Andrew Le Jeune

Presenter & Columnist


LJ Confidential: A classic Sheema the real star on Dubai World Cup night

Saturday at Meydan is “Dubai World Cup night” in name, but the jewel in the crown is the star-studded Group 1 Sheema Classic. As has been the case in previous years, the warm-up act could overshadow the main event.

This weekend’s Dubai World Cup, featuring last year’s winner Country Grammer against Saudi Cup hero Panthalassa leading an eight strong contingent, is a clash worth staying up late for, but the 2000m dirt race can be a war of attrition. 

The better spectacle is the 2400m turf race which features top stayers from Japan against some European quality, Sheikh Mohamed’s Godolphin and even Hong Kong’s in-form stayer Russian Emperor. 

All eyes are on Equinox, Japan’s reigning horse of the year and a potential global superstar (ridden by recent Asian Racing Report podcast guest Christophe Lemaire). The son of Kitasan Black is a dominant early favourite but this is a race of tremendous depth. 

Last year’s winner Shahryar makes his first appearance since a second in the 2022 Japan Cup, Godolphin’s Rebel’s Romance, for whom a 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf triumph was the fifth straight win to end the year and watch out for Westover. The Juddmonte-owned son of Frankel is an interesting runner: Westover’s season may have tapered off towards the end of 2022 against older horses after an slightly unlucky third in the Epsom Derby and a dominant win in the Irish Derby, but brings a big reputation and has attracted the services of Ryan Moore. 


Alberto Sanna celebrates Russian Emperor's G1 H.H. The Amir Trophy success. (Photo by QREC Photo)

Damian Lane throttles down Win Marilyn after a dominant Hong Kong Vase victory. (Photo by HKJC)

Then there is John and Thady Gosden’s Mostahdaf, an impressive last start winner of the Neom Cup in Saudi Arabia. 

The race is so strong that last year’s G1 Hong Kong Vase winner Win Marilyn was as much as 20-1 in early markets. 

Hong Kong’s Russian Emperor and Senor Toba are both considered outsiders but bring different sets of expectations into the race. 

Senor Toba’s connections would likely be happy with a top five finish but could trainer Douglas Whyte produce Russian Emperor to run an even bigger race against top line opposition? Russian Emperor was the eye-catching run when fifth in the local lead-up race. 

It may be a stretch to tip him as winner, this is a step-up in class, but he is a blowout chance and could represent some value.

A quick note on one of Hong Kong’s other contenders Duke Wai, who provides rookie trainer Pierre Ng his first overseas runner (the stable also has Glorious Dragon entered later). It is great to see Duke Wai’s owners giving Hong Kong’s Jerry Chau an opportunity to ride in such a big race. 

Four-year-olds shine and not just in Derby

One for the ‘what if?’ files. What if trainer Manfred Man had targeted the four-year-old series with Lucky Sweynesse rather than sticking to sprint distances. 

For now Man’s decision has been rewarded with another Group 1, this time defeating last year’s Derby runner-up California Spangle at 1400m. 

Voyage Bubble is now rated 103 after his dramatic Derby triumph but follow four-year-old Lucky Sweynesee is rated 130 – second in town only to Golden Sixty – after his second straight G1 win. 

Lucky Sweynesse gets the better of California Spangle in the G1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

Lucky Sweynesse won with some authority too and after putting California Spangle and Wellington in their place it would seem he has the world at his feet. He is really going places. 

On the undercard yet another four-year-old Private Purchase Griffin announced his imminent arrival to the Group racing ranks with a dominant win. Victor The Winner has now won four from six and he is another example of a talented horse starting the season on 52 and climbing the ranks. 

The first three across the line in the Derby were PPGs as well. It is great to see these ‘homegrown’ horses thriving and augurs well for the future of racing in Hong Kong. 

Gold Trip back to level weights

In Sydney on Saturday, Gold Trip gets the right rip for him to show his best in the 2400m G1 Tancred Stakes at Rosehill. 

There has always been a debate around Gold Trip’s suitability to firmer going but I believe he looms as a good bet on Saturday and would be a great horse to target the Hong Kong Vase later in the year. 

Hong Kong-bound trainer Mark Newnham has a young stayer to watch in this race, King Frankel, but as talented as he is, this might be a touch too hard.

Andrew's Best Bets

Rosehill R8 (HKJC simulcast: S1 R1) WIN No.1 Gold Trip 

Meydan R7 (HKJC S2 R8) QUINELLA/QUINELLA PLACE No.7 Equinox (banker) from No.4 Russian Emperor and No.8 Westover 

Meydan R6 (HKJC S2 R7) WIN No.7 Lord North




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