Mahbooba Sets the Standard in Dubai Carnival’s Cape Verdi

Having warmed up for this week’s Grade 2 Cape Verdi at Meydan, winning the Al Rishidiya Trial over nine furlongs on the Dubai Carnival opening night a fortnight ago, the Mike de Kock trained Mahbooba looks certain to go off warm order favourite in Friday’s race.

The Cape Verdi which is run over a mile on the turf track is the feature race for this fourth day of the 2012 Dubai Carnival which runs til March. It is open to fillies and mares only and it will be contested by eight runners, with none better qualified to win it seems than Mahbooba. Certainly de Kock has plenty of confidence in her, even though she will be dropping down to a mile which many believe is her absolute minimum trip. That said, she did win the UAE 1000 Guineas over a mile on the Tapeta last year which de Kock believes confirms her speed credentials and which is why he is not in the least bit worried about her chances in the Cape Verdi. The South African trainer has one of the best records of any flat trainer in the world when dropping his runners in trip.

De Kock also runs Reem, a dual winner of her five starts at last season’s Carnival, which includes a victory over Mahbooba over the 7 furlong UAE 1000 Guineas Trial. Mahbooba got her revenge in the Guineas itself three weeks later, winning by over three lengths but Reem was good enough to finish second. She finished second again a further fortnight later in the Group 2 Balanchine over nine furlongs before going on to win the ten furlong Listed Al Bastakiya. Reem is clearly a filly who enjoys plenty of exercise and although she showed nothing worth talking about on her reappearance at Meydan last week, she will almost certainly improve and will no doubt head across to Britian in the Summer as she did last year.

Al Sharood looks to be an interesting entry from the stable of Doug Watson. This four year old ran a blinder when winning a Conditions race over seven furlongs on the Tapeta at Meydan back in December but has also won over a mile on Fibresand in France. When with Godolphin she was thought when a 2 year old to be good enough to make it in Pattern Company but her disappointing run in the Grade 3 Albany Stakes at 2010 Royal Ascot persuaded Godolphin to unload her. She did not impress her subsequent trainer, John Hammond either with her two runs in France, but it would appear that she has now found a trainer who can extract her best work. She might go off at a decent price!

Last season’s Grade 1 Falmouth Stakes third, First City, is another very interesting rival to Mahbooba. She was a very creditable third place in that Falmouth Stakes run over a mile, finishing less than two lengths behind the winner. She followed that up with a very encouraging fourth of eight just over six lengths behind the magnificent Goldikova in the Grade Prix Rothschild over a mile at Deauville. She has now moved from the David Simcock stables to those of A Al Raile in Dubai where she has settled in superbly. If her new trainer can get this six year old to spark, then she too is capable of springing a major surprise and grabbing at least a place.

Kauto Star Can Become the Greatest Chaser Ever

Should Kauto Star win the Cheltenham Gold Cup for a third time in March will he be regarded as the greatest steeplechaser of all time?

There are many of course who already subscribe to this opinion, particularly following his record breaking fifth win in the King George Vl Chase on Boxing Day. There are however others that will not agree no matter what happens at Cheltenham, they will remain loyal to the likes of Arkle, Desert Orchid and even before them, Golden Miller and more recently Best Mate.

However, the simple fact that the now 12 year old came back and won the King George on the very fast Kempton track, defeating his conqueror from last season’s race, Long Run in the process, speaks volumes for the belief of his connections. Trainer, Paul Nicholls, owner, Clive Smith and jockey, Ruby Walsh, never lost the faith they always had in him and between them, they know a thing or two about National Hunt racing!

Racing enthusiasts have little idea what happens to horses like Kauto Star at home but clearly Nicholls has done something to turn the fortunes of Kauto Star around since his fall in the Gold Cup in 2010 is nothing short of miraculous. Many thought that the long distinguished career of Kauto Star was at an end that day, particularly as the fall that ended his race was very close to a fall that could have ended his life.

Our negative minds were made of course when he was beaten into third place by Long Run in both the King George and the Gold Cup last season. Long Run it had appeared had usurped the crown and being just a six year old, was in a position to become the dominant horse in chasing for some years to come. Notwithstanding, Nicholls and his connections kept the faith in Kauto Star with Nicholls informing the media on more than one occasion that he was now back to his best at Ditcheat and his efforts last season should be ignored. How right the champion trainer has turned out to be!

Kauto Star has come out this season as a horse rejuvenated; he appears to have regained his confidence over the fences whilst looking supreme when at the gallop. In fact he has looked a couple of years younger at least which strongly suggests that he is now the horse to beat come Gold Cup day on March 16th. It should also be remembered that he defeated Long Run easily in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock back in November and is now all square at two wins each with “the young pretender”.

Winning the world’s most prestigious steeplechase as a 12 year old is not an easy task of course, the last horse to do it was the great What A Myth back in 1969. However, that is just one of the intriguing aspects of the race, the main one now being his fifth confrontation with Long Run which will undoubtedly capture the imagination of the wider public. This showdown race will make the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup one of the biggest sporting box-office draws during this home based Olympic year and should end the argument one way or another of just how great Kauto Star really is.