Racing UK

Sheikh Hamdan lambasts Meydan Tapeta surface

Thursday 27 March 2014

By Geoffrey Riddle

Sheikh Hamdan has launched a scathing attack on the Tapeta surface that is to stage the 19th running of the $US 10million Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday.

Also run on the surface will be the $US2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, the $US2 million UAE Derby and the $1 million Godolphin Mile, in which the Sheikh's Soft Falling Rain bids to defend the crown he won so gutsily 12 months ago.

Sheikh Hamdan was crowned champion owner of the Dubai World Cup Carnival at the post-position draw at Meydan on Wednesday and runs Mukhadram in the world's most valuable race.

Mukhadram is Sheikh Hamdan’s first runner in the World Cup since the race move to Meydan in 2010 from Nad Al Sheba, where Invasor won for him in 2007.

Mukhadram has worked at Kempton on the Polytrack in preparation for his bid to secure his first Group One but the UAE's Minister of Finance does not feel that the experience is necessarily adequate.

"Honestly, if you ask me, I'll be happier if the race is run on grass as Mukhadram hasn't run on Tapeta. Tapeta is very different to all synthetic tracks.

Warming to his theme, he added at a specially convened media briefing that was published in Gulf News: "Some horses don't mind and can adapt, others don't.

"Not all horses give their best on the surface where the ground conditions change every few metres.

"New horses to the surface shorten their strides and don't stretch naturally.

"It is also inconsistent: It's slow in the morning and fast in the evening.

"I believe they add 20 per cent of cushion each year but that makes it very shallow.

"It was a good track in the first year, but has changed in recent years."

At Wednesday's post-position draw Haggas said, like most trainers with horses without experience of the surface this week: "We don’t have a clue about the surface, and we won’t know until Saturday evening."

Tapeta is installed at two racecourses in America; Golden Gate Fields and Presque Isle Downs. There is also a track installed at the Fairhill training facility in Maryland, where Tapeta inventor Michael Dickinson is based. It is where Animal Kingdom trained ahead of becoming the first American horse to prevail in the World Cup since the race moved from Nad Al Sheba for 2010.

Godolphin also have several Tapeta training tracks.

Sheikh Hamdan's comments come at a time when rumours are swirling the corridors of Meydan that the Tapeta surface is going to be ripped up and replaced with dirt.

Dickinson refused to comment at the lavish Breakfast With The Stars morning track work event at Meydan on Wednesday, but has previously vigorously defended Tapeta.

“When the Dubai World Cup was run on dirt some years it had a tendency to have three American dirt horses and three Al Maktoum horses, and there weren't that many others from around the world,” he said last month. “That is easy to understand because America is the only major racing nation to race on dirt.

“Dirt racing has shown many times that it can't function without a shed load of drugs.

“The global racing public have shown their disapproval of drugs and injuries.” 

Despite Animal Kingdom's facile success in the World Cup last year, the US challenge is muted for Saturday's extravaganza and it is the first time the US are without a runner in the UAE's feature event since Cigar scored in the inaugural race in 1996.

When the race was staged on dirt at Nad Al Sheba, America virtually shared the World Cup with Godolphin.

They won eight of the 14 World Cups staged at the former racecourse, with Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor winning five. Sir Michael Stoute was the only other trainer to succeed there when Singspiel won the postponed race in 1997.

Since the race was staged on Tapeta at Meydan, however, winners have come from France, Japan, Godolphin and America, highlighting the surface creates opportunities for the world to compete on an equal footing.

"The race is not as strong as it used to be and that's because the Americans are not here. They prefer the old track,” Sheikh Hamdan added.

"If you ask me, I think the strongest race on the card is the Dubai Sheema Classic. It has attracted the best horses from Britain, Europe and Far East. This is what the World Cup should look like.

“The Dubai Duty Free is always a strong race and this year is no different.”

(Watch the Dubai World Cup from Meydan live on Racing UK on Saturday)

 

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