DUBAI: Thursday’s sixth meeting of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival is the third-richest day of the Dubai racing calendar, with prize money totalling $1.32 million from its six fixtures, plus a $45,000 non-Carnival race for maidens, which kicks off the evening at 6:30 p.m. The card is sponsored by pillar partner Al Naboodah Group, which also sponsors the Group 2 $2.5 million UAE Derby—a race that will undoubtedly have a few runners come from Thursday’s co-featured Group 3 $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas. The ultimate event of the evening is the Group 2 $450,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 for Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) hopefuls.
AL MAKTOUM CHALLENGE ROUND 2 (Group 2 | $450,000 | 1900m)
The defection of Godolphin’s Leshlaa leaves six to go to post for the $450,000 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 sponsored by Al Naboodah Allied Products Division (G2), which is headlined by Ramzan Kadyrov’s overwhelming favourite North America. An imperious winner four weeks ago in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 over 1600m, the long-striding Satish Seemar trainee was second in this race last year after a thrilling battle with old rival and subsequent Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow before defeating said rival in the 2000m Round 3. Win or lose on Thursday, his goal remains a return to the $12 million Dubai World Cup, a race in which he missed the break—and consequently all chance—in 2018.
“We think he has improved since that last run, with which we were obviously delighted,” said Bhupat Seemar, assistant trainer. “A lower draw would have been preferred, but it is only a small field and we could not be happier with him.”
Also owned by Kadyrov and one who enjoys being forwardly placed is Cosmo Charlie, one of two in the field to be saddled by Doug Watson. The son of Stay Thirsty bypassed the first round in favour of this assignment, which is over the same course and distance as his 2017 Al Bastakiya (Listed) victory. After a lacklustre 2017-18 Meydan season, the newly gelded 5-year-old has looked an improved performer winning a pair of subsequent outings at Meydan, including The Entisar (Listed) over 2000m on Dec. 20.
When winning a 1600m conditions race in November, Watson’s charge was chased home by stable companion Etijaah, who is again in opposition, having finished fourth to his stablemate in The Entisar before failing to land a blow in Al Maktoum Challenge R1 behind North America.
“We have kept him for this race and he is in great form at home,” Watson said. “He is more relaxed this season, which has really helped him. Despite the small field, there looks like there will be plenty of early speed, so hopefully he can get in a good position and be competitive, with North America looking a big danger.
“This 1900m is much more (Etijaah’s) trip than the 1600m of the first round,” Watson continued. “He is in great form at home. The faster they go, the better for him, because he stays well.”
When trained by Watson, Second Summer landed the 2017 Godolphin Mile (G2) over North America, but the 7-year-old is without a success since and will be having his second start since transferring to Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Pulled up in The Entisar, he has clearly not been straightforward, but was second, on his local debut in this race in 2017.
Second in The Entisar for the red-hot yard of Ahmad bin Harmash was New Trails, subsequently a dominant handicap winner over the this course and distance. The sextet is completed by Senior Investment, representing America and having his second Carnival outing for Kenny McPeek after a subpar 2000m handicap performance. He returns to the same 1900m distance over which he finished third in the classic Preakness Stakes (G1) in 2017.
UAE 2000 GUINEAS (Group 3 | $250,000 | 3yo | 1600m)
Eight are set to take their collective chance in the UAE 2000 Guineas sponsored by Al Naboodah Ashok Leyland Partnership (G3), with all eyes on undefeated Walking Thunder, who made it three consecutive victories when landing the course and distance UAE 2000 Guineas Trial by a seemingly effortless nine lengths. Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash for Phoenix Ladies Syndicate, the Violence colt will be quite difficult to top in this spot.
Bin Harmash said: “We bought him in America and he is a very special horse. Everything we have asked of him, he has done with ease and we basically do not know how good he might be. He has never been tested at home or in a race. Thursday’s race has been his first main target throughout, with the UAE Derby hopefully also on his agenda, perhaps via the Al Bastakiya. We will just have to see how he goes Thursday and how he is after the race. For the same owners, we have Superior, who we plan to run in the Al Bastakiya.”
Seeking a seventh winner in the race, Saeed bin Suroor saddles Estihdaaf for Godolphin and the Arch colt arrives, for his third 2019 carnival outing, on the back of a closing second in the 1900m Al Bastakiya Trial. Out of a full-sister to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) runner-up Better Lucky—a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt—he has improved markedly on dirt and may appreciate the turn back in trip.
“Drawn one is hopefully a positive, so he can be ridden handily,” Bin Suroor said. “He showed he can handle the dirt last time and is in good form, but it looks a good race.”
Doug Watson relies on Moshaher, a Goldencents colt and impressive winning his only start to date, a 1600m maiden on Jan. 5.
“Walking Thunder looks the one to beat, but our fellow has had a great preparation and is a really smart horse,” Watson said. “We are very much looking forward to it.”
Sandeep Jadhav saddles Mulfit, second on his only racecourse appearance in a 1400m maiden in December. A son of Exchange Rate, he has always been held in high esteem.
Jadhav said: “We really like this horse and have given him plenty of time after that very pleasing first run. It is a strong race, but we think he will run well.”
The UAE 2000 Guineas, which is slated as the third race (7:40 p.m.) is completed by English invader Fintas, Danish colt Red Cactus, Group 3 grass winner Sporting Chance and Jebel Ali-based Eyelool.
Remainder of Card
The $175,000 Al Naboodah Honeywell Partnership Handicap is a course and distance prep for the $1.5 million Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (G2) over 3200m on turf. Godolphin’s Red Galileo, sixth in said Dubai World Cup night feature last year, is the top-rated in the field, which also includes promising well-bred banner-mate Dubhe, a son of Dubawi and Irish Oaks (G1) winner Great Heavens.
At 1200m on turf, the $175,000 Al Naboodah Automotive Division Handicap is a course and distance prep for the $2 million Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments (G1). Again, Godolphin will be tough with Bin Suroor-trained Top Score, but talented local winners Another Batt, Mazzini and Dream Today loom large.
Race 4 (8:15 p.m.) is a wide-open 1800m turf affair, the $135,000 Al Naboodah Travel Handicap, in which Godolphin’s Symbolization, Kingsley Park Owners Club’s Aquarium and Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ Walk in the Sun appear as some of the many possible victors. Phoenix is live again in the evening’s nightcap, the $135,000 Al Naboodah Cargo Handicap over 1400m on turf, with upstart 4-year-old Lansky. French trainer Pia Brandt, who shocked the UAE 1,000 Guineas (Listed) last week with Silva, looks to win again with Group 3 winner Fas, who must be respected.
The opening non-Carnival maiden event is definitely worth a watch to kick off the evening, as well. Town Bee, a full-brother to Metropolitan Handicap (G1) winner and UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) runner-up Bee Jersey, will try to win at second asking for Watson, who also starts well-bred Speightstown colt Midnight Sands. They are among a quartet of sophomores taking on a quintet of 4-year-olds in the 1400m dirt dash. Sport Desk