Weekend Overview: Dubai as always served up some excellent racing that was well worth the hype. Not all the winners were clear favorites but many of the race were formful enough. Curlin asserted his dominance in fine fashion. Rick Dutrow also had the weekend of his life as he won the Florida Derby and a pair of races in Dubai with Diamond Stripes and Benny The Bull. Gulfstream was home to some big efforts as Big Brown, Electrify and Sugar Swirl all looked excellent in their respective victories.
Performance of the Week: When the post positions were released for the Florida Derby one opinion seemed unanimous. Big Brown was going to need to be the real deal in order to win from the 12 post. Outside posts at Gulfstream have been tough and especially tough for speed horses but Big Brown is clearly showing he's much better than average. He took the race by the horns going into the first turn and never looked back. It was a colossal performance by a very good horse. What it means for the Derby is not really the focus of this paragraph, that I will discuss tomorrow. This was simply about his performance in the Florida Derby. It was something to see.
Race of the Week: How did Jay Peg managed to come back and win the Duty Free? I've seen the race a few times and the camera angle is deceptive but it seems that Jay Peg did indeed fall off the lead by about a length at one point after setting the pace the whole way around. Once the real running began it looked as if Jay Peg would be found wanting as the classy Darjina went past and Seachange and Vodka also appeared to have more run but Jay Peg re-rallied and got his momentum back in the last 70 yards. He battled past Darjina and the others in the shadow of the wire.
Flop of the Weekend: Godolphin gets flop of the weekend honours for their stables poor performance on Dubai World Cup day. One second and one third from twelve runners. Literato, Jalil, Creachadoir and Diabolical were all being well backed to put in good efforts but not one of the quartet managed better than 7th. World Cup day is the biggest day of Godolphin's year. They buy horses (like Diabolical) specifically to perform well in the World Cup and on paper they had a strong team. The end result was a major letdown.
TCR Mover’s and Shakers: Curlin is now the top ranked horse in the nation but with something of an asterisk beside his name. He has earned more points than anyone else but as of right now he has not yet run in America. A horse officially needs to run in America three times to be eligible to be named the TCR horse of the year so we'll watch these developments closely. Curlin is going to need to have at least 2 stateside preps for the Breeders Cup Classic. Benny The Bull became the top Male Sprinter while Sugar Shake moved into first place in both the Female Sprinter and Main Track Older Female divisions. She is currently the only dual division leader. Big Brown is the new top ranked Three Year Old Male but that might only last a week or two as the other major preps have still to be contested. Well Armed made a big jump from 18th overall to 4th courtesy of his good race in the World Cup.
Tip O’the Cap: South African racing gets the tip of the cap this weekend. Years ago the odd quality horse would emerge from South Africa. Horse Chestnut looked brilliant but never really proved his worth. Ipi Tombe was certainly top class but again had an injury shortened career. Excellent horses are beginning to come from South Africa with regularity and the World Cup was a coming out party for South African racing. Mike de Kock, the dominant and progressive trainer from South Africa, trained 3 of the 6 winners the total record of horses either bred or based at one time in South Africa was 9-2-1-0. They have definitely arrived on the International scene.
KC Handicapping: I certainly hope some of you saw the comments section on this blog. Perhaps it's better for my reputation if you didn't but a commenter named KD asked about Sun Classique in the Sheema Classic and I proceed to say that she had no chance at all. Turns out KD was the only one with profitable advice to offer. I completely missed both Turf races but the 4 dirt races were basically formful and I was on the right track in each of them despite only having one winner on top. I did a fairly decent job identifying the bomb Don Renato, but hats off to KD for hitting the pick 3 and identifying Sun Classique as a live longshot.