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UAE Classic hopefuls go on trial at Meydan

De Kock has strong hand in colt’s division while Ireland’s Shanahan saddles favourite in filly’s equivalent

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives
Godolphin’s Mahmoud Al Zarouni will be hoping for a positive result in the UAE 1000 Guineastrial at Meydan. The trainer won the filly’s Classic 12 months ago with Gamilati.
Gulf News

Dubai: Godolphin handlers Saeed Bin Surour and Mahmoud Al Zarouni are looking forward to seeing how their Guineas entries perform in today’s key trials at Meydan, where they will put their Classic credentials to the test.

Between them Bin Surour and Al Zarouni, who have won the colts and fillies’ Classic 14 times since 2000, are well represented in each of the trials, which are the highlights of today’s second 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting.

However, they face some tough opposition from the stables of champion South African handler Mike de Kock and the emerging talent of jockey-turned-trainer John Patrick Shanahan from Ireland.

Although the UAE 2000 Guineas trial gives the impression of having attracted some quality runners, including David Simcock’s Glass Office and Mick Channon’s Luhaif, de Kock’s champion two-year-old Soft Falling Rain could be the one they will all have to beat.

Owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, the son of champion sire National Assembly is unbeaten in four starts, including the Grade 1 SA Nursery at Turffontein, South Africa, where he outclassed subsequent Group 1 Premier’s Champion Stakes winner The Hangman and Group 1 Golden Horseshoe victory War Horse.

De Kock, however, who is not known to get carried away easily, said of the colt’s prospects: “Soft Falling Rain is a classy sort with a lot of speed who will need to prove he stays the trip, handles the surface and can cope with that big weight. He is a nice horse, though, and I think he should stay.”

The South African maestro has a strong presence in the race, with Estruendoso and Zahee completing an ominous threesome for a handler who has won the UAE 2,000 Guineas itself on four occasions with Musir (2010), Honour Devil (2008), Asiatic Boy (2007) and Victory Moon (2003).

The Godolphin trainers are represented with Silvestre De Sousa riding Bin Surour’s I’m Back while Mickael Barzalona’s Filfil looks to be the pick of Al Zarouni’s three-strong team.

Ten runners go to post in the fillies’ equivalent, where Shanahan’s My Special J’s looks to have strong claims.

The daughter of Harlan’s Holiday carries a Group 2 penalty as a result of success in the Debutante Stakes at The Curragh and jockey Tadha O’Shea said of his chances: “On the plus side she seems to love the all-weather, the 1400m is ideal for her and she has settled in really well. However, we have a wide draw which is not ideal and it is never easy to give weight away.

“She is not the biggest filly so it has to be a slight concern, but Pat has her in great nick.”

Another Irish handler David Marnane saddles the French-bred filly More Than Sotka, who he said has “done everything we have asked of her and has settled in nicely. I hope she runs well.”

Godolphin are well represented with Bin Surour’s Shuruq and Al Zarouni’s Chart looking to be their principal hopes.

Meanwhile, India’s legion of racing fans will be keeping their fingers crossed as champion filly In The Spotlight makes her international debut in a competitive looking handicap, where De Kock’s Star Empire and Godolphin’s Ahzeemah are the main dangers.