takes place on the same day, that has more relevance now to the boys in blue. Thunder Snow was a signal of his intent and that once he has a horse good enough to compete at Group One level, it is a case of trying to prove their worth on the dirt before heading to America. It could be argued that both Royal Marine (half-brother to Secret Ambition) and Royal Meeting (half-brother to Heavy Metal) are bred more for the dirt than Thunder Snow ever was so it will be exciting to see who the pair get on over the course of the next two months

Stephen Molyneux
Dubai Racing Channel

Class Acts Continue To Dominate Turf Sprints