DUBAI: Thursday’s seventh meeting of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival is a quality one, including a triple header of Thoroughbred Group stakes, including the Group 2 Meydan Sprint (Race 2), Group 2 Balanchine (Race 5) and Group 3 Firebreak Stakes (Race 3). Additionally, the inaugural running of the Meydan Trophy for turf 3-year-olds, wide-open handicaps on each surface and the Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah (Race 1) for Purebred Arabians. The evening of seven races is sponsored by Gulf News and the first race’s post time is 6:30 p.m.
MEYDAN SPRINT (Group 2 | $250,000 | 1000mT)
All eyes will be on Godolphin’s heavily favoured Blue Point in the Meydan Sprint (G2), one of the few Thoroughbred features the owners are yet to win, as he bids to go one better than when chasing home the late Ertijaal in the 1000m turf dash 12 months ago. In fact, trainer Charlie Appleby has finished second in the last five Meydan Sprint renewals with Jungle Cat (2017, 2016) and Ahtoug (2015, 2014) rounding out the quintet of close calls.
A 5-year-old gelded son of Shamardal, Blue Point went to post as the market favourite in the subsequent 1200m turf Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments (G1) on Dubai World Cup day, but that was as far as he got, as a trickle of nostril blood necessitated withdrawal at the gate on veterinary advice. Then well beaten in Hong Kong after an eventful shipping, he returned to Europe and his very best form to win the 1000m Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot before disappointing in the 1200m July Cup. His most recent outing was a third in the Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York in August.
“The plan has always been to go to the Al Quoz Sprint via just this race,” Appleby said. “He ran very well in this last year and seems in similar form at home as he was 12 months ago, so hopefully he will run well, but will certainly improve for the run.”
The aforementioned dual Meydan Sprint (G2) winner Ertijaal carried the colours of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as did 2016 winner Fityaan, with the owner seeking a fourth consecutive victory in the race. Among the select field of seven he has two representatives, both trained internationally. Following a similar path to Ertijaal, who won the 1000m Turf handicap on opening night three times, Faatinah will bid to post his third Carnival win at the hands of the Australian Hayes’ stable. The owner’s second chance, Mujaafy, is in the capable hands of South African Mike de Kock, seeking a third win in this race, having landed it with Shea Shea in both 2013 and 2014.
Portamento, Rebel Streak and Johann Strauss complete the field. Roussel is a non-runner.
BALANCHINE (Group 2 | $250,000 | 1800mT)
Six fillies and mares have been declared for the Balanchine (G2), headed by Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby-trained Poetic Charm, who is seeking to become a first winner in the 1800m turf feature for her conditioner. Penalised after her easy victory in the 1600m Cape Verdi (G2), the Carnival’s other race restricted to the fairer sex, the half-sister to Teofilo will be stepping up to her furthest distance to date and switching from James Doyle to William Buick in the saddle.
“She won the Cape Verdi in style and this was the obvious next target with a month in between ideal,” Appleby said. “She is in good form and should go well, but she does have that penalty over a new trip.”
The 4-year-old Dubawi homebred was far too good on that occasion, beating all five fillies she faces in this, including Saeed bin Suroor’s runner-up Asoof and third-placed South American G1 winner Furia Cruzada. Over this extra 200m, the latter, trained by Erwan Charpy, might pose the biggest danger, having finished second last year in a photo-finish to Godolphin’s Promising Run.
Turkish Group 1 winner Peri Lina should improve in this spot, as the distance is more in her favour. The additional time since her subpar effort in the Cape Verdi should also be beneficial as the grey charge attempts to win her ninth race from 17 starts.
Danish filly Monza and English mare Mia Tesoro complete the field.
FIREBREAK STAKES (Group 3 | $200,000 | 1600m)
Trained by Sandeep Jadhav for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Heavy Metal will bid to become the second dual winner of the Firebreak Stakes (G3), after Skysurfers landed the 1600m dirt feature in both 2010 and 2011 for Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Last of nine when attempting to retain his Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) crown over the same 1600m, the 9-year-old gelded son of Exceed and Excel is seeking an eighth victory over this 1600m dirt course and distance and is already the oldest winner of the race. He and jockey Mickael Barzalona will depart from stall one.
“He has improved since his seasonal debut and we have the ideal draw, so hopefully he can bounce back after what was a somewhat disappointing effort,” Jadhav remarked.
Jadhav’s charge chased home the Doug Watson-trained Kimbear on Super Saturday in the Burj Nahaar (G3) over this 1600m and that rival was second in the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (G2) last month. He finished one place ahead of stable companion Muntazah, who was second to Heavy Metal in the Godolphin Mile (G2) on his dirt debut—a race in which Kimbear was unplaced.
“Both seem in good shape at home and we know are very capable under these conditions, but it does look a strong race this year,” Watson observed.
Also doubly represented is Satish Seemar, whose team could hardly be in better form. He saddles both Secret Ambition and Behavorial Bias, first and third respectively in the 1600m Jebel Ali Mile (G3) on their most recent appearances. Secret Ambition was second in Kimbear’s aforementioned Burj Nahaar, while Behavioral Bias sports no small amount of back-class when with previous trainer Al Stall Jr. in America. He makes his second start in the UAE.
Group 2 winner Janoobi and Group 2-placed Silent Attackcomplete the field and must prove themselves on the dirt surface.
Remainder of Card
Turf sophomores are always popular and this is expected to be the case in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Meydan Trophy—the first opportunity this Carnival for 3-year-old turf runners to go a distance of ground. Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby-trained Art du Val and Kingsley Park 10’s Mark Johnston-conditioned Victory Command appear to be the class of this event, while Bila Shak is well-regarded by owner-trainer Fawzi Nass andTrolius has done little wrong for Lady O’Reilly and trainer Simon Crisford.
The Purebred Arabian curtain raiser, the $55,000 Mazrat Al Ruwayah sponsored by Watch Time (PA G2) over 1600m on the dirt has attracted nine runners. Mawahib, trained by Eric Lemartinel for His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may well be the one to beat. The 6-year-old mare failed by just a head to overhaul Goshawke in the 2200m Al Maktoum Challenge R2 (PA G1) a fortnight ago, having finished fourth in the 1600m opening round.
“Both mine are in good form and should be competitive with preference for Mawahib, who should appreciate returning to 1600m in slightly lesser company,” Lemartinel, who also saddles RB Torch, said.
The $135,000 1200m dirt handicap will provide plenty of Carnival intrigue as Turkish three-time Group 1 winner Good Curry will clash with American sprinter Switzerland, who looks to improve from a subpar local debut in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) on Jan. 31 with a rider change to Mickael Barzalona. Touch Gold Racing’s Pop the Hood adds to the depth of the field in his second local start following a solid American career, while Satish Seemar sends out the progressive Lavaspin, who won his last two outings over course and distance.
Walton Street, Astronomer and Zaman look tough to beat in a wide-open finale, a $175,000 handicap over 2410m—a race that could easily produce a starter for Super Saturday. One to watch in this spot is Denmark’s Suspicious Mind, who exits a fine runner-up effort and looks for career win 13 in his 26th start. Sport Desk