The jump racing season has crescendoed with Cheltenham Festival a thing of the past and Aintree’s Grand National meeting fast approaching, but the first major flat racing card of the year takes centre stage this Saturday over in Dubai, where the massive riches of World Cup night are up for grabs.
Whilst Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate looks untouchable in the World Cup itself, there are five Group One races across the card that have attracted some of the best of Britain, Ireland, Hong Kong, Japan and more.
The best race of the night looks to be the 12-furlong Sheema Classic, and last year’s winner POSTPONED is back to defend his title and add to the three Group One races he won as a five-year-old.
His closest market rival is Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel, who he beat in the 10-furlong Juddmonte International at York and in this race last season, while he also took the scalp of the same trainer’s Found in the Coronation Cup on Derby Day at Epsom.
However, whilst those victories made him the long-time ante-post favourite for last season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, both those opponents reversed the form in Paris, giving Postponed something to find.
I put that defeat down to two things.
The first is Postponed had been on the go since early March last season, and it’s incredibly difficult for horses to hold their form at Group One level throughout the best part of ten months.
The second is O’Brien, Highland Reel’s trainer, knows that too well and never tries to do it, instead campaigning his best horses around single targets – and it’s fair to say this race was not Highland Reel’s big aim last season, so I’m not sure why it would be this time.
I doubt we’ll see the brilliant Highland Reel that won the King George or Breeders’ Cup last season, whilst Postponed comes here with a run under his belt and clearly intent on being fully found up.
The issue is that prep run was a defeat, whilst last year he practically won the same race on the bridle, so there’s an argument that he isn’t in the same form.
There’s good reason why he remains favourite despite his conqueror from the last day, Prize Money, also lining up, as he had a luckless passage through the race and was attempting to defy stall ten, the widest of all.
Drawn stall seven this time – the same stall he won from last year – he will have no such excuses and the stronger pace anticipated with Highland Reel in the race should play to his strengths.
He has a high cruising speed and will love the fast ground, so he’ll take all the beating and I think 5/2 is a nice price.
Aidan O’Brien also runs Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks heroine Seventh Heaven, who could be the value in the race at around 9/1, but again I doubt O’Brien will have targeted this race particularly and we should see her at her best later in the season.
Jack Hobbs showed he’s still got some of his old ability with a solid fourth in last year’s Champion Stakes at Ascot, but he’s going to have to improve on his very best form to win this and that seems highly unlikely.
I know little of the Japanese runner Sounds Of Earth, whilst Earnshaw needs to find huge improvement to figure.
2pts win Postponed @5/2, 16:05 Meydan, Saturday
Leave a comment