Dubai Diaries: The World Cup is Coming…

Ross Birkett's Dubai Diaries

Ross Birkett’s Dubai Diaries

It’s so close, you can almost taste it.

It seems like no time has passed since the dust settled on the 2012 Dubai World Cup meeting last March and already we’re in the clutches of another Dubai World Cup Carnival.

This week saw the final list published of those horses who have been accepted to race for Meydan’s riches and it can finally put to bed the Chinese whispers about who is heading to the desert for next Thursday’s kick-off.

For those unaware, the list can be found here:

On first inspection, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the quality and quantity of horses listed.

Yes, you’ve got Group 1 winners such as Dancing Rain, Gordon Lord Byron and Zazou but I can’t see horses of this caliber coming out too early because there aren’t the races for them.

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The first influx of international raiders landed two days before Christmas and they included four from the Singapore stable of Steven Burridge.

Burridge had a great old time at last year’s Carnival when he brought out four horses and they all won. Now, whether this was because the UAE handicapper had underestimated the Singapore form (which was being tested for the first time here) or it was just due to the fact that the horses were extremely fit and had no problems with the Tapeta all-weather surface, I don’t know but I get the suspicion that 2013 might be a little tougher for them.

That’s not to say I am hoping they don’t win, far from it. In various interviews with Steven, you couldn’t find a nicer bloke and he was always willing to give you five minutes of his time to chat about the horses.

I have noticed a significant difference in the attitudes towards the media between foreign trainers and those of Britain.

At home, the media are treated with a bit of contempt and no handler is willing to give away too much info whereas with the Aussies and Americans, they see the press as a platform to publicise themselves and it seems as though it has been ingrained in them from early in their careers that you need to keep the media on your side and the TV cameras pointing right at you.

Having said that, one Brit from a different mould is Robert Cowell.

The Newmarket-based trainer has become a bit of a stalwart to Dubai in recent seasons and he’s back with a trio of raiders.

I managed to see quite a bit of Monsieur Joe when he was over last Carnival and, at first inspection, I could not believe this was the right horse, he was so small, unassuming and barely caught the eye. However, put a saddle on his back and he comes alive, as he demonstrated when landing a 5f handicap on the turf last February. He seems to save his best for this place and I’d definitely have him down as one to watch.

As I said earlier, it wasn’t until having a deeper look at the list of acceptees to the DWCC that I unearthed a few lurkers.

Take Maxentius, for instance. Trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, he looked to have the world at his feet when running away with a novice stakes at Doncaster in June but the wheels seemed to fall off subsequently and he’s already falling into the ‘forgotten horse’ category.

However, now could be his chance to shine. At the age of three, he’ll be eligible to run in the UAE ‘Classics’. I use the term loosely as indeed there are Guineas, Oaks and Derbys to run in but their respective merit compared to those old establishments of Europe are somewhat questionable.

Regardless, they offer a chance to win plenty of dollars and get some valuable black-type on the breeding so they’re not to be missed. The fields are usually small and, more often than not, dominated by Godolphin but Maxentius is the kind of individual who could mix it up a bit and get the boys in blue in a bit of a sweat.

I’ll be having plenty of early starts in the coming weeks as I head down to Meydan to catch the morning trackworks so will be able to reveal some more next week and hopefully find some hidden gems in the desert.

Ross Birkett

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