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Mendip eyes date with history

Godolphin star bids to become first to win Al Maktoum challenge opener twice

Image Credit: Gulf News Archives
Frankie Dettori rides Mendip to win Round One of the Al Maktoum Challenge at the Dubai International Racing Carnival last season.The duo return to challenge a strong international field in today’s renewal of the prestigious race.
Gulf News

Dubai: Twelve months ago Mendip gave Godolphin one of its most resounding victories in Round One of the Al Maktoum Challenge series — and he will bid to repeat the feat under Frankie Dettori today.

But the five-year-old son of former Dubai World Cup runner-up Harlan's Holiday will have to defy history if he is to be successful as no horse has won the race twice in its 19-year history.

Godolphin's China Visit was beaten by a nose in 2002 when seeking the double at Nad Al Sheba racecourse, while 2010 Dubai World Cup hero Gloria de Campeao was second in 2009. Wathik, trained by former UAE-based veteran Paddy Rudkin, finished second in 1996 and third in 1997 before winning the race in 1998.

However, Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Surour can gain inspiration from the fact that he has won the race seven times, while Dettori, who takes the ride on Mendip, is a four-time winner.

The Godolphin handler said he was confident his horse will run a big race and said: "We have given him a lovely break over the summer and he is fresh and very well indeed. He is working just as well as he was last year before the race and has a great draw in [stall] one.

Strong renewal

"We have to be thinking he will run a big race but it looks a strong renewal.

"I also have Secrecy in the field and he has been going well on the [all-weather] at Al Quoz. This looks a good race to start him back."

Godolphin's second trainer, Mahmoud Al Zarouni, sends out former South American Group 1 winner Xin Xu Lin, who was fifth in last year's UAE Derby.

Weighing up his colt's chances, Al Zarouni said: "He ran well for a long way in the UAE Derby before tiring so we have freshened him up and he seems in really good form. The trip will be his minimum but I am expecting a good run."

The Godolphin runners face some serious opposition in the form of the Mike de Kock-trained Musir and new recruit Master Of Hounds.

Musir had Mendip behind him when winning the UAE Derby in 2010, while Master Of Hounds, then trained by Aidan O'Brien, was a noteworthy third.

Difficult race

Another strong international entry is the Marco Botti-trained Fanunalter, who was in the money on both his Carnival starts last year on turf.

Fanunalter subsequently won the Group 3 Diomed Stakes at Epsom and was fourth to Dick Turpin in a Group 1 at the San Siro on his last start in Septmber. Derbaas, last year's Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort winner, represents champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, while Musabah Al Muhairi has entered last season's Jebel Ali Mile (Listed) winner Snaafy.

It looks a difficult race to call, but Mendip and Xin Xu Lin will be in the shake-up if they rise to the occasion.

Doug Watson's Kandar Du Flagas is tipped to win the Purebred Arabian version of the Al Maktoum Challenge (Group 1) from AF Alghabra.

The card also features the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, which looks the perfect race for Godolphin's highly-regarded Rassam, who was a stunning seven-length winner of his maiden at Kempton in November.