Thursday brings us the highest quality local meeting we can ever recall for the UAE as three new listed stakes were introduced to the programme. The Dubai Creek Mile, Entisar, and Garhoud Sprint join the pre-Carnival schedule in edition to the well-established purebred Arabian feature, the Mazrat Al Ruwayah.
Race 1 – AED 170,000 Mazrat Al Ruwayah (G2) sponsored by Lincoln Navigator – 1,600 metres – dirt
A fun race is this, and one where we could see most stake a claim.
Being forwardly placed has been beneficial through the first three meetings of the new dirt at Meydan and no one else shows more of a history of going forward than #7 AREEM. All those things are positive for his chances. This is his first try on the dirt and it seems a tactical edge to the rest of the field. He won this last year on the Tapeta, first off the shelf.
#1 BIGG N RICH has been successful on all-weather, turf, and dirt, a rare all-surface performer. He tracked Shateh last time and ran down the long-time leader in that short field prepping for this. He was only sixth in this race last year, but it came after blowing the start following a similar performance in the prep race. He is more consistent now, and with a clean start, will be in the mix.
Trainer Erwan Charpy has had just four wins the last two seasons but has two from 21 starts this year, a very good start for the longtime UAE-based conditioner with 495 local successes. #5 VERSAC PY is as game as they come, but view this as a leg-stretcher before the Carnival.
#3 AF LAFEH is a winner on dirt at both Sharjah and Jebel Ali but has shown himself to be behind the top Arabians from Sheikh Mansour’s lot.
1st – #7 AREEM, 2nd – #1 BIGG N RICH, 3rd – #5 VERSAC PY
Race 2 – AED 100,000 Lincoln MKZ Trophy Maiden – 2,000 metres – dirt
It’s blinkers on for former Godolphin maiden #7 CRY JOY, and we think that will certainly help this son of Street Cry. In his last run at Kempton, he led through the first 1,950 metres before being headed in the stretch over the 2,400m trip. Ahmed Ajtebi should go forward and try to last, the barrier in four shouldn’t hurt either.
#5 SOOTH AL SSALAM has been in the mix plenty, but never landed that winning blow. It could happen here, but he just needs an unencumbered trip and to go forward. Again, there isn’t much pace in the race on paper.
The booking of Adrie de Vries to #1 APPARENTLY would certainly suggest he is the top runner for Ahmad bin Harmash, but it seems bothersome that he has never showed any interest in racing forward.
Doug Watson’s yard has been going so well, and he’s landed a few maiden wins at Meydan already. #4 ENTRENCHED got a mulligan after the Al Ain run, then was only midfield coming up the hill. He missed the kick last week, was green in the early stages then had trouble cornering, all things that can be a death knell at Jebel Ali. He wasn’t that far behind when making three starts in the UK, one of which saw him miss the kick. Given the flow of the yard at this point, getting back on a level surface, well-drawn, and some past ability to go forward makes him the lean.
#3 COLONSAY was the only horse to do any late running when futilely chasing Silver Galaxy last week. If he improves third off the layoff, he could be a rare victory for trainer Rashed Bouresly
1st – #4 ENTRENCHED, 2nd – #7 CRY JOY, 3rd – #5 SOOTH AL SSALAM
Race 3 – AED 205,000 The Garhoud Sprint sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (Listed) – 1,200 metres – dirt
This race should be a great test of how strong the early front-end dominance really is. We know #2 NAWWAAR loves to go forward, but is winless on dirt despite a decent pedigree for the surface. He was close at Jebel Ali once in a clustered finish.
#3 CONVEYANCE was known for doing nothing but going forward, setting one of the quicker paces in the history of the Kentucky Derby, but has clearly had issues staying sound. If he does, he could be in the mix.
#8 THE TAJ has been phenomenal this year, with a big step forward last time when dominating from the lead. He dueled for the front last time and put away Ghaamer with ease. All signs suggest he is taking the dirt at Meydan like a champ and the listed conditions of this race provide a hearty test we think he can pass.
#9 SHOLAAN was second-up strong and now tries Meydan’s more sandy composition for the first time. He has the benefit of racing from off the pace in a race with plenty of speed, but might just be better over a sharper distance up the straight. We’re willing to take him on despite when seems a perceived advantage coming from off the pace.
#6 RAFEEJ has one start on dirt, setting a course record at Sharjah at the beginning of last season (later lowered), while toting highweight at 61.5 kilos. The second and third placers from that race came back to be second and first in a similar handicap next up. He won the non-listed equivalent of this race last year on Tapeta and was competitive enough to nearly take the Dubawi Stakes at the Carnival. He’s dangerous, and with that win off the shelf from last season still a big mark on his ledger, beware.
1st – #8 THE TAJ, 2nd – #6 RAFEEJ, 3rd – #9 SHOLAAN
Race 4 – AED 205,000 The Dubai Creek Mile sponsored by Lincoln MKC (Listed) – 1,600 metres – dirt
We’ll go out on a limb and call this the best local season race we’ve ever seen at Meydan or Nad al Sheba, and perhaps outright before the Carnival. That said, there are some funky conditions in play here as a horse like #9 ENNOBLED FRIEND carries the same weight as some much classier runners, but we’ll find a way to manage.
This is certainly an exciting race – serving as the local debut for former South American Grade 1 winner #6 GRAND SALUTE. He has typically raced from just off the main leaders, and his lengthening stride, as shown in that eight-length January 2014 win in the Gran Premio Pedro Pineyrua was brilliant. But as we will discuss heartily in the soon published Dubai Racing Comprehensive, you almost always have to be wary of the South American imports. Will they carry the form – some do and remain champions, others never win again.
Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) third #2 SURFER is bred for dirt and will finally get on the surface in his 19th career start. Stable companion #7 GOLD CITY is here too, fourth as a real outsider in the Godolphin Mile (G2), beaten just more than two lengths by the wildly talented Variety Club.
#3 HAATHEQ, beaten two lengths by Variety Club in the Firebreak Stakes (G3) last season, is a long-solid producer on the dirt, mostly at Jebel Ali. Add stablemate #5 LE BERNARDIN in the mix, an easy winner first-up off a long break, and low weight, and you get a wildly compelling event with seemingly many chance.
There are plenty in this field that want to be in the mix, but few who seem all that keen on leading. Surfer is the one for us, though. He’s rarely drawn a solid barrier and should be forwardly placed from gate two with no speed to his inside. Richie Mullen has seen enough of how the track is playing early in the season to recognize that being up in the vanguard is a necessity. If Surfer takes to the dirt, as we think he will, it could be a fun season.
1st – #2 SURFER, 2nd – #6 GRAND SALUTE, 3rd – #5 LE BERNARDIN
Race 5 – AED 205,000 The Entisar sponsored by Lincoln MKX (Listed) – 2,000 metres – dirt
Another set of odd conditions has maiden winner #2 TARBAWI and Grade 1 winner #3 COOPTADO on level weights while recent handicap and maiden winners, respectively, #7 STORM BELT and #9 RESPECT ME carry 1.5 kilos more.
Cooptado is where we should begin. Fifth under a good effort when likely underprepared for the UAE Derby, connections had to be thrilled to see dirt at Meydan considering his history as a Grade 1 dirt winner in Argentina. Still, he might like some more ground from this. We want to see him prove it to us, so waiting for now.
#1 FARRIER gets on a more traditional sandy dirt surface after a long string at Jebel Ali. He’s winless since his first-up run last year when beating Jutland there before he returned the favour in 2014.
#7 STORM BELT was incredibly impressive first-up and the second-home, Henry Clay, has come back to run a close second and a winner since, now rated 100. The two horses to his inside can miss the start, so we expect him to be able to tuck over and race on or just off the pace.
#8 SNOW SQUALL seems an outsider in the group here but would be one to go forward if he takes to the surface, so expect him as a possible pace factor who could stick around.
#4 ZAIN SHAMARDAL was running-on well in his seasonal debut against one of the season’s two-time winners, Shaishee. Now, the 2014 Carnival victor over the mile gets an extra 400 metres, a distance he has conquered in the past. Considering he should improve second up, we think he is in the mix.
It’s worth adding that #10 ZAMBUCCA gets dirt for the first time. He’s been messed about in some grass races that he was likely never going to land a blow, but that pedigree is all about the dirt. Sire Lundy’s Liability was a UAE Derby winner before some other graded stakes success in America, while damsire Dancing Champ was a graded dirt winner as well. His third in the Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) is competitive with this lot.
We aren’t going to get tricky here, even though some might suggest looking elsewhere. What you know seems to be better than what you don’t.
1st – #7 STORM BELT, 2nd – #1 FARRIER, 3rd – #4 ZAIN SHAMARDAL
Race 6 – AED 110,000 The Lincoln MKT Trophy Handicap (Rated 70-85) – 1,200 metres – dirt
#1 FAULKNER had the looks of the most impressive maiden winner to date when airing at Jebel Ali under a hand ride from Pat Dobbs. He actually won a trial at Meydan before the course officially opened this year, so we know he goes over the surface. Not many have come back following that November 27 maiden, but eighth home on that occasion, Mutahaddith, did improve his finishing result when ten lengths behind another wide space winner in Silver Galaxy.
It’s going to be tough for Faulkner to do it as the top weight in this bunch, but so many others have questions – it could be another big day for the Watson camp as we tip them with four winners.
#7 DAIRAM chased down Price Is Truth to just 2 ½ lengths, but the winner was being eased to a crawl in the final stages, making this look a better run than it was. He’s winless from five tries on dirt and still looking for a first UAE success, but at least we know he is proficient on the new ground.
You never really know what you are going to get from #2 IGUAZU FALLS, who wasn’t far behind legitimate Carnival performer Anaerobio, third in last year’s Jebel Hatta (G1). He’s rated for turf, so could skip this on the bounce. The 9-year-old is the first horse we remember to hit Meydan’s dirt track who also ran at Nad al Sheba on the dirt. It wasn’t pretty then, what will we get now?
#3 SATWA STORY makes perfect sense to come back with another big performance. A winner in this gelding’s dirt debut, off a long break, there is some concern we could see the bounce come into play. Another could be the drop back to 1,200 metres after seemingly needing all of the 1,400 to get going last time. Faulkner did it so easily, we have to lean on him.
1st – #1 FAULKNER, 2nd – #3 SATWA STORY, 3rd – #7 DAIRAM
|December 18 – Meydan Selections|
|Pat Cummings||Mackenzie Kirker-Head|
|2||4||Entrenched||2||5||Sooth Al Ssalam|
|3||8||The Taj||3||8||The Taj|
|5||7||Storm Belt||5||7||Storm Belt|
|107 races – 22-25-15 (20.6% win, 57.9% top 3)||104 races – 21-11-14 (20.2% win, 44.2% top 3)|