Dubai: UAE champion handler Ali Rashid Al Raihe bids to become the first trainer to win the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes twice when he saddles 2012 winner First City in today’s renewal of the exciting 1,600m contest which is restricted to fillies and mares.
All nine previous winners of the race, which was first run as a Group 2 contest in 2011, have been trained by different handlers. Belgian ace Christophe Soumillon is the only rider to have won it on two occasions — in 2007 with the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Sanaya and with Marco Botti’s Soneva in 2010.
Soumillon returns to partner the Mike de Kock-trained Amanee, who needs to improve on her UAE debut a fortnight ago if she hopes to make an impact in what looks to be a very high-quality contest.
De Kock, however, sounded optimistic that his filly will bounce back and said: “That was a tough race and she can be forgiven for that effort. Taking on fillies and mares in a smaller field will hopefully suit her.”
Al Raihe was also reasonably bullish about First City defending her crown in the $200,000 (Dh734,619) contest in the hands of stable-jockey Royston Ffrench.
“She has been going well and should give a good account of herself,” said the Emirati handler who is based at the Grandstand Stables adjacent to Meydan racecourse. “She won this race last year and we hope for a good run this season too.”
Al Raihe hopes to use the same race as he did last year (Balanchine) en route to a possible second shot at the Godolphin Mile (G2) on Dubai World Cup night. First City was a respectable sixth to African Story in the race last season.
“That was her first run for us when she won it last year and we were obviously very pleased with that,” he said. “She then ran a good second in the Balanchine and these two races are her main targets again.”
But First City must first pass Thursday’s test where she faces six strong contenders led by Godolphin’s Sajhaa and Dark Orchid, who are trained by Saeed Bin Surour and Mahmoud Al Zarouni’s Falls Of Lora, the winner of last year’s UAE Oaks.
Bin Surour, who is also responsible for Spellwork in the race, said of his chances: “All three are working well and we expect them all to run well. Spellwork and Dark Orchid both joined us this year from Andre Fabre in France so we are getting to know them.
“Sajjhaa ran three times for us in Europe last year and ran well each time. I expect a big run from her.”
Commenting on Falls Of Lora, who also win a Listed contest at Sandown in the UK last summer, Al Zarouni said: “She is versatile and with regards to the ground she has won at Meydan on Tapeta, on fast ground as a juvenile and on a much softer surface last year. She seems in good form and this is the obvious start point for her.”
Thursday’s card also features an interesting six furlong sprint where Hitchens, last year’s Al Shindagha Sprint sensation, makes his seasonal debut in a race where local hero Ganas also lines up.
Trained by championship leader Ernst Oertel, Ganas is bidding for a fourth win of the season.
Tadhg O’Shea, who continues his association with the improving son of Oasis Dream said: “He deserves his chance in this company but there is a lot of speed drawn low so we will have to see how the race pans out.”