Peter Fornatale gives his verdict on every runner in the $12m Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing at 4.30pm.
A solid-enough renewal of the Dubai World Cup on Saturday sees the usual battle between a strong American contingent and local opposition who will try to overcome an apparent deficit in ability with greater track experience, hoping to cause a shock similar to that of the victory of Emblem Road in February’s Saudi Cup.
Let’s look at the field in racecard order…
Aero Trem (stall 2)
Aero Trem is a prolific winner up to 10 furlongs in his native South America. He made his Middle East debut in the aforementioned Saudi Cup and belied 100/1 odds to finish a staying-on fifth from an inside post.
Held up early, he was clearly suited by the pace in that contest but travelled better than most and seems to have a fair portion of ability.
He should get another good pace to run at here and could well be capable of hitting the board at a big price if ridden slightly closer to the pace this time, particularly if that run – his first since October – brings him on a touch.
Chuwa Wizard (3)
Chuwa Wizard was runner-up in this race last year having come into the race off the back of a heavy defeat in the 2021 Saudi Cup.
He rocks up this time off the back of an easy and emphatic win over rivals he was better than.
This looks a stronger renewal than last year, and he doesn’t really have the numbers to match the best of the American team, although Japanese runners have a sublime record at these Middle East meets, which entitles him to some respect.
Country Grammer (5)
Country Grammer had shown steadily-drawn-out improvement since a debut defeat in a turf maiden back in 2019 for Chad Brown, but has taken his career to new heights since transferred to the barn of Bob Baffert and switched to the west coast, culminating in a Grade One win in the Hollywood Gold Cup last June.
That was his final run prior to the Saudi Cup, where he ran a blinder to finish second. He was always close to the strong pace there, travelled well throughout and made the lead with a furlong to run, but was run down late by a deep closer.
That form probably needs building on, but he has proven he can do it outside of America and off medication, and it would be no surprise to see him figure from a favourable post with Frankie Dettori on board.
Grocer Jack (4)
Grocer Jack is second time up for William Haggas and moves off turf for the first time in his career aged five. He has been a solid Group Two/Three performer in Germany on the grass, but seems an unlikely candidate for this race on paper.
He didn’t run too badly in the Neom Cup on the Saudi Cup undercard, and should come on for that, but he is hardly bred for this and it’s hard to see where the required stone improvement is going to come from. Would be a shock winner.
Hot Rod Charlie (7)
Hot Rod Charlie has been really good for a while now. He hasn’t had the best luck at times and was probably a bit better than his position in the Classic last year, fading late on having tried to serve it up to Knicks Go at the top of the stretch.
An apparently dull effort behind Express Train next time when beaten at 1/5 looks better now given that horse went on to win a Grade One, and Hot Rod Charlie prepped perfectly for this with a demolition job against some in-form but overmatched opponents in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2.
At the very least, that will have done his confidence no harm, and he proved that he can run away from home, and that the Meydan track holds no fears. It’s possible that he is better making the running than taking a lead which could prove problematic, but he has the numbers and form to figure prominently here.
Hypothetical will bring proven track-craft to the table, with four wins at Meydan to his name.
He was only good enough to finish fourth in this last year, but he has taken his form to a new level this season, notching a Group One victory win with an all-the-way score in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3.
He was allowed to get into a nice rhythm on the lead that day and it’s hard to imagine he will be afforded the same luxury here with so much pace signed on.
Life Is Good (1)
Life Is Good is a horse I suggested was the best in North America prior to the Breeders’ Cup, and that assessment looks pretty good now given that he has won both starts since in superb fashion – although Flightline fans may disagree.
Dominant in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he was even better in the Pegasus World Cup where he simply blew them away with a devastating display of speed and galloping. Knicks Go didn’t show his best form there, but it’s hard to take anything away from Life Is Good.
He is up another furlong here, but Todd Pletcher is excellent at stretching his runners out and Life Is Good is usually strong at the line. He should set the speed and anything that leads him is very likely to be going too fast, although it will be interesting to see how he reacts if a high-class opponent like Hot Rod Charlie really eyeballs him.
Clearly the most talented runner in the field, and the most likely winner, but that’s reflected in his price.
Magny Cours (9)
Magny Cours is a talented performer on grass and synthetics, and showed himself adept on dirt, too, with a solid third in this race last year. He was given plenty to do there and did by far the best of those held up so won’t mind how hard they go here.
As stated, this year’s renewal looks better and Magny Cours didn’t show enough in the Saudi Cup last time to be of interest here, even allowing for the suggestion he may improve for the run.
Midnight Bourbon (8)
Midnight Bourbon is a fine, consistent colt. Yet to break through at the top level, he finds winning difficult and always seems to come up just short in Grade or Group One races.
He, once again, ran a really solid race in defeat in the Saudi Cup, but yet again couldn’t quite get the job done there with what should have been a winnable trip.
He has something to find with a few of these rivals and a wider stall here is not going to make things easier, particularly as he has less scope than some of his opponents.
Real World (6)
Real World was one of the stories of the turf season last year and looked to have found another level again when romping home in the Zabeel Mile on his return to action this year.
Well-supported, he could only beat three home in the Saudi Cup and his record now reads five from five on turf and zero from five on dirt. Hardly a surprising statistic given his breeding, and it’s hard to see how he makes an impact against this kind of opposition.
Remorse has shown impressive progress despite finishing second on his last four starts. Winner of a handicap off only 95 prior to that, he has climbed the ranks, culminating in a Group One placing behind Hypothetical (reopposes here) last time out.
He had every chance there and that form is well below the level that will be required here, but the pair pulled well clear of the third and he is the type that will be suited by a strong pace. Needs a lot more, however.
Peter Fornatale’s verdict:
It’s hard to recommend a bet on Life Is Good if the price gets too short, but this exceptional colt has the best form on show, the most potential, and should be able to make the lead here – he is firmly the one to beat. At even money he’d be my play, but that price may not appear.
Country Grammer keeps going the right way and might be the one to follow Todd Pletcher’s charge home (and is excellent each-way value at double-figure odds), while Hot Rod Charlie should be thereabouts as he often is. Those two could make excellent forecast and tricast partners with Life Is Good.
At bigger prices, the outsider of the field, Aero Trem, showed enough ability last time to suggest he could outrun his odds. He’s a definite each-way possibility at 50/1 or higher.