03/29/2011 4:07PM

Yanks Tank It in Dubai; Tarara for Darara


The o-fer pulled by the 12 American-trained horses at Meydan on Saturday night marked the first time since 2003 that the U.S. has failed to produce at least one winner on Dubai World Cup Night, and only the second time in the 15-year history of the event. Was this merely an aberration, or is it a sign of the times reflective of the quality of the American Thoroughbred? Or shall we blame it on the failure of American horses to adapt to the synthetic surface at Meydan?

Addressing the last question first, the performances of Victoire Pisa and Transcend, the first and second-place finishers in the Dubai World Cup, put the lie to the excuse that switching to a synthetic surface- in this case Tapeta- is fraught with difficulty. Neither of the Japanese horses had raced on a synthetic surface prior to the World Cup. All 12 of Victoire Pisa's previous runs had been on turf, while Transcend's previous 11 outings had been on dirt. Prior to those 11 he had run four times, twice on dirt and twice on turf.

Euroears put in the best effort by an American horse with his good second to Rocket Man in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. The Bob Baffert trainee was, like Transcend, making the supposedly difficult switch from dirt to synthetics, yet handled the switch with aplomb, running very much to form.

In the days when there were only two surfaces to contend with, dirt and turf, there was an old adage to the effect that good horses should be able to run on any surface. Victoire Pisa, Transcend and Euroears proved that on Saturday.
Fly Down, on the other hand, was all at sea at Meydan, finishing last of 14 in the World Cup. But in doing so he was merely extending a losing streak that has now reached seven races and stretches back to May 2010. That he is not Group 1 quality on the international level was proven in the World Cup. Much the same can be said for Godolphin Mile flops Make Music For Me and I Want Revenge.

In finishing fifth in the World Cup, Gio Ponti ran very much the same race he had a year earlier when he had been fourth behind Gloria de Campeao. Was he in need of a race? It would appear that he was. Both Victoire Pisa and Transcend had won their respective World Cup trials, the strategy taken by their trainers paying dividends of an historic nature.

The big disappointment of the night was the scratching of Kinsale King from the Golden Shaheen. Deprived of a chance to defend his title, he opened the way for Rocket Man, who was clearly the best horse in what remained of the race.

The second biggest disappointment, from an American point of view at least, was the utter failure of Bourbon Bay and Champ Pegasus in the Dubai Sheema Classic. On paper they appeared to be in the same class as Redwood, Chinchon and Dangerous Midge. In reality, they were exposed as horses that simply can't stay 12 furlongs on the international level. The failure of the last-place Dangerous Midge, who had beaten Champ Pegasus into second in the Breeders' Cup Turf after a bloodless victoy in the Group 3 Arc Trial, confirmed the belief that last fall's BC Turf at Churchill Downs was the weakest in the history of the race. It will not get any stronger as long as American breeders continue to deny the value of stamina. And if there is nothing of homegrown quality to compete against in the BC Turf, the best European 12-furlong horses will no longer find the race worth the trip, especially with viable options in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong.

Victor's Cry gave it the old college try in the Dubai Duty Free but he was never catching the leaders through the latter stages. After Saturday's action American-trained horses remain winless on turf in Dubai.

Almost as disappointing as Bourbon Bay and Champ Pegasus were the three Yanks in the Al Quoz Sprint. American speed failed to materialize as Stradivinsky, Quick Enough and Mr Gruff were never close up at any stage of the 5-furlong turf Group 2.

It was hoped that Sweet Ducky might give us a hint as to where American 3-year-olds stood with respect to at least some of their foreign competition. But in finishing thirteenth of 14 in the UAE Derby, beaten 37 1/2 lengths, we can draw no conclusions, except to say that Sweet Ducky did his Holy Bull conqueror Dialed In no favors, especailly as Dialed In has since failed in at 1-5 in a mere optional claimer at Gulfstream Park.

Godolphin emerged as the one of the big winners on the night with three victories: Skysurfers in the Godolphin Mile, the filly Khawlah in the UAE Derby, and Rewilding in the Sheema Classic. Perhaps an even bigger winner was Rewilding's dam Darara.

In Rewilding, Darara was producing the Sheema Classic winner for the second year in a row, her Singspiel mare Dar Re Mi having won the race in 2010. Now a venerable 28 years of age, Darara is a daughter of Top Ville out of the Abdos mare Delsy. In 1986 she won the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Prix Vermeille and the 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Prix de Psyche when trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre for her owner/breeder, the Aga Khan.

Darara's first stakes winner was Dariyoun, a Shahrasatani colt who took the Gran Premio de Madrid in 1992 before moving to France where he won a listed race at Maisons-Laffitte. A 1989 mating with Nijinsky produced in Dardjini the winner of the 1997 Grade 1 Denny Gold Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

Darara's Sadler's Wells colt Darazari won the 1 5/8-mile, Group 2 Prix de Maurice de Nieuil at Maisons-Laffitte in 1996. Another son of Sadler's Wells, Diaghilev, won the 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Prix La Force at Chantilly in 2002 before moving to Hong Kong where, racing as River Dancer, he won the 2004 renewal of the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

Dariyoun, Dardjini and Darazari were all bred by the Aga Khan. After being purchased by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Darara produced River Dancer (ex-Diaghilev), Dar Re Mi and Rewilding for the composer's Watership Down Stud.

Dar Re Mi, who raced in Lloyd-Webber's colors, had preceded her Sheema Classic heroics with Group 1 victories in the 1 1/4-mile Pretty Polly Stakes and the 1 1/2-mile Yorkshire Oaks. She also crossed the line first in the 2009 Prix Vermeille, only to lose the race in the stewards' room in what many believed was an unjust decision.

The Mahmoud Al Zarooni-trained Rewilding finished third in last year's Epsom Derby behind runaway winner Workforce before landing the 1 1/2-mile, Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes. That he was winning the Sheema Classic off a 6 1/2-month absence bodes very well for his chances in all of the big 12-furlong races around the world this year. He is expected to be seen next at Epsom on June 3 in the Coronation Cup.

Darara was pensioned off after producing Rewilding, since when she has joined Hasili and Better Than Honour as one of the world's best broodmares.

easygoer132.2 More than 1 year ago
I found the Dubai World Cup to be an extremely entertaining day of racing. It was wonderful to be able to bet on so many competitive races with full fields. The races were formful, with many close and exciting finishes. It was also refreshing to see horses perform at their best without drugs. It appears that American breeding and training methods are inferior to those overseas. Also, statistics continue to show that running on all-weather surfaces is safer than on dirt. I applaud the decision to move forward! (You strike a key note in reminding everyone that all of the American horses at Meydan were running without their customary Lasix, and, in the case of the Californians, without bute as well. Some people will always blame synthetic surfaces and slow paces for American defeats. Lack of talent doesn't seem to enter into their handicapping process.) AS
MySky More than 1 year ago
Ok, then explain yourself: WHY should the switch to synthetics pose no problem for good horses? (Read the piece again: Victoire Pisa, Transcend and Euroears.) AS
MySky More than 1 year ago
Some horses like dirt, some like turf, some like synthetic. Some like 2 of those three surfaces. Some like all three. Some like slop. Some like yielding turf. Some like it rock hard. Some like Churchilll Downs more than other tracks. Some like making left handed turns. Some like it when it's warm out. There is no blanket rule on horses for surfaces or conditions. It varies from horse to horse. To state or imply that every horse should make an easy transition to Tapeta is just crazy. Please read more carefully. I did not state that every horse should take to synthetics. I said the switch to synthetics should not pose a problem for good horses. There's a difference, and frankly, I'm tired of having to remind readers of their misreadings. Didn't you guys study English in school?) AS
SamG More than 1 year ago
It's more like 2 1/2 surfaces and no,not all good horses handle any surface.Synthetics are much more like turf than dirt so it's not surprising Euroears ran well since he has done so on turf in the past.That the quality of the American Thouroughbred is in decline has been obvious for a while now,tho I guess someone forgot to tell Uncle Mo and The Factor.They of course will be swept off to stud at the end of the year if not sooner.Even without that decline anybody with a brain knew American horses were unlikely to have much success competing on synthetics.How many turf races have we won at Dubai over the years?They aren't going to win over synthetic turf either.Bottom line for me is I won't bother to get up early to bet these races anymore.
Yankee Clip More than 1 year ago
Alan- How can you slam the Americans' performance when we clearly didn't send any of our top horses? Dubai's decision to go synthetic is at the expense of the great American dirt horses that have been the stars of this event in the past. The only thing Sweet Ducky's performance proved was how well sold the horse was! $$$$$$$ He is not remotely in league with the best American 3yos. As for that surface, it appears it does what most synthetic surfaces do -- rob horses with a true turn of foot while boosting some of the slower ones. The DWC is now a $10-million experiment for a bunch of turf stars and second-rate dirt horses to prove who is best on a third-rate surface. The money's good, but the race proves little. (Kinsale King and Euroears are two of America's better sprinters. Stradivinsky is one of our best turf sprinters. Gio Ponti was the champion older horse in America in 2009, our best turf horse in 2009 and 2010, and with the retirement of Zenyatta and Blame, ranks pretty highly among all American current older horses. Champ Pegasus and Bourbaon Bay are the two best turf horses in America at 12 furlongs. So think again. A number of the American-trained horses in Dubai rate at the top or near the top of their divisions. Note too that many of the best European-trained horses were absent: Workforce, Goldikova, Canford Cliffs. And none of the best European sprinters were present.) AS
Rob More than 1 year ago
If you are including Gio Ponti in your broad brush painting of the American horses performances ( "poor showing", "tank it") I wonder if you actually watched Gio Ponti in isolation. As I stated in Watchmakers Blog; 6 wide, walking through what I believe were (since its a big secret to reveal fractions outside N.A.) a 27 something quarter and 53 or 54 half (someone correct me if Im wrong) and probably---by extrapolation--- a 1:17 three quarter, he still only lost by a length and half and was closing. All of this with not running since the first of November. The only problem I had is with Dominguez' trip. If he had been in a stalking position ( and there is absolutely no reason not to be with the crawling pace) or hooked on to Victoire Pisa when Demuro made his move you'd be whistling a different tune. Winning that race had nothing to do with having the best horse flesh and everything to do with deciding its time to move.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
I thought that East Coast fans exaggerated the difficulty of going dirt-to-synthetic when trying to explain why East Coast horses were shut out in the 09' Breeder's Cup on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride. I agree that the truly superior horses should be able to run well on multiple surfaces. However, the fact East Coast observers exagerrated the disadvantage dirt horses faced running on synthetic doesn't mean that there isn't a difference between running on dirt and running on synthetic. The evidence is fairly clear that synthetics represent a 3rd distinct surface, different in substantial ways from both turf and dirt. Generally, it appears that some good synth horses can perform well on dirt, other synth horses well on turf, and a few well on all three surfaces. Then, there appear to be horses that excel on only one surface. For whatever reason, it appears that there are more dirt-only horses than synth-only or turf-only horses. The key point in all this is that although the difficulty has perhaps been overblown, there are real challenges for dirt horses transferring their form to synthetic. And there is no question that American based dirt horses have been disadvataged by Meydan installing a synthetic surface. The majority of US-raced horses were bred to run on dirt. When the Dubai World Cup and the supporting maintrack stakes on World Cup night were run on dirt, American dirt horses held a significant advantage. Not only were they running over a type of surface which they were familiar, most of their competitors would be running over a surafce which they had little or no experience. The American advantage was thus two-fold; they were running over their preferred surface while the other horses were not(except for the few overmatched Japanese or South American runners with some dirt experience). I do not think it a coincidence that of the last 6 World Cups run on dirt, 5 were won by American-based horses. There was Pleasantly Perfect in 04', Roses in May in 05', Invasor in 07', Curlin in 08', and Well Armed in 09'. To me, Well Armed was the horse that might have precipitated the move to synthetic because he was a gr.2 American runner who won the World Cup by 14 lengths. Europeans had won their share of World Cups, but it was largely the result of some exceptional crops of European horses in the mid-late 90s and early 00s. Horses like Singspiel and Dubai Millennium were freaks; but when the world didn't field a top-class horse, Americans, even second tier Americans like Well Armed, had a significant advantage so long as the World Cup(and Golden Shaheen, Godolphin Mile) were run on dirt. With the maintrack races for World Cup night now run on synthetic, this American advatange is gone. There are American horses with synth experience, and there should be some dirt-only Americans that can transfer their form to synth, but the ratio is not 1:1. Back when the World Cup was on dirt, one would be safe to conclude that just about every top 10 older horse in America could be considered a legit prospect for the World Cup. Now, of the top 10 older horses in America, about 3-5 are considered true World Cup prospects, largely because their synth form is either unknown or poor. On the other side, when before few non-American horses either had any dirt form or appeared likely to transfer their turf from to dirt, now non-American horses are having a much easier time transferring their turf form to synth. Although data is limited, the jump from turf to synth appears to be easier for more horses than the jump from turf to dirt. Thus, the change in surface of the World Cup from dirt to synth has opened up the race to more horses from predominately turf racing areas like Asia and Europe. But the key is that now Americans don't get to run over a surface over which they held a clear form-advantage. With the maintrack races on synth, the Americans are in the same boat with everyone else, running on a surface which few have any form over.
Sailors Cap More than 1 year ago
Alan... spot on analysis of the embarrassment American breeders should feel for their horse's performances in Grade 1 distance turf races. Euros who have stolen our best distance races include Debussy, Spirit One, Powerscourt, Sulamani, Beat Hollow, Silvano, Chinchon, Cesario, Dimitrova, Ticker Tape... the list goes on and on and on. What we also need to realize is that there are many "Americanized" horses who started in Europe and now win our Grade 1s. The list is long... Winchester, Grand Courtier, Denon, Timboroa, Chester House, Eclaire de Lune, Mauralakana, Gorella, Heat Haze, Golden Apples.... and more and more. If it wasn't for Euro imports, our G1 distance turf races would be G3 at best. This trend is not going to reverse itself. If anything, the trend will just get stronger.
pittsburgh jd More than 1 year ago
Boy I'm totally shocked that you couldn't wait for the horses to get back to the U.S. to point out the fact that they didn't pull down one win in Dubai. Who cares? The U.S. can't win them all. Didn't know horse racing was such a team sport. The fact that you consistanly lean towards anything that comes from europe as superior is becoming all to predictable. (Wake up, Pittsburgh. I base my opinions on long experience traveling the world and observing racing in all countries. I guess you didn't notice that I selected Stradivinsky and Champ Pegasus to win their respective races and was disppointed at their lackluster performances. When you lose the blinkers and learn an appreciation for racing in all countries , as well as an ability to recognize any national weakenss in racing, you can resume the conversation. I won't hold my breath.) AS
Fred More than 1 year ago
Try sending better jocks. Baffert should have taken his main man and he probably would have won!
Michael B. More than 1 year ago
This big-time flopperoo was no surprise. In order for American horses to be competitive again at the international level, the following issues need to be addressed: (1) We have to bar so-called "permissive medication," as nearly every other major racing jurisdiction has done. This weakens the breed and puts our horses at a severe disadvantage if they travel overseas. (2) We have to stop retiring our best horses to the breeding shed at age 3. With the exception of a few second-class three-year-old races such as the UAE Derby, nearly all international-class racing is for 4-year-olds and up (or possibly 3-year-olds and up later in the year). We cannot possibly be competitive if the only older horses racing are those considered to be not of sufficient quality to be hustled off to the breeding shed, with the exception of the few accomplished geldings (and their number is diminishing all the time in the United States, as the lure of stud fees even for horses with mediocre records increases). (3) We have to somehow convince our trainers that our Grade 1 horses should actually race. I am convinced that Gio Ponti would have given a better account of himself if he had had a prep race. We baby our horses far too much. (4) We have to stop the constant deterioration of our turf racing and the diminution of the value of many turf races. The San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita used to be worth $500,000; now it is $150,000. Hollywood Park just announced that it is discontinuing the Will Rogers and Cinema for three-year-olds on turf. This leads to a situation in which fewer and fewer stud farms want to actually stand accomplished turf horses; the yearling and 2-year-old sales markets are all about precocity and speed and do not want stallions whose progeny excel on the turf or in races of 1 1/4 miles or longer. If these are fixed, we may again eventually see American horses give a good account of themselves internationally. If they are not, we will become as important in international racing as Turkey or India.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi Alan, I don't know why any of the Americans travel to Dubai other than the pure greed of cashing BIG. Given how such a high percentage of the shippers: win or lose - then either never recover or take awhile to regain form, and I would have to say that it is a risk worth not taking. That said, the Japanese horses looked good running 1-2 and the move on the backstretch by the winner is one that has to be seen to be believed. Victoire Pisa and jockey Mirco Demuro should be remembered. And it always good to see Better Than Honour mentioned. Of course she only won 2 of 8 on the track, but proved best in the Breeding Shed. God save the Queen - indeed.
ross More than 1 year ago
hi alan i've heard american commentators go on about the stamina issue before and i cannot understand why american breeders favor speed over stamina. all your classics are beyond a mile if only magnier would send over galileo and montjeu both stallions are producing unbelievable mile to mile and a half horses. regards ross....... (You raise an interesting point, Ross. The average of all races in the United States hovers at or just below 7 furlongs, yet out classics for colts are all between 9 1/2f and 12f. Doesn't make sense, does it? And most of the big races for older horses are also between 9f and 12f, which makes even less sense. It is difficult for European horses to be ready for the Kentucky Derby in early May, but I have always thought that Euros could dominate the 1 1/2m Belmont Stakes, even if it is on dirt, as there are precious few American horses bred to stay that distance. I think European horsemen don't bother about the Belmont because it doesn't mean much to win going 12 on dirt against a bunch of non-stayers.)AS
David H. More than 1 year ago
We have 150 years of horse racing history that proves that switching surfaces is "fraught with difficulty". Some horses prefer turf. Some turf horses perform better on hard or firm turf than they do on soft or heavy turf, others the opposite, and still others somewhere in the middle. Some horses prefer dirt. Some dirt horses prefer speed-favoring surfaces, others prefer heavier dirt surfaces, and some are in the middle. Not all dirt horses can run successfully on turf, and not all dirt horses can run successfully on dirt. These facts are inarguable. Your old adage, that all good horses should be able to run on both surfaces, is bunk. There are good horses who can run on both. But there are many more who can't. Should I run my Purim 2YO on dirt all day, just because your old adage says he should be able to run on it if he's good? No way. So why do you believe that there is no difficulty for world class horses to switch from their best surface to Tapeta? I like Tapeta (I think it's the best of the synthetics, and it's not close), but I'm not foolish enough to believe that every horse can run on it. Worse, your argument ignores reams of empirical data (that is, data collected with our own eyes, watching racing day after day, year after year). The most shining example of this data is the Breeders' Cup races in 2009 and 2010? An east coast dirt horse didn't stand a chance on the Pro-Ride. It was built for turfers and those who had adjusted to its surface through long-term training. That doesn't make the east coast horses bad. That doesn't logically follow. Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is to be commended for everything he has done and still does with respect to Meydan and the Dubai Racing Carnival and the Dubai World Cup. His decision to install Tapeta was creative, and I think it is a smart one when looked at through a very macroscopic lense. As an owner who hopes to race in Dubai one day, and as an expert handicapper, I support his decision. I do not, however, support the hyperbole in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of your post.
Ryan More than 1 year ago
"""Addressing the last question first, the performances of Victoire Pisa and Transcend, the first and second-place finishers in the Dubai World Cup, put the lie to the excuse that switching to a synthetic surface- in this case Tapeta- is fraught with difficulty. Neither of the Japanese horses had raced on a synthetic surface prior to the World Cup. All 12 of Victoire Pisa's previous runs had been on turf, while Transcend's previous 11 outings had been on dirt. Prior to those 11 he had run four times, twice on dirt and twice on turf.""" That's slightly disingenuous. I think that everyone pretty much agrees that switching from turf to synthetics is not the issue and apparently the two horses that you mentioned are capable turf runners. Of course this provides no excuse to Gio Ponti but you talk about his lack of a prep which I agree with. I thought everyone has pretty much agreed by now that horses that can run on turf have a huge advantage over dirt runners when switching to synthetics. (Transcend is hardly a "capable turf runner." He finished second on turf in his maiden debut. Fourth time out he finished ninth in a Grade 2 turf stake.) AS