Dubai: Godolphin handlers Saeed Bin Surour and Charlie Appleby join hands as they bid to establish a Classic hopeful in Wednesday’s Group 3 Craven Stakes, the feature race on the second day of the prestigious Craven Meeting, widely regarded as the start of the 2019 British flat racing season.

Run over the same course and distance as the 2,000 Guineas (G1), the Craven is regarded as a highly reliable trial, a fact underlined twelve months ago when Appleby’s Masar won the race, finished third in the Guineas and then comped home a decisive winner of the Epsom Derby (G1).

Appleby is represented by Zakouski, an impressive winner in his debut on the polytrack at Kempton Racecourse in November.

Bin Surour, who is looking for a first success in the Craven, sends out Royal Marine, who ended 2019 as one of Europe’s leading two-year-olds after running on well to take the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp, France, in October.

The Raven’s Pass colt, who also captured a seven-furlong Doncaster maiden in September, returns to turf after coming home fourth on dirt in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial over a mile at Meydan, UAE, in January.

The Godolphin duo face eight rivals including the William Haggas-trained Skardu, Hugo Palmer’s Set Piece and Global Spectrum, who has won all three of his starts for Gay Kelleway.

Assessing Royal Marine’s chances, Bin Surour said: “Royal Marine didn’t quite enjoy racing on the dirt out in Dubai, but has been doing really at home and has been working well.

“He prefers easy ground and is in good form and ready to go.

“We will still find out more about his ability on Wednesday, but he’s a really nice horse, who we believe has a lot of potential.

Big-race Belgian rider Christophe Soumillon, who rode Thunder Snow to victory in the $12 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan last month, takes the ride on Royal Marine.

Appleby, looking to win the Craven for the second successive year, remarked: “Zakouski was a backward type last year and we gave him plenty of time, but he ran very well on his only start.

“This is a fact-finding mission and we will know a lot more about which route to take with him following this race.”

Wednesday’s card at Newmarket also features the Group 3 Abernant Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for older horses, in which lightly-raced five-year-old Dreamfield (John Gosden/James Doyle) makes his seasonal debut.

The Oasis Dream horse ran a solid race to finish sixth in the Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket in July. but subsequently ran below expectations in the Listed Hopeful Stakes, also at Newmarket, the following month.

His seven rivals are headed by Group 1 victor Brando, who is looking for a hat-trick in the Abernant Stakes.

At a Glance

Craven Stakes — Group 3

Venue: Rowley Mile, Newmarket Racecourse

First run: 1771

Distance: 1600m

Qualification: Three-year-old colts & geldings

Purse: £60,000