Al Maktoum Challenge Round I kicks off 2011 Dubai International Racing Carnival

The eyes of the racing world will be fixed firmly on Meydan this evening for the highly-anticipated opening meeting of the 2011 Dubai International Racing Carnival. An eight race card, sponsored by Longines, is highlighted by the opening rounds of the prestigious Al Maktoum Challenge with both Purebred Arabian and Thoroughbred races over 1600m on the All-Weather surface.

The Group Three Thoroughbred version is the penultimate race on the card and looks wide open with the maximum field of 14 set to face the starter. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor has a good record in the race and is responsible for two runners with stable jockey Frankie Dettori electing to ride Mendip.

Bin Suroor said: "Mendip was a good winner at the Carnival last year and proved himself on the All-Weather. He has been off since the Dubai World Cup night and will improve for the outing but is working well and we are hopeful."

Godolphin's second trainer, Mahmood Al Zarooni is embarking on his first full Carnival and has three in the race. Jockey Ahmed Ajtebi has chosen Storm Ultralight and the trainer said: "He won on a similar surface at Lingfield and has been pleasing us at home but does have a bad draw to overcome."

Visiting UK-based trainer Luca Cumani was left ruing his luck after Mabait, to be ridden by Kieran Fallon drew widely in starting gate 14, the extreme outside . Cumani said: "The horse is very well and has settled in nicely but we were hoping for a much better draw."

The 2009 winner and runner-up My Indy and Green Coast clash again, while South Africa are well represented with Herman Brown saddling Fencing Master with compatriot Mike De Kock to have three runners, headed by 2010 Dubai Duty Free third Imbongi.

That of course was on turf and, on that occasion, De Kock's runner was just behind Brown's Bankable who makes his return to the fray in a 1200m conditions race. It will be a first race on All-Weather for the horse but the trainer sounds hopeful: "Obviously he is better over further but he is a classy horse who goes well fresh so, with luck, he will be very competitive."

It does look a tricky assignment though with De Kock's Our Giant, Doug Watson's Force Freeze and the Dhruba Selvaratnam-trained Alo Pura among a plethora of quality sprinters in opposition.

The UAE 1000 Guineas Trial should offer some early Classic clues with De Kock's Mahbooba and Brown's Chocolicoius strongly fancied. They may have most to fear from the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Crying Lightening.

Racing opens with the Group One Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenge I and ten have been declared, headed by last year's winner No Risk Al Maury.

Trained by Gill Duffield for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he made history on that occasion as it was the first ever race at Meydan. Richard Hills will again be in the saddle and said: "He has been working nicely and Gill is very happy with him. The 1600m is ideal for his return to action and I am very hopeful."

Fryvolous and Dynamite could be the main dangers.

The Turf course is also in use for the first time this season with the 1400m Dolce Vita and 2435m Prima Luna just further highlights on what promises to be a great night of racing.