Dubai: With less than a month to go for the landmark 25th running of the $12 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline at the iconic Meydan Racecourse, the excitement is building up as horse connections chase final berths for the nine-race extravaganza.
The single day of racing boasts an impressive six Group 1 and three Group 2 races and reflects the elite standard of flat racing in the UAE.
Contested over 2,000m on dirt since 1996, the world’s second richest race has been won by horses trained in France, Japan, UAE, UK and USA.
The second supplementary stage for all races on Dubai World Cup day will close on Monday, March 8, when horses can be supplemented for 1% of the prize money. The third and final supplementary stage takes place on Sunday, March 21, when horses can be supplemented into the race for 10% of the prize money. Entry/declaration takes place Monday, March 22.
Five things to look out for on week 7 of the Carnival, which takes place on Thursday, February 18, from 6.30pm.
A glittering seven-event card is highlighted by a pair of high-quality Group 2 contests on Turf, the Zabeel Mile Sponsored By Al Tayer Motors and the 1,800 metre Balanchine Sponsored by Range Rover.
The former is a lead-up race to the $750,000 Godolphin Mile (G1) while the latter will see leading horses GO ON TO contest the Group 1 Jebel Hatta over course and distance on Super Saturday en route to a possible shot at the $4 million Dubai Turf (G1).
Needless to say, the all-powerful Godolphin stable hold a strong hand in both races.
In the Zabeel Mile, Charlie Appleby sends out Group 2 scorer D’Bai (William Buck) who warmed up for this contest when finishing a close second in the Al Fahidi Fort over 7f here last month. However, he faces a serious threat from the Simon & Ed Crisford-trained Epic Hero who caught the eye when taking second behind Zakouski in the Al Rashidiya. Others worth factoring in are Velorum, Art Du Val, Bedouin’s Story and Escobar.
Once again Appleby’s Al Thiqa appears the one to beat in the Balanchine, a race that the Godolphin handler is hoping to win for the third consecutive year following Poetic Charm and Magic Lily. However, the Cape Verdi winner is carrying a penalty as she faces a slight stamina test.
Fellow Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour relies on Dubai Love, third place in the Cape Verdi, who he expects to see improve for the run.
Appleby has another interesting contender in Summer Romance while UK raider Stylistique is certainly worth a shout, having finished second in the Cape Verdi.
Thursday’s card closes in electrifying fashion with the Group 2 Al Shindagha Sprint, a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ dash for cash.
Run over a one-turn 1,200 dirt course it usually takes these equine machines just over a minute to negotiate. In fact it took Tropical Star 1:10.11 seconds to set a course record which has stood since 2007.
Nine face the starter with Zabeel Stables-trained and ex-American star Gladiator King set to deliver a powerhouse performance and win the race for the second successive year. Stable companion Bochart is a live threat as does Important Mission, who will be ridden by French ace Mickael Barzalona, who favours an aggressive front-running approach.
Recent Jebel Sprint winner Al Tariq can upset as he represents the Doug Watson-Pat Dobbs pairing who won this in 2019 with Drafted.
Saeed Bin Surour has been the most successful trainer at the Carnival but his dominance is being seriously tested by fellow Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby who scored a hat-trick at the Carnival last week.
Both handlers bring plenty of firepower to the Carnival this Thursday and it will be interesting to see how these talented team mates and friendly rivals face-off on a very important night’s racing.
Interestingly, they both saddle eight runners apiece, with several of them holding leading chains.
But the Carnival is a proven international stage and with challengers from the UK and Europe competing against the mighty locally based runners, it makes for very interesting viewing.
THE TADHG O’SHEA FACTOR
It is not for nothing that Ireland’s Tadhg O’Shea has been crowned champion jockey on eight occasions in the UAE. However, during the Carnival at Meydan he has been somewhat eclipsed by the likes of Adrie de Vries, Patrick Cosgrave, Mickael Barzalona and William Buick who have won more races.
But nobody writes off a tried and test jockey who can come good and deliver on any horse that he ride. He’s most trainer’s favourite go-to jockey, and is a very popular favourite among Pick Six participants who often chose jockeys over horses in their selections.
This season he has landed a pair of Group 3 contests for former champion trainer Satish Seemar, winning the Firebreak Stakes with Secret Ambition and the Dubawi Stakes with Switzerland.
Watch out for this little wonder who has some interesting bookings on Thursday, the pick being Twelfthofneverland who has a big chance in the Listed Curlin Stakes Sponsored By New Jaguar F-Pace over 2,000m on Dirt.
Thursday’s card also features the third Classic of the UAE season, the UAE Oaks. Run over 1,800 metres on dirt, it is an extended contest for the Classic generation in their progress to the top.
Only seven will start, but among them are some very promising types including Last Sunset who chased home the very impressive Soft Whisper in the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial over 7f here last month. The daughter of Teofilo was also filled second in the Meydan Classic Trial and should relish the step up in distance and assistance of big-race jockey Frankie Dettori.
Another to watch Is Mnasek who finished second in the 1000 Guineas last month. Jumeirah Beach won her maiden over a mile and should go close.
So, whichever way you look at it Thursday’s card has something for everyone.