Dubai: Godolphin’s unbeaten Certify bids to maintain her unblemished record when facing five rivals in Thursday’s fillies and mares feature race, the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes, at Meydan Racecourse.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, Certify was an impressive winner of the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes three weeks ago over 1,600 metres, bids Group 1 Fillies’ Mile as a juvenile, but missed the whole of 2013.
She then made a scintillating return to action three weeks ago — her first outing since her Group 1 victory in September 2012.
Given a confident ride by Mickael Barzalona, she was far too good for her five rivals, three of whom are again in opposition here and will bid to emulate another Godolphin filly, Sajjhaa, who won both races last year.
Appleby said: “She has always been very good and she vindicated the decision to keep her training after missing last season. We could not have been more pleased with that winning comeback and she has thrived since then. She had been off a long while and that run really reminded her what racing is about.
“That was over 1,600 metres whereas this is 1,800 metres, but I do not think the extra 200 metres is going to be a problem. With only six runners, it could be tactical and may develop into a sprint but she showed in the Cape Verdi she can quicken.
“We have to be very hopeful [of victory].”
After winning this last year, Sajjhaa went on to complete a Group 1 double in Super Saturday’s Jebel Hatta and the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night — a path nominated by Appleby for Certify after her Cape Verdi victory.
Dual Group 1 winner Flotilla, victor in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf and last year’s French 1000 Guineas, was a big disappointment in the Cape Verdi but is surely better than able to show then.
Christophe Lemaire again rides her for Mikel Delzangles and, if back near her best, she looks the main danger.
The main support race, the 2,000 metre Dubai Millennium Stakes on the turf, is one of this season’s new Listed races and has attracted a very competitive field of 13.
It looks significant that Saeed Bin Suroor elects to run Tasaday in this and not the Balanchine and she did not enjoy the clearest of runs on her local debut and first start for Bin Suroor when ninth in the Group 2 Al Rashidiya.
Bin Suroor also saddles Quick Wit and he explained: “It was a bit disappointing with Tasaday the first time but she was hampered at a crucial stage and would certainly have finished closer with some luck in running.
“She has improved from that run and her last piece of work was very good. I really like her and the 2,000 metre should really suit and I expect a good run.
“Quick Wit is a nice horse and working well but he will definitely come on for the run having been off since September.”
Winner of that Al Rashidiya, over 1,800 metre on turf, was local debutant Mujaarib representing South African trainer, Mike De Kock and ridden at the time by Christophe Soumillon. Penalised for that win, he will be ridden here by Paul Hanagan, retained jockey to the horse’s owner, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.
De Kock said: “That win three weeks ago was a bit of a nice surprise really as we really thought he was going to need the outing. He has improved, fitness wise since, and this looked a good target for him.
“The penalty obviously makes life harder but we have to hope for a big run.”
One of the most impressive winners of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival was the Charlie Appleby-trained Cat O’Mountain, winner of a 2,200 metre all-weather handicap five weeks ago.
Touted as a live Dubai World Cup hope after that win, he returns to action in a handicap over the same 2,000 metre all-weather course and distance as the $10 million (Dh36.7 million) Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race.
Appleby said: “Yes, he was impressive that day but he has an awful lot to prove before you can talk seriously, about such lofty targets. This a lot tougher than the race he won when everything fell into place for him.
“The handicapper has put him up, the trip is slightly shorter, he is giving weight to all 15 rivals and is drawn wide. We will certainly see just where we stand with him.”