Author: Stephen Molyneux

A SIGNIFICANT week of International success at the Dubai World Cup Carnival last Thursday, and it is well worth revisiting, particularly the victory of Bella Fever. The Meydan Classic Trial won’t go down as the best race Mike de Kock has ever won in Dubai, but it probably won’t be far off his most significant given what is a drastically reduced challenge on the carnival, plus the story behind the winning filly. Southern-Hemisphere bred horses have had a notably difficult time of things in the UAE in recent years, particularly the younger generation given the weight they have to concede being on average six months older. Factor in the travelling and it is plain to see why they initially struggle, or in many cases fail to adapt at all.

Not a bit of it with Bella Fever though who overcame her own adversity, both on route to Dubai from Uruguay and you could say before the race itself as she was anything but easy on herself and for a moment or two it looked as though she wouldn’t race at all. She did and unleashed a powerful turn of foot under Dane O’Neill to post what didn’t seem far off being an emotional success for De Kock. Well documented quarantine issues continue to hamper De Kock’s ambitions, both with having horses here and more recently Australia, yet if there is one man who won’t accept things lying down it is De Kock.

Whether we ever get back to the situation where the De Kock stable is going ‘toe to toe’ with Godolphin in the UAE is debatable, the road seems too long and winding for that, but the success of Bella Fever was a timely reminder that the South African can still mix it with the best. Following hot on the heels of the Uruguayan filly winning, and Doug O’Neill put his name on the board, and a significant prize too in the shape of the UAE 2000 Guineas. Fore Left is a well used saying on a golf course when things don’t go to plan but so far there has nothing errant about the assault the O’Neill camp has had on Meydan.

The current stats stand at 11 runners with eight of those finishing in the first four. In anyone’s book that is consistency personified and whilst the own personal ambitions of O’Neill may leave him a winner or two short of perfection, this is still a highly encouraging carnival for the American. A key point will be seeing how these horses perform on their second runs, again the signs looking good on that score with Blitzkreig out last week and building on his reappearance with a second placing. One or two more wins will ensure this has been a worthwhile exercise, hopefully prompting one or two more Americans to make the journey over. Running plans for the Saudi Cup meeting were released during the week and my first feeling was that such an excellent cast could well leave Super Saturday woefully short of talent, as many felt it would.

Fair play to everyone behind the Saudi Cup and the supporting races because it truly does look a meeting to savour but at what cost to Dubai? By my reckoning of the expected runners released for the eight races last week, we could have confidently expected to see 19 or 20 of those runners either on Super Saturday or in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy and Maktoum Challenge R3 for Arabians, those last two races taking place on the Thursday before the Saudi Cup. That isn’t even including horses that could yet be added, such as North America, Bella Fever and one or two others who could well earn the right to run with prominent showings over the next week or two. There could be a cheap Group One placing on offer come Super Saturday for horses that are little more than handicappers, a scenario that sits uncomfortably bearing in mind the prestige of these races. I am of course presuming that horses won’t run in Saudi AND on Super Saturday, the timing seemingly much too short but that is perhaps something that can be looked into for the future.

Stephen Molyneux
Dubai Racing Channel

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