Dubai: The 2021 Dubai World Cup Carnival, one of the most highly anticipated events on the international racing calendar, kicks off at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday evening with a glittering seven-race card sponsored by Meydan Pillar Partners Azizi Developments and highlighted by the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge (Group 2). Fans are in for a treat with high-class races such as the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort and Group 2 Singspiel Stakes also on the curtain-raiser to the seven-week long extravaganza.
Here, Gulf News, offers you a breakdown of the seven races.
Race 5. 8.50pm: Al Maktoum Challenge R1 Sponsored By Mina By Azizi - Group 2 (1,600m, dirt)
A high-class renewal of one of the UAE’s iconic races which has Dubai World Cup implications. Capezzano sets the standard and with his strong front-running style and will be hard to catch over this trip, but it won’t be easy given the presence of solid milers such as Salute The Soldier, Military Law, Kimbear, and Thegreatcollection. The last named beat few of these rivals in the Dubai Creek Mile last month and deserves all the respect, as does Uruguay’s Ajuste Fiscal and Godolphin’s well-regarded Gifts Of Gold, with the famous pairing of Saeed Bin Surour and Frankie Dettori team up again.
Military Law gets the vote but has to overcome a long lay-off having last been seen finishing runner-up in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 in March, 2020.
“Military Law is a good horse, we bought him in the July sales,” said trainer Musabeh Al Muheiri. “He is highly rated and a top class horse. We will run him in this race and maybe he will win. Last year he had an invitation for Dubai World Cup, and this year he will be ready for that.”
Antonio Fresu, who takes the ride said: “He is an amazing horse, he came from England in the summer, after the July sales. He ran first time over a mile and finished very strong. After that he ran in the Entisaar and won it. He had an invitation for the Dubai World Cup, but after COVID, we couldn’t run him. I think he spent a nice summer, because when I came back this winter he looked stronger and better. I have been riding him almost every day and I am really happy with him. We know the first round will be tough for him, being a big horse he needs a run and a mile is bit short for him, but even so I think he will run a good race.”
Bahrain’s Salute The Soldier, who was a hugely impressive winner of the Burj Nahaar over course and distance on Super Saturday last year, can upset all calculations.
GN Selection: 1. Military Law, 2. Capezzano.
Rest of the card
Race 1. 6.30pm: Al Furjan By Azizi Handicap (1,400m, dirt)
Important Mission and Behavioral Bias finished one-two in the Listed Garhoud Sprint over six furlongs last month and look set for a repeat match with the latter holding the edge this time around having had the benefit or another run in the Longines Spirit Collection Trophy Handicap where he finished a fifth, less than two lengths behind the winner Taamol. This could be a hot contest with many fast types in contention including the Doug Watson-trained Golden Goal who could make it third time lucky following two good efforts including a victory of stable companion Kinver Edge who also has genuine claims.
GN Selection: 1. Behavioral Bias, 2. Important Mission
Race 2. 7.05pm: Dubai Racing Club Classic Sponsored By Aliyah By Azizi (1m 4f, turf)
Godolphin handlers Saeed Bin Surour and Charlie Appleby dominate in numbers (three runners each) and could also do the same in the race for staying types. Bin Surour sends out Desert Fire, Dubai Future and Volcanic Sky, while Appleby’s potent team comprises Walton Street, Ispolini and American Graffiti. Desert Fire beat Walton Street over a mile and three furlongs at Lingfield last September and, although the latter enjoys a 2lb advantage, he could still find it hard to gain revenge over a rival who is at his best early in the season. When previously raced by Mark Johnston in the UK, Salem Bin Ghadayer’s Communique who twice in Group 2 company and was campaigned at the top level where he produced some up-and-down form. He also has a highly creditable second to French King in the Group 1 Preis Von Berlin Group at Hoppegarten in Germany two seasons ago.
GN Selection: 1. Desert Fire, 2. Walton Street.
Race 3. 7.40pm: Dubawi Stakes Sponsored By Park Avenue By Azizi Group 3 (6f, turf)
There is likely to be a decent pace in this contest with Bochart and Good Effort both expected to go forward from less-than-ideal draws. With that in mind, it could set up perfectly for Gladiator King, who won this race 12 months ago for Satish Seemar. The son of Curlin progressed nicely to win the Al Shindagha Sprint, also over course and distance, on his subsequent start before running a big race in the Saudi Cup Sprint in Riyadh when he finished third to the winner New York Central. His main rival appears to be stablemate Bochart who will need to overcome a wide draw on Thursday. The race is packed with a lot of speedy types including Seemar’s third runner, Switzerland, and the consistent Waady who won the Meydan Sprint in 2020. Alkaraama, Good Effort and Leading Spirit also deserve respect.
GN Selection: 1. Gladiator King, 2. Waady
Race 4. 8.15pm: Singspiel Stakes Sponsored By Riviera By Azizi Group 2 (1m 1f, turf)
Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour has had the most success in this contest, winning it on four occasions and most recently with the classy Benbatl. He is represented by one-time Epsom Derby hopeful Military March, who was a Group 3-winning two-year-old back in 2019. On his only start last year, the son of New Approach finished fourth to Kameko in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket before sitting the rest of the year old. This looks the perfect race to start what his handler hopes will be a big year for him with major targets in mind including the Dubai World Cup. Fellow Godolphin contender Zakouski won the Group 2 Zabeel Mile when last seen at Meydan and also a Listed race upon his return to the UK when successful at Newmarket in October. Another classy contender is David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters who finished third to Almond Eye in the Dubai Turf in 2019 and still looks to have plenty of ability even at the age of eight.
GN Selections: 1. Military March, 2. Zakouski
Race 6. 9.25pm: Al Fahidi Fort Sponsored By Creek Views By Azizi Group 2 (7f, Turf)
Another race that could see the trophy could land up in Godolphin’s hands given the fact that Charlie Appleby has won five of the last six renewals including last year with Glorious Journey who bids for back-to-back wins. The Dubawi gelding sampled Listed race success in the UK last September and comes into the race with a big chance, although stable companion D’bai looks a big threat along with another Appleby runner, Velorum, who was an easy winner over C & D last February. The Saeed Bin Surour pair of Final Song, winner last year’s 1000 Guineas Trial and three-time UK victory Land Of Legends also look to have an each way chance, although on this occasion, Appleby does have the upper hand with Glorious Journey and Dbai.
GN Selections: 1. Glorious Journey, 2, D’bai
Race 7. 10pm: Dubai Dash Sponsored By Aura By Azizi Listed Handicap (5f, Turf)
A classy race to end a classy first day of the Dubai World Cup Carnival where several highly rated sprint specialists will bid for bragging rights ahead of a potential shot at the Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night in March. Charlie Appleby’s Lazuli won four of his eight races including the Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury on his last start of 2020. However, the vote goes to Charlie Hills’ Equilateral who is sprinter of the highest order. He finished third to Lazuli at Newbury but having proved that he is at his potent best when running fresh, as he did in taking out this trophy last season, looks the horse they will all have to aim at. Ekhtiyaar is another interning contender although he might prefer a longer trip to find his top speed.
GN Selections: 1. Equilateral, 2. Lazuli