Dubai: The Dubai World Cup Carnival moves up several notches to host Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge (G1), one of the most highly anticipated races of the season, on what promises to be a fantastic day’s racing at Meydan on Thursday.
Round 1 is the first of three major pattern races that carry the same name and act as a stepping stone to the $12 million Dubai World Cup.
This year’s renewal of the 1,600 metre contest may have attracted a field of only eight runners, but every single one of them is worth a place in the prestigious contest.
North America maybe the star attraction but runners such as Muntazah, Secret Ambition, Heavy Metal and Kimbear are equally solid contenders.
Trained by Satish Seemar at the famous Zabeel Stables, North America destroyed the field in this race 12 months ago but may have his work cut out for his this time around after being drawn in the less than favourable wide outside gate.
The break will be of crucial importance for his jockey, Richard Mullen, who will be looking to get him to a front-running position with early pace expected to be the order of the day.
Seemar acknowledged that North America’s first test would be the start and said: “It’s not an ideal draw. But I do know he will give it his best.
“You have two speed horses inside of him with Muntazah and Heavy Metal and if he breaks on top, he should be all right.
“He’s had that experience before. It’s hard to say what will happen. You can look at it two ways. Either he breaks and jumps out well, takes his spot and wins — or it doesn’t work out. (Muntazah) has the (better) draw and a straightaway advantage, so he is the one to beat, but there’s always a scenario that will change as the race happens.”
Doug Watson, who saddles Dubai World Cup hopeful Muntazah, commented: “He’s honestly training great. He’s had two nice works over at Meydan the last two weeks.
“We’ve got him as fit as we can get him. Obviously, it’s a big race, but that’s the way things pan out over here. You have to sometimes go to those bigger races first. Our goals are at the end of the season, so we hope he runs his race on Thursday.”
The main supporting race on a mouth-watering eight-race card sponsored by Meydan’s Pillar Partner, Longines, is the $250,000 Singspiel Stakes (G2).
Only six runners will face the starter in this early prep for the $6 million Dubai Turf, among them being 2019 winner Benbatl.
Trained by Saeed Bin Surour for Godolphin, Benbatl was one of the stable’s best international performers winning Germany’s Grosser Dallmayr Preis-Bayerisches Zuchtrennen and Australia’s Ladbrokes Stakes.
Bin Surour commented: “He’s doing very well. He worked very well last Thursday to prepare for this race.
“It was very strong and a good work. He had a long time off after a hard (2018 season). He’s in good form and he is ready to go. I’m happy with him and look forward to running.”
Bin Suroor also saddles Dream Castle, winner of last year’s Singspiel Stakes.
“Dream Castle is doing very well. We will keep him on the grass and he has worked well in Dubai. He’s a better horse in Dubai and he enjoys being back.”
Also on the cards is the $100,000 UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial, a race in which Bin Surour also holds a strong hand with First View, an impressive two-time winner at Kempton in the UK. Old Commanding and Al Modayar look to have decent claims as does Scandinavian star Nocentsinkentucky
Race 1 1. Aatebat Al Khalediah, 2. Es Ajeeb
Race 2 1. Ekhtiyaar, 2. Nine Below Zero
Race 3 1. First View, 2. Commanding
Race 4: 1. Benbatl, 2. Dream Castle
Race 5: 1. Gabr, 2. Zakouski
Race 6: 1. North America, 2. Heavy Metal
Race 7: 1. Chasing Dreams, 2. Platinum Star
Race 8: 1. Piece of History, 3. Good Fortune
Day’s Best: Benbatl