Author: Howard Wright

THE CURTAIN HAS come down; the majority of the supporting artists have moved on to other events, and most of the principal actors, those who have not retired entirely, are taking a break until next season. UAE Racing 2021-22 is over. How was it for you? Performing in front of full crowds was a novelty, after two years ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, but Covid-19 still had an impact, especially on equine travel.

Yet those who did make the effort produced a fascinating season, especially during the truncated Dubai World Cup Carnival season. Leaving aside Super Saturday and the World Cup card itself, the seven carnival meetings held at Meydan produced talking points galore, some positive, some not so, but all worthy of inspection with a view to what may happen in eight months’ time.

And that’s without wondering how far a more co-operative programme with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain could impact on the UAE’s conditions book for 2022-23. As has been pointed out here before, the overall statistics for wins, places and total prize money, which are available elsewhere in the magazine, do not tell the whole story.

For instance, their reliance on pure numbers masks the ratio of risk, or opportunity, to financial reward. In order to make a little more sense of the ‘reward against opportunity’ equation, I devised a formula. It involves allotting a descending number of points (six down to one) for the six finishing positions that earn carnival prize money and dividing the total by the number of runners for each country represented.

Godolphin and the UAE are counted as separate entities for this exercise, and satellite stables operated by Simon Crisford and Ismael Mohammed are regarded as UAE-based. It’s a ‘points for prizes’ exercise, and the resulting figure is an average points score per runner. It takes no account of actual prize money won, which would skew the figures towards the better horses.

Instead, it attempts to balance opportunity, expressed by the number of runners, against the reward of earning at least some prize money. The tables alongside are full of possibilities for next season, not least that Doug O’Neill’s success with a handpicked team is sure to have been spotted by some fellow US connections.

From just ten outings, O’Neill scored four Carnival wins with Get Back Goldie, Hot Rod Charlie, Appreciated and Notre Dame, for an admirable strike rate of 40%. Similarly, Antonio Cintra Pereira’s mission from Uruguay, which extended beyond the carnival, could strike a chord among horsemen in South America.

His team gained just one success from nine runners at the carnival, when Bet Law was successful on the opening day in January, but there was plenty of encouragement elsewhere. Quality Boone, who began his UAE season with an eve of Christmas Eve win, kept his form well enough to land a Super Saturday first, before running a highly creditable fifth behind Crown Pride in the UAE Derby.

Stablemate Aero Trem became a rare Gran Premio Latinamericano winner to step outside his home continent and while he failed to set the Northern Hemisphere on fire, he did justify the trip to the Middle East by running fifth in the Saudi Cup, before coming in below par when only eighth in the World Cup.

With Bahrain putting its stamp on the winter racing stage, Fawzi Nass can be expected to continue ‘cross border’ campaigns as owner and trainer that this season resulted in three carnival wins and a clutch of places from 16 runners. The exciting filly Shahama provided two successes, while the other went to the enigmatic Withering.

France’s Hiroo Shimazu and Nicolas Caullery matched the Nass total of three winners but from just ten runners. Shimazu marked the opening day with Pevensey Bay while Caullery went one better by saddling Batwan to win two races a month apart. Careful selection marked their approach to the carnival. Of returning nations, Australia, Greece and Turkey did sufficiently well from small numbers, without managing a win, to suggest their representatives may be back, while the Scandinavians also failed to hit the mark but with 42 runners between trainers from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, they did enough to suggest that another spell in the sun away from the cold of their winter is on the cards.

But what of the Brits? Their 51 runners in the carnival raised an average of just 1.5 points, managing a single win, from the evergreen Lord Glitters, six seconds and four thirds. In total, 11 runners trained in Britain finished in the first three at the carnival; 17 finished in places four to six, and 23, or 47%, failed to pick up prize money for their efforts.

Full marks to Jamie Osborne with his new purchase Alignak, who failed to win but whose three carnival runs brought a fifth and two seconds before his sixth place behind Hukum on Super Saturday and fourth spot to Stay Foolish in the Dubai Gold Cup. And to training newcomer Alice Haynes for scooping four ‘also ran’ prize pots with her two runners. But for most other British trainers, it’s surely a case of back to the drawing board. Meantime, enjoy the break. October will be here soon enough.