03/28/2009 8:26AM

World Cup Day Live


9:26 am: Rise and shine! Only 14 minutes until the $1 million dollar Godolphin Mile, the first and cheapest of six straight races at Nad-al-Sheba worth a combined $21 million including the $6 million Dubai World Cup. And just 8 1/2 hours until the first Grade 1 Derby prep of the year, the $750k Florida Derby at Gulfstream. Here's the lineup:

(I'll update this chart, replacing ML favorites with winners, as the day goes on.)

Time to go see if NYRA Rewards is really up and running so I can play the old Godolphin Mile-UAE Derby-Golden Shaheen pick-3. There's a pick-6 on 2 through 7 from NAS, but with fields of 15,13,12,16,15 and 14, that looks a little too tough. Of those 85 entries, only one late scratch: Paso de Gloria (#13) in the UAE Derby.

10:05 am: Chalks Two Step Salsa ($5.60) and 3-1 Gayego, the only group/graded stakes winners on dirt in the field, ran 1-2 for home-team Godolphin in the Godolphin Mile. TVG, which is running the international feed interrupted with its own graphics and commercials, put up a chart of trainers' cumulative records on the 10 years of World Cup Nights, and you've never seen trainer standings that look like this:

Saeed Bin Surror--24

Michael de Kock--8

Kiaran McLaughlin-3

Rick Dutrow, Bobby Frankel-2

So now it's 25 for Suroor and Godolphin, which bought the 1-2 finishers at the end of their American campaigns last year. Two Step Salsa (formerly trained by Julio Canani) won a pair pf G3's at Hollywood last summer (the Laz Barrera and the Affirmed) and was third to Albertus Maximus in the BC Dirt/Synth Mile. Gayego (formerly trained by Paulo Lobo) won last year's Arkansas Derby. Chilean-bred, Saudi-owned Don Renato, third to Diamond Stripes in last year's Godolphin Mile, checked in third again this year, with Summer Doldrums fourth.

Don't know what they're calling the track officially, but it looked close to fast with almost no kickback during the race despite all the rain this week.

Desert Party is 1/5 at the moment for the upcoming UAE Derby. I didn't press him on my caveman 3x4x5 play (I know, it's a crude and dopey ticket but hey, it's early), so I guess I'm rooting for one of the three others I used: So Shiny, Soy Libriano or Naval Officer. 

10:20 am: Oops. Wrong Godolphin. Regal Ransom($28.20), second to Desert Party in the first two legs of the "Dubai Triple Crown," grimly held off his 2-5 stablemate this time for another 1-2 Godolphin finish. But it's hard to like either horse if they come over here for the Kentucky Derby. (Update: Godolphin reps have said both are coming.) Regal Ransom (formerly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin), an impressive debut winner at Saratoga and the beaten favorite in the Norfolk last year, looked like he didn't want another inch beyond today's 1800 meters, and Desert Party had every chance in the world to get by his tiring stablemate and couldn't.

Regal Ransom, beaten half a length by Desert Party in the 7f Ford Flex Trophy, and 4 3/4 lengths by him in the UAE 2000 Guineas, was a $675k sales yearling. The Distorted Humor colt raced under the Darley banner last year before joining the Godolphin string this winter.

11:25 am: Three races down, three privately-purchased former U.S. runners in the winner's circle. Big City Man ($13.80), a two-time stakes-winner at Calder as a 2-year-old in 2007 before being sidelined for all of 2008, ran his career record to 6-for-8 after running down even-money Indian Blessing in the Golden Shaheen. Big City Man, who now races for Sultan Saud Al Kabeer, is a 4-year-old Northern Afleet colt who initially sold as a yearling for $45k.

Indian Blessing, last year's champion filly sprinter, was in tight a little along the outside rail early in the straightaway race, but shot through an opening without ever breaking stride. Watching the race live, with a pan shot at a weird nearly head-on angle, it looked like she was chasing the winner but the overhead replay showed her establishing a clear lead. Diabolical, runner-up in last year's BC Turf Sprint, ran third for Godolphin.

After getting skunked in the early pick-3 by Regal Ransom, reloaded for the Shaheen--Duty Free-Sheema sequence with an even cruder and dopier 3x7x5 partwheel: 2,3,12/1,3,6,10,12,13,15/6,7,10,12,13.

This is the last World Cup card to be run at NAS, which will be demolished next month, to be replaced by the ambitious and Meydan City project, wich has been delayed by a global recession that has hit even Dubai. It has yet to be announced what the main-track racing surface there will be. It was initially going to be synthetic but now may be a tradional dirt surface, and the ultimate decision will be an interesting one. On one hand, the Maktoums have had some success over synthetics (like Raven's Pass winning the BC Classic) but they also have invested heavily in dirt horses as stallions.  

Tried to look at the espn360 coverage that commenter Cass keeps touting, but got the following message:

"ESPN360.com is available at no charge to fans who receive their high-speed internet connection from an ESPN360.com affiliated internet service provider. ESPN360.com is also available to fans that access the internet from U.S. college campuses and U.S. military bases. Your current computer network falls outside of these categories."

11:45 am: The upcoming $5 million Duty Free is the first grass race on the card and as the TVG guys just illustrated, there's a vast difference of opinion between American and British bettors on this one. Everyone's favorite Oklahoma-bred, Kip DeVille, is 4-1 in the American pools but 17-1 in the U.K. American bettors are making U.S.-based Hyperbaric and Brit-based Paco Boy close in price at 12-1 and 10-1 but the U.K. prices are over 100-1 on Hyperbaric and just 5-1 on Paco Boy.

12:10 pm: Oops again. Gladiatorus ($30.40) forgot to stop after opening a huge early lead in the Duty Free as everyone else took back and waited for him to come back to them. The 4-year-old Silic colt, 6 for 9 as a 2-year-old in Italy in 2007, returned from over a year's absence to win two Dubai races against weaker company this winter. Another winner for the Maktoums, though this one comes from an more obscure family member, Sheik Mansoor bin Mohd al Maktoum. I'm guessing Sheik Monsoor is a younger-generation Maktoum since a Google search revealed he has a Facebook page and there's a video of his university graduation on YouTube.

I went seven deep in the Pick-3 and managed not to run 1-2-3-4, a pretty impressive feat. The superfecta of 14-1 Galdiatorus, 16-1 Presvis, 42-1 Alexandros and 46-1 Niconero was reported as paying $373,416 for $1, but that probably reflects only a dime or two of winning bets.

12:26 pm: Study in contrasts on TVG: we just went from the paddock shots for the upcoming $5 million Sheema Classic to...the opener at Tampa Bay, an $8k maiden claimer.

12:55 pm: Back-to-back upset winners for trainer Muharrak bin Shafya and former leading camel jockey (seriously) Ahmed Ajtebi as 18-1 Eastern Anthem nosed out 19-1 Spanish Moon in the $5m Dubai Sheema Classic. This one is owned by Sheik Hamdan bin Mohd al Maktoum, not to be confused with Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum of Invasor and Shadwell fame. Eastern Anthem, a 5-year-old by Singspiel, raced in the Godolphin colors last year but was demoted from the family's top flight after a disappointing sixth to Sixtioes Icon in his group-stakes debut.

The winner was tough to like and I'm glad I didn't play the race. He had won 4 of 9 starts, and was a last-out course and distance winner, but was thrashed in his only previous graded-stakes appearance and looked pretty light on the Racing Post and Timeform ratings.

1:10 pm: Twenty minutes until the $6 million Dubai World Cup. Asiatic Boy (5-2), Albertus Maximus (3-1) and Casino Drive (3-1) are close in the early American betting.

Thanks to commenter Rutgers for waking me up to today's Magna 5 being a mandatory payout as the last of the year (something not mentioned on the official www.Magna5.com website.) It's an appealing sequence for other reasons: It includes four stakes races including both graded 3-year-old stakes at Gulfstream, and there's no race from Golden Gate, the bane of my existence during a futile series of Magna 5 chases this winter. Here's the quintet:

1:45 pm: Five months ago, Well Armed was a deserving 6-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile but didn't run his race and finished ninth as Albertus Maximus won at 6-1. Well Armed lost his next two starts as well, but today returned to and surpassed the form that won him the Goodwood last fall, winning the World Cup by what looked like a dozen lengths or more. (Update: 14 lengths.) Albertus Maximus, 5-2 off his BC Mile and a weak Donn victory, checked in sixth.

Well Armed ($21.00) had made 10 of his last 11 starts on synthetic surfaces in California, winning the G1 Goodwood and G2 San Antonio and San Diego, but today was a breakout performance as he returned to dirt for the first time since running a distant third to Curlin (beaten 8 1/2 lengths) in last year's World Cup. He clearly ran a giant race today, but also was helped by a loose lead and the non-efforts by every other credible contender. (Arson Squad was pratically knocked over at the rail early but the others had no visible excuse.)

Well Armed, a 6-year-old Tiznow gelding bred and owned by WinStar Farm, ran the 10 furlongs in 2:01.01 under Aaron Gryder. 

Well Armed was followed across the wire, in what seemed like an eternity for a second horse to get into the picture, by 60-1 Gloria de Campeao, 99-1 Paris Perfect (actually something like 130-1), and 85-1 Muller. I played against Albertus Maximus, used the winner prominently, but didn't sniff the 2-3-4 finishers.

Time for some lunch and wound-licking. Back later for the Magna 5 and the Florida races.


2:15 pm: Just heard that Alysheba, who had been our oldest living Derby winner, was put down last night at the Kentucky Horse Park. The 1987 Derby-Preakness winner and 1988 BC Classic winner and Horse of the Year, returned to Kentucky from Saudi Arabia last October and  lived his final months in what had been John Hnery's stall at the KHP. He had been suffering from a degenerative spinal condition and fell in his stall yesterday, injuring himself beyond repair.

Alysheba, a son of Alydar, won 11 of 26 career starts and $6.6 million, record earnings at the time of his retirement 21 years ago. He was a disappointment at stud, siring only 11 stakes winners, including Canada's 1994 Horse of the Year, Alywow. 

3:55 pm: A little Aqueduct late pick-4 action:

3,7/4,6,9/4,5/1,7,10 @ 2=  $72

2,5,6/4,6,9/4,5/1,7,10 @ 1 = $54

3,7/4,6,9/1,3/1,7,10 @ 1 = $36

3,7/4,6,9/4,5/3,5,8,9 @ 1 =$48

Total = $210

5:00 pm: Alive beats dead, but not the results I was hoping for at Aqueduct, where I won't even get my money back if either of the two favorites wins the finale. The first three legs went to to A's who paid 3-1, 9-5 and 4-5. Unfortunately, this has been the spirit of Aqueduct in recent weeks: one race after another where one or two horses tower over the field and it's a stretch to try to beat them. I don't remember an inner-track meet with fewer carryovers.

Over to ESPN2 for the Florida Derby telecast. Gulfstream looks pretty good in hi-def. If I get that far in the maybe-the-last-ever Magna 5, I made Quality Road and Dunkirk A's, Theregoesjojo a B, and I couldn't stretch far enough to find any C's. Who ever thought the Florida Derby would look like a two-horse race between one colt with two career starts and one with only three career starts? 

5:20 pm: Pretty impressive performances by Big Drama and This One's For Phil in the Swale, reaching the wire a long neck apart in that order in track-record time of 1:20.88 for seven furlongs -- though the order of finish was properly reversed by the stewards. Big Drama clearly bore out twice during the stretch, bumping TOFP at the furlong pole and again nearing the wire.

Yeah, the GP track is quick today but still: They ran 1.07 seconds faster than the talented 5-year-old Vitruvius did two races earlier in a good N2x allowance.

Second-choice Pocket Cowboys took the finale at Aqueduct, so for my $210 pick-4 investment I got back .... $209.50! Figure in my 2 percent NYRA Rewards rebate, though, and I turned a $3.70 profit, at odds of about 1-to-60.

5:43 pm: Hard Kisses kept me going into the Florida Derby alive to Dunkirk and Quality Road for a buck each in the Magna 5. No idea what they're paying with winners so far returning 2-1, 7-1, 8-5 and 5-1.

5:55 pm: Quality Road turned back Dunkirk in a track-record (1:47.72) Florida Derby that left Dunkirk's trainer, Todd Pletcher, understandably frustrated. Dunkirk eatrned $150,000 for finishing second, but that may well be below the cutoff to make the Derby field (it was $165k last year) and Pletcher does not want to run the colt three times in the five weeks between now and Lousisville. After the race, he told reporters he now wishes he had waited a week and run in the Wood Memorial because he thought the GP track was made unfairly fast and speed-favoring today.

 "They obviously sped the track up....it's unfair," Pletcher said. "If I'd have known the track would be like this I'd have gone to Aqueduct."

These are both very nice colts, and it will be a shame if Dunkirk gets squeezed out of the Derby, but everyone knows the dollar targets going into a spring campaign. Bias or not, Dunkirk had to rally from far back, and accelerated impressively on the turn, but just couldn't get by Quality Road. The winner rated nicely, sitting second most of the way and fending off challenges from both Theregoesjojo and Dunkirk en route to victory.

Need my buck of the Magna 5 to pay $1200.50 to get out for the day and cover the $600 in Dubai losses, the 50-cent shellacking at Aqueduct, and the $600 Magna-5 investment. Here's hoping.