Dubai: Godolphin’s Alpha, once considered an American Classic hopeful, seeks redemption on UAE soil as he makes his local debut for trainer Saeed Bin Surour in today’s 20th running of the $250,000 Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 2), sponsored by tabloid!
The four-year-old Bernardini colt, who was previously trained by Kiaran McLaughlin in Belmont Park, NY, faces 11 rivals including Godolphin’s French Derby runner-up Saint Baudolino, trained by Mahmoud Al Zarouni and a pair of South African raiders, Mushreq and Await The Dawn.
Bin Surour, looking for his ninth success in the race, which threw up a Dubai World Cup winner in 2001 in the form of Moon Ballad, has three other runners entered — 2012 champion Mendip, European Group I scorer Hunter’s Light, and European multiple Group winner Prince Bishop.
“They are four nice horses,” said Bin Surour. “This is the obvious race to start them in and Mendip has been given a nice break over the summer with this race in mind as he tries to win it again.
“Prince Bishop has been a bit disappointing when tried in these good races, but conditions are ideal for him. Hunter’s Light has been working well at Al Quoz and Alpha is improving with each gallop, but those two may just need the run more than the other pair.”
Al Zarouni looks to have a good chance of the winning a maiden Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 2) and said: “I have been pleased with Saint Baudolino since he arrived in Dubai and he has been training well.
“He is a very straightforward horse to train and I am looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”
Once again the main threat to the Godolphin horses appear to be the South African contenders with trainer Mike de Kock saying: “Mushreq deserved that win last week as things had not gone to plan in his first two starts. I think he will be fine on the surface and he deserves this step up in class.
“Await The Dawn is a horse we really like and this has been the first target to get him back on the track. He works well on the all-weather so should handle it, but he will certainly improve for the run.”
The meeting opens with the Group 1 Purebred Arabian version of Al Maktoum Challenge where last year’s second, Albar Lotois, third, Fryvolous and fourth, Paris Gagner are all back, but have a lot to fear from the Erwan Charpy-trained Versac Py.
Meanwhile, Indian champion In The Spotlight bids to bounce back from an agonising defeat three weeks ago when she contests the $150,000 Classifieds Handicap over an extended 2,800m.
A six-time Classic winner, she finished fourth behind the Godolphin pair, Anatolian and Ahzeemah and Mike de Kock’s Star Empire.
Her connections remain optimist with highly regarded Indian owner-breeder Zavary Poonawalla saying: “It was a gallant performance, but if I’m honest I was a little disappointed. This time she has the benefit of a local run under her belt and we also suspect that she will get better with the extra distance.”