Dubai World Cup 2022 Entries: Hot Rod Charlie will try to drive Life Is Good

Last year, it was Mike Stidham's Mystic Guide (pictured) that won the '21 Dubai World Cup. Will another American runner take the prize? Have a read of this preview by turfwriter J.N. Campbell ...
Last year, it was Mike Stidham's Mystic Guide (pictured) that won the '21 Dubai World Cup. Will another American runner take the prize? Have a read of this preview by turfwriter J.N. Campbell ...

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Race 9: 1¼, 2000m (Dirt), Dubai World Cup (G1), Purse $12 Million, 4+ (Saturday)

The Dubai World Cup (DWC), which is the feature of its “Racing Carnival,” is back with a magnificent card. Due to the Pandemic, it was the first of several major international Thoroughbred races to be cancelled in 2020. Its resumption a year on was heralded as a sign of “normalcy” returned, and it was another stellar exhibition across the board of talent that was on-display. The draw for the DWC typically has a strong field of competitors, although many pundits thought the ’21 Edition lacked star power. However, it is hard to disagree that last year’s undercard did not deliver a needed punch.

On the wagering front, this will be just the 2nd time that North American “punters” will have the opportunity to join international pools. Once again, the Hong Kong Jockey Club will host the consolidated “world pools.” For the DWC, an event conceived and hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (who also owns Darley Stud & Godolphin Racing), “the House” has won this contest many times. It was the richest horse race until the inaugural Saudi Cup in 2019.

Still, the race holds a special significance to North American racing since some of our greatest runners have shipped to Meydan Racecourse to seek the top prize. Names like Cigar (who won the first DWC), Silver Charm, Roses in May, Invasor, Curlin, Animal Kingdom, California Chrome, Arrogate, and Mike Stidham’s Mystic Guide last year, are some of the names you might remember from the not-too-distant past. Well-known jockeys (Jerry Bailey, Frankie Dettori, John Velazquez, Mike Smith, and now Luis Saez) and trainers (Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Graham Motion, and Dale Romans) come to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in hopes of World Cup glory, as they ship into a truly international exhibition in the name of the Thoroughbred. Here we go again!

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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* Number denotes gate position ...

#1 Life Is Good (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: T. Pletcher): (10/11)

With over $2.8 million in earnings to his credit, this son of the great Into Mischief is living up to his moniker and to his father’s legacy. Last year as a 3-yr-old, coming off an injury that kept him from running along the Triple Crown Trail, WinStar and Co. made the move from Baffert to Pletcher. Can you guess why? I digress … The Kelso H. (G2) at Belmont Park in September told the tale … 2 turns, easily, was in the cards. Coming to the Breeders’ Cup, he was a shoe-in to the win the Dirt Mile (G1). That score was followed by a hoof-to-hoof matchup with Knicks Go in the Pegasus World Cup (G1). If there were any doubts before the race … they were erased around the top of the lane. If “LIG” can improve off that performance (and it is possible, if the shipping to the UAE went smoothly), then he probably wins the DWC. With superstar jock Irad Ortiz once again in the irons, he really only has one rival in this spot—a horse by the name of “Hot Rod.”

Grade: A

 

#2 Aero Trem (BRZ) (Jky: V. Leal/Trn: A.C. Pereira): (50/1)

Back in October, this Brazilian bred runner scored in one of the most prestigious Group 1 races in all of South America-- Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano. At the Maronas in Uruguay, with regular rider Vagner Leal aboard, he won impressively against a large field of 12 others. That was pretty impressive off a 280-day break. Coming to Riyadh for the Group 1 Saudi Cup was going to be a step-up, to say the least. Still, in many ways, the 4-yr-old by Shanghai Bobby acquitted himself well with a 5th Place ending at odds of 100/1. The DWC is a tougher race, in my opinion, and I would not be surprised if he was down the listing on the tote. Even with the guidance of Leal, it is going to be very difficult to end up in the Top 5.

Grade: C+

 

#3 Chuwa Wizard (JPN) (Jky: K. Yuga/Trn: O. Ryuji): (20/1)

If there was a central theme from the Saudi Cup, it is that Japanese runners deserve even more respect than before. Each year, slowly but surely, entries have risen, and success has come in. Look at what the Japanese did over this past year at the Breeders’ Cup if you don’t believe me. I will say what I did in this Preview last year … Wouldn’t it be something if this entrant scored the 1st win for Japan in the DWC? Trained by Ryuji Okubo, he still has all the tools… stamina, strength, focus, and form. Last year in the DWC, he ran a game 2nd to Stidham’s Mystic Guide before taking 3 months off. The able-bodied conditioner then proceeded to keep him in Japan where he ran against the likes of T O Keynes, Mutually, and most recently on 2 Feb. against Ailes Du Courage. That “prep” at Kawasaki Racecourse gave the connections confidence that he was fit to return to the Middle East. I am not sure that he is quite up to scratch with the American entries, but you can never count out the Japanese. This we have learned …

Grade: B

 

#4 Grocer Jack (GER) (Jky: T. Marquand/Trn: W. Haggas): (40/1) -- SCRATCHED

Jockey Tom Marquand just got married to the very-talented Hollie Doyle, and we wish the couple many happy returns. I rather wish that she was riding this entry by Oasis Dream (GB). Her aggressive style might deliver an unexpected win to owner, Prince Faisal Bin Khaled Bin Abdulaziz. As it stands, this German bred runner is going to be up against it, when it comes to class. Haggas, who trained ably for The Queen, put this runner in the Neom Cup (G3) last month on the Saudi Cup undercard, and it was a bust. Now, the team comes to Meydan with high hopes. I am not going to critique too much an entry that looks outmatched … think about what happened in the Saudi Cup. Still, hard to see Marquand celebrating in the winner’s circle! Rider switch … please?

Grade: C

 

#5 Country Grammer (Jky: F. Dettori/Trn: B. Baffert): (10/1)

If there is a clear “Third Choice” in this edition of the DWC, then it is probably Bob Baffert’s 5-yr-old son of Tonalist. No one really knew how well this horse would run in last month’s Saudi Cup (G1) because he had not competed since the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1). That was back in May of 2021, but this is Baffert we are talking about … Even though the beleaguered conditioner is at his wit’s end when it comes to legal troubles, he still knows how to develop the consummate training plan. His runner, owned by the mercurial Amr Zedan, ended up 2nd behind the “local long shot.” Much to everyone’s surprise, on both counts … Immediately shipping to the UAE, he now comes in contact with international riding star Frankie Dettori, to form an interesting mix of connections. What Dettori must do is keep one eye on the speed of “LIG,” and the other on the closing ability of “Hot Rod.” If anyone is up to the challenge, then it’s Dettori. Baffert is never far, it seems, from the limelight or from controversy. Take your pick …

Grade: B+

 

#6 Real World (IRE) (Jky: C. Soumillon/Trn: S. bin Suroor): (16/1)

Frankie Dettori … Saeed bin Suroor … Godolphin … Dark Angel (IRE) … all involved in the Saudi Cup (G1) with this 5-yr-old router, could not get the job done … sadly … 11th Place. With form that recently resides on the turf (score at Meydan this year), he has proven that he can handle the dirt surface. His trainer is a master conditioner for the world’s greatest breeder and owner, so you should expect this one to be ready to roll. Even though his resume comes up a bit short when it comes to competing in Group 1s, he ran well at Royal Ascot, Newbury, York, and at Longchamp. He is quite a European vacationer … What with Dettori heading over to the Zedan/Baffert camp, the accomplished Christophe Soumillon grabs the reigns, and that is not too shabby a choice. One to consider for the minors for sure!

Grade: C+

 

#7 Hot Rod Charlie (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: D. O’Neill): (5/2)

If there is a true rival to Pletcher’s “LIG,” then it is this 4-yr-old by Oxbow. The colt has built a nice resume for trainer Doug O’Neill, and the boisterous boys of Boat Racing (part-owners). His only true blemish, since running 2nd in the Belmont S. (G1) to Essential Quality, was that disastrous “DQ” in the Haskell S. (G1) at Monmouth Park last July. Since then, the Penn Derby (G1), the BC Classic (G1), and a “tune-up” in the San Antonio S. (G2) on Opening Day at Santa Anita in December were all game efforts. O’Neill then made the move to bring his prize runner to Dubai to prep for the WC. Ridden by William Buick, he ran effortlessly in the Al Maktoum Challenge (G2), the local race for this Group 1. Geared down during the last furlong, one has to think that he is ready to take to the track again. Flavien Prat, who was aboard in the Haskell, once again takes the mount. I will give him a chance to upend his rival 4-yr-old, but it is going to take his very best. The local experience is a major plus …

Grade: A-

 

#8 Midnight Bourbon (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: S. Asmussen): (10/1)

It is quite safe to say that Steve Asmussen’s colt by Tiznow just continues to be a mark of consistency for Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds. Even though he only has 2 wins out of 15 starts, his career earnings come to over $3 million. With 6 “Places,” and 5 “Shows,” that tells us that this 4-yr-old is never far from glory. Coming to Dubai from Saudi Arabia, he was 3rd behind Emblem Road and rival Country Grammer #5. Not bad, especially considering how poorly his old foe Mandaloun fared in that race. The UAE was a natural place to land, and Winchell is looking to have a huge weekend, what with their prize 3-yr-old, Epicenter, running in the G2 Louisiana Derby. Joel Rosario will be on that prospect, and will not be coming to Meydan. Instead, Asmussen has chosen the well-travelled Jose Ortiz. That is a great choice, and when this jockey-trainer get together, they can be pretty formidable. This will not be an easy ask, but if the “favorites” falter, then look for Asmussen’s runner to be there. Needing the lead … that might be the way to win.

Grade: B

 

#9 Magny Cours (Jky: W. Buick/Trn: A. Fabre): (20/1)

A turf horse that made the switch to the dirt in the Saudi Cup, we know that famed conditioner Andre Faber has the ability to train up for Godolphin. The seasoned 7-yr-old by Medaglia d’Oro was 10th in that Group 1, way behind long shot Emblem Road. It should be known though, that Faber’s charge was 3rd in last year’s Dubai World Cup, finishing behind Mike Stidham’s Mystic Guide. As I mentioned in the Saudi Cup Preview, he has form from France against the likes of Lord Glitters and Barney Roy. Still, the WC is a different kind of stage, so we shall see. Jockey William Buick might be the best rider in the world, and that should give the “Boys in Blue” some major confidence. He knows Meydan like the back of his stirrups.

Grade: B-

 

#10 Hypothetical (IRE) (Jky: M. Barzalona/Trn: S. bin Ghadayer): (16/1)

I liked this pithy sentence I constructed for this runner from last year … Nothing like a horse named after something that has not happened as of yet … But in many ways, it did. In the DWC21, he was 4th to Mystic Guide, in what was as bizarre a post parade as I have ever seen. We had keyed up horses, and some that decided to take a tour of the course. This former member of John Gosden's outfit came to the Middle East under the guidance of Salem Bin Ghadayer. Beginning at the 13k level, the son of Lope de Vega (IRE) then graduated incrementally. Last out, he ran on nicely in a Group 1 local prep, the Al Maktoum Challenge. That could mean some good things will be coming his way, or that he has reached the limit for how high he can go. This really could be a toss-up … What we do know is that jockey Mickael Barzalona has the ability to pilot in some exceedingly difficult circumstances ... that could help again. 

Grade: B

 

#11 Remorse (IRE) (Jky: T. O’Shea/Trn: B. Seemar): (25/1)

The Seemar Barn is sending one of its best representatives to the DWC, and if you are looking for a horse that has a win over the track (11 Mar ’21), then maybe this is your price play. Earlier this month, this son of the great Dubawi (IRE), who sadly passed away not long ago, traded punches with rival Hypothetical #10 in the Al Maktoum Challenge (G3) on the MT. He ended up a close 2nd, and that signaled that maybe he could make some waves on the track near the Gulf. Even with regular man O’Shea in the irons, this is a major move as far as the class rating. The 5-yr-old is going to have to run the race of his life for Al Rashid Stables. Dreams can be big in this part of the world, and wildcatting has a lot in common with horse racing. Probably too much to do … remorse indeed …

Grade: C

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Should be a great set of races from the Meydan Racecourse in the UAE for DWC22! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!

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