Dubai: After the thrills of the Dubai World Cup meeting and the Grand National, the racing spotlight returns to the UK this week, while key Classic trials are also scheduled in Ireland.
Ascot and Doncaster, two of Britain’s leading racecourses, stage significant meetings sprinkled with Listed race action, while Nottingham hosts the Listed Further Flight Stakes, one of its showpiece events, on Wednesday.
The best of the week’s action is reserved for Ireland’s Leopardstown racecourse, where the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes, a notable stepping-stone to the Irish and English Derby, and Group 3 1000 Guineas Trial for three-year-old fillies take centre stage. Recent winners who have gone on to score at Epsom are High Chaparral in 2002 and Galileo in 2001.
However, the most eagerly anticipated Classic trials are at Newmarket, the headquarters of British racing, when it rolls out major preps for both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. The two-day Craven Meeting is regarded by many professionals, including Dubai’s globetrotting Godolphin Stable, as the actual start of the flat season as it provides a taste of what might be to come a fortnight later, when the venue stages the first two Classics of the season — the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas.
Emirati handlers Saeed Bin Surour and Mahmoud Al Zarouni have shifted base from Dubai to Newmarket and are fine-tuning their three-year-olds for the tests ahead. Bin Surour, who has won the colt’s Classic twice but not since Islands Sands won in 1999, is likely to saddle Group 3 scorer Tawhid and UAE Derby (G3) third place finisher Secret Number, while Al Zarouni has seven options including impressive Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) winner Steeler.
Meanwhile, Newmarket-based Italian handler Marco Botti is relying on Dubai-owned colt Moohaajim to provide him with his first British Classic winner. The son of Cape Cross, who is owned by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, impressed immensely when taking the Mill Reef Stakes (G1) last season and Botti believes he has the right profile to win at the highest level.
“If we’re lucky enough to win our first British Classic, it’s likely that it will come courtesy of Moohaajim,” said the trainer of the colt, who will make a seasonal debut in the Greenham Stakes (G3) at Newbury on April 20.
“As a two-year-old he wasn’t far off the top of the pile as, not only did he win the Mill Reef, but his final run of the campaign was huge, when second to Reckless Abandon, beaten by a neck, in the Group 1 Middle Park.
“We’ve been very pleased with his progress through the early months of this year as he has grown a bit, but he was on the small side last year. He’s working well and the plan is to start off in the Greenham. If all goes as we hope then on to the Guineas.”
Botti won the German 2,000 Guineas with Excelebration, who had prepped in the Greenham, and the Italian is hoping the formula will work again.
April 14 — 2,000 Guineas Trial, 1,000 Guineas
Trial (G3), Ballysax Stakes (G3)
April 17 — Nell Gwyn Stakes (G3)
April 18 — Cravens Stakes (G3), Sefton
April 20 — Greenham Stakes (G3), Dubai Duty
Free Stakes (G3), Dubai Duty Free Finest
Surprises Stakes (G3)