HORSE RACING: Leading pundit Charlie McCann gives his latest weekend preview of the top jump racing. This week the former Talksport tipster focuses on the Dubai World Cup and William Hill Lincoln.
The richest horse race in the world takes place this afternoon in Dubai with the $10 million Dubai World Cup the climax to a quite wonderful seven-race card the first to be held at the new $2.7 billion (yes billion) course at Meydan.
The World Cup itself may not have a Dubai Millennium or Curlin in the field but it is a fascinating race with the Hong Kong Cup winner Vision D’Etat, Breeders’ Cup Classic runner up Gio Ponti and the Newmarket Champion Stakes winner Twice Over (behind Gio Ponti in the Classic) at the head of the market.
There is a very strong British challenge with Brian Meehan’s Crowded House sure to have his supporters but preference is for another Newmarket raider Gitano Hernando (5.45) trained by 33-year-old Marco Botti and ridden by Kieren Fallon who was punched by an irate owner after a race at Lingfield Park last Saturday!
Gitano Hernando won the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita back in October (having broken the track record at Wolverhampton previously) and warmed up for a crack at the World Cup when thrashing a moderate field at Lingfield last month. This represents another major step up in class but the progressive colt is four from four on an artificial surface and is given the nod.
Earlier on in the card Presvis (11/4 with StanJames.com) trained by Luca Cumani is likely to go off a short-priced favourite to go one better in the Duty Free, having finished runner up to Gladiatorus in 2009, but he hasn’t got the best of the draw and Christophe Lemaire, taking the mount for the first time, will surely need luck in running from stall 15.
I am a big fan of Confront and he is one to keep on the right side of this turf season but preference is for the veteran Good Ba Ba (3.55) who is twice as old as some of his rivals but is a three-time winner of the Hong Kong Mile. One note of caution however; he is a confirmed hold-up horse and he like Presvis will need luck in running but at 6/1 with StanJames.com he could reward each way support.
Musir (2.35) is a confident selection in the UAE Derby although he was a late defection from the Al Bastakiya over today’s C&D earlier in the month. The selection gave South African trainer Mike De Kock a fourth win in the UAE 2000 Guineas last month and should have too much for Godolphin’s unbeaten Mendip visually so impressive last time but in a very modest time.
Rocket Man (3.15) is a Grade 1 winner in Singapore and he is taken to land the 6f Golden Shaheen having easily landed the odds in his prep race at Kranji last month. The consistent Benbaun and Regal Parade are the British representatives but they face an uphill task against the Rocket.
Closer to home and the start of the turf flat season and Doncaster stages the first leg of the spring double the Lincoln Handicap which sees a very short-priced favourite in Penitent trained by William Haggas. The jolly has been handed what appears an excellent draw in stall 1 and, with Johnny Murtagh booked, confidence is high that he can supplement the yard’s 2007 win of Very Wise in the corresponding race.
Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty are always a combination worth a second glance at Newbury back over the sticks and I am sweet on the chances of Kerada in the mares’ final at 2.15. Unbeaten in three starts over hurdles Kerada will jump a fence in time but ought to have the race run to suit this afternoon with front-runners Evella and Queen Poline in opposition.