Benbatl, Gronkowski And Kimbear Clash In Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2; Three Continents Of 3YOs In UAE 2000 Guineas

DUBAI (February 6, 2020)—The sixth meeting of the 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan on Thursday evening is an expanded seven-race card worth $1.38 million and sponsored by pillar partner Mubadala. It is highlighted by the Group 2 $450,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2, as well as the Group 3 $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas, Listed $175,000 Dubai Sprint, Meydan Classic Trial and a trio of turf handicaps with possible Dubai World Cup night implications. First post is 6:30 p.m.

Race 1 (6:30 p.m.)—$100,000 Meydan Classic Trial (1400mT, 3YOs)
Sponsored by Sanad Aerotech
Representatives from Sweden, UK, Norway and USA are set to take on local 3-year-olds in this turf affair over a distant equivalent to seven furlongs. A few of these contested the natural precursor, the 1200m Dubai Trophy last month, including unlucky Ahmad bin Harmash-trained maiden and runner-up Hamama, but the class level has heightened this time around with the presence of Godolphin’s Well of Wisdom and Final Song.

Well of Wisdom, trained by Charlie Appleby, is a Listed winner last July over this trip at Longchamp who placed in G3 company when last seen in August. Final Song, on the other hand, wheels back after a poor run in the UAE 1000 Guineas (Listed) on dirt, but returns to a distance that appears her best and a surface on which she is proven for Saeed bin Suroor.

Simon Crisford-trained Last Surprise defeated Hamama last out at Jebel Ali on Jan. 24 after finishing seventh astern Final Song in the aforementioned UAE 1000 Guineas Trial on Jan. 2. Consistent otherwise, she merits respect in a field that also includes fleet-footed South American import Bella Fever, who carries the same J Stables silks worn by Mind Your Biscuits to two Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) wins.

Others of note are American import I Will Not, a swift sort who must stay the trip for Doug O’Neill, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s highly regarded 1-for-1 colt Raakezz, a breakout winner at Jebel Ali in December, and Swedish filly More Caviar who has been very smart in her victories back home for trainer Lars Kelp.

Race 2 (7:05 p.m.)—Yahsat Trophy Handicap 90-108 Div. 1 (1400mT)
Speaking of the Meydan Classic Trial, 2016 winner and now 7-year-old Comicas makes a long-awaited return to action for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby. Second in the 2017 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) and winner of the 2018 Dubawi (G3)—both at 1200m on dirt—the well-bred type has raced only once since 2018 when fourth in the 2019 Mahaab Al Shimaal (G3) on Super Saturday.

Summerghand gets some class relief here, but pays the price with top weight of 60kgs for David O’Meara. The 6-year-old exits a pair of fourths at 1200m on turf here against seasoned veterans and may appreciate the additional 200m. Another who should appreciate the distance is Yattwee, for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor, a late-running sort who was left with too much to do going 1200m last out.

Strong-willed USA sprinter Wildman Jack (Doug O’Neill) and the UK-based quartet of Cliffs of Capri (Jamie Osborne), Chiefofchiefs (Charlie Fellowes), Woven (David Simcock) and Lyndon B (George Scott) demand respect in this wide-open affair.

Race 3 (7:40 p.m.)—Group 3 $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (1600m, 3YOs)
Sponsored by Masdar
The classic season is off and running as 3-year-olds clash over a dirt mile (1600m) at Meydan, with a truly international field. Horses from UAE, USA, Sweden and Denmark fill a field of 16, including Godolphin’s breakout Al Bastakiya Trial winner Laser Show, who smashed foes after the addition of blinkers. Still rather unexposed, he appears the strongest finisher of these for Saeed bin Suroor and keeps the services of Kevin Stott.

Americans have a pair for whom to root, as Reddam Racing’s Fore Left (William Buick aboard), a two-time sprint stakes winner, stretches out to a mile for Doug O’Neill. The good-looking son of Twirling Candy has not started since early December, but has proven G1 form in California. Liam’s Legend (Pat Dobbs), on the other hand, makes his local bow, but is now trained in the UAE by Doug Watson for Saudi owner Khaled bin Mishref. The cleverly named son of Liam’s Map was an eye-catching winner over 1800m at Keeneland when last seen racing in late October and must cut back in distance while negotiating a trip from the difficult rail post.

Commanding has been nothing but impressive in three starts for Nasir Askar and trainer Satish Seemar. The sizable son of Camacho has won two of those, with is only loss coming to Al Modayar on debut. Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained Al Modayar gets a rider switch to Silvestre de Sousa after his second-place run to Camacho last time in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial. Third that day was Askar-owned, late-running Dark of Night, who returns again for his fifth race of the season for trainer Mussabeh Al Mheiri.

Satish Seemar has three others who all appear more than capable of upsetting the apple cart, led by Emblem Storm, who gets the services of Tadhg O’Shea and was super-sharp winning on debut over this distance a few weeks ago. Good Fighter has proven a gritty type who lives up his name. Another, Lake Causeway, could be overlooked under Adrie de Vries after a pair of seconds from his first two starts and showing good finishes each time.

The top 3-year-old from Scandinavia, Nocentsinkentucky looks to improve upon his local bow when fifth in the Trial and should benefit from a much better post this time under Elione Chaves.

Colour Image, Bullof Wall Street, Jukebox King, Emirates Currency, Zabardast and Spirit of Light complete the field. Far Sky and Denmark’s Grey Flash are reserves.

Race 4 (8:15 p.m.)—Listed $175,000 Dubai Sprint Handicap (1200mT)
Sponsored by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi
Nine competitors from five countries will clash in the 1200m Dubai Sprint (Listed), a handicap prep for the $2 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) that is topped in weight and rating by an also-ran from last year’s Al Quoz, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Doug Watson-trained Ekhtiyaar. Based locally, the 6-year-old returned to his winning ways last out over this trip while carrying an identical 60kgs and appears the one to beat in this spot. Jim Crowley rides once again.

Another with a local win is Roulston Scar, trained by Simon Crisford and boasting top handicap form from the UK. Finishing up his six furlong .70 seconds faster than Ektiyaar did one week prior, the Abdullah Menahi-owned 4-year-old was a powerful victor that day. Still, he may or may not be the best of the Union Jack-waving faction, as Tom Dascombe-trained Angel Alexander comes in as a progressive type for his conditioner, including placing in French G3 company last out.

Speaking of France, the land of Le Tour Eiffel is represented by Tour to Paris, an 11-time winner from 15 starts and Listed victor two back for Pia Brandt, defeating 2017 Al Quoz Sprint winner The Right Man in the process. Last out, the son of Fuisse was thrown in with UAE’s top sprinters in the Dubawi Stakes (G3) and held his own in the kickback warfare that is dirt sprinting around a bend, finishing fifth by 5¼ lengths.

Speaking of warfare, American invader Blitzkrieg wheels back on two weeks’ rest following a fourth in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) over 1400m and makes his debut on a straight sprint. A G3 winner over 1600m, he has five wins from 16 starts and should not be dismissed, considering America’s record in UAE turf sprints.

Swedish sprinter Ambiance, UK-based Dream Today and locally based Shadwell colourbearers Eqtiraan and Rusumaat complete the field, with the last named carrying the highest rating of the quartet.

Race 5 (8:50 p.m.)—Group 2 $450,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (1900m)
Sponsored by Mubadala
The official feature on the card is the 1900m Al Maktoum Challenge R2 (G2), which boasts a healthy purse of $450,000, is sponsored by Mubadala and will be contested by no less than four G1 winners. Inaugurated in 1994, has been won by Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor on no less than 11 occasions—including with subsequent Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) winners Moon Ballad in 2003 and Thunder Snow in 2018—and this year he brings favourite and dirt debutant Benbatl, a winner of Group 1 races at middle distances on three continents. A son of dirt-friendly sire Dubawi and grandson of Dubai World Cup winner Dubai Millennium, the bay 6-year-old exits a one-sided victory last month in the Singspiel (G2) over 1800m on turf.

Christophe Soumillon has the mount once again.

Salem bin Ghadayer saddles four of his nine opponents, including Gronkowski, runner-up to Thunder Snow after a thrilling duel in the 2019 Dubai World Cup last March. A 5-year-old son of Lonhro, he was a handily beaten third on his seasonal return in The Entisar (Listed) over 2000m on Dec. 19 and has the inaugural Saudi Cup at the end of this month as his first major target of 2020. He is joined in the gate by stablemates For the Top, a G1 winner in Argentina, the markedly progressive Chiefdom, who must rise above his miler pedigree, and hard-knocking Jebel Ali Stakes (Listed) winner Montsarrat. Bin Ghadayer stable jockey Mickael Barzalona rides Gronkowski for the first time, while Silvestre de Sousa comes in to pilot For the Top and fellow stable riders Royston Ffrench and Xavier Ziani team up with Chiefdom and Montsarrat, respectively.

“Gronkowski is ready for a race but will certainly improve for it,” Bin Ghadayer said. “This should put him spot on for the Saudi Cup as we aim towards the Dubai World Cup again.”

The Entisar was won by Military Law, saddled by Musabbeh Al Mheiri for Nasir Askar and not seen since that victory. Coming off what was easily a career best, he is also a son of Dubawi and appears a serious threat under Al Mheiri stable jockey Antonio Fresu when he breaks from the rail. Second behind him that day was Saltarin Dubai, who is one of two in here for trainer Satish Seemar. Like his stablemate Roman Rosso, he was a G1 winner in his native Argentina and should be a major pace instigator under Richard Mullen. Tadhg O’Shea picks up the mount on local debutant Roman Rosso, who was fourth three races back in the 2018 Pacific Classic (G1) when conditioned by Bob Baffert.

The 1600m Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (G2) was won by the Doug Watson-trained Kimbear, who prevailed in one of the most exciting finishes ever witnessed at Meydan. Also victorious, over the same 1600m dirt course and distance in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday in 2018, he is trying a trip beyond 1600m for just the third time and since July 2017, but that has not quelled the confidence of his six-time champion trainer. Jockey Pat Dobbs rides once again.

New Trails, second in this race last year to North America, looks to jolt himself back on the right path after three consecutive poor efforts this season. Connor Beasley retains the mount for Ahmad bin Harmash.

Race 6 (9:25 p.m.)—$135,000 Strata Trophy Handicap 90-105 (1800mT)
Norwegian Derby winner Privilegiado and Swedish Derby winner Red Cactus make their 2020 DWC Carnival bows in this nine-furlong affair for trainer Niels Petersen and Bent Olsen, respectively, but must go through a phalanx of fit Godolphin fellows, including likely favourite Key Victory from the yard of Charlie Appleby. Local stakes-winning stablemate Art du Val and G1 winner Royal Marine hope to return to their winning ways for the boys in blue, while well-regarded Dubai Icon tries to find his niche for Saeed bin Suroor, who also conditions Royal Marine.

Meanwhile, Simon Crisford-conditioned Epic Hero steps up in trip after falling a half-nose short of G1 winner Suedois in 1600m handicap company last out and appears one to watch under Mickael Barzalona. Above N Beyond, on the other hand, is punching above his weight, but was less than a length astern Epic Hero last time for Ahmad bin Harmash and has enough early pace to mix things up properly.

Race 7 (10:00 p.m.)—$135,000 Mubadala Handicap 90-108 Div. 2 (1400mT)
The nightcap is the second division of the 1400m turf handicap and includes a rather open line-up, including Godolphin’s G2-winning filly Beyond Reason, who cuts back in trip after finishing third in the Cape Verdi (G2) over a mile. If her class does not prevail, tough handicapper Major Partnership appears primed to return to the winner’s enclosure for the second time this season for Saeed bin Suroor, but must carry top weight to do so.

Tashweeq, who returned from a 23-month layoff to wipe the floor with the opposition last out over this trip, including next-out winner Speedy Move, has major claims for Mussabeh Al Mheiri, while American import One Flew South, UK ship-in Geological and German handicapper Fuego del Amor would not be a complete shock if they upended their opposition.