Epic Renewal Of Al Maktoum Challenge R1 Awaits; Group 1 Winner Royal Marine Tries Dirt in UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, Sporting Chance Tops Dubai Trophy

Meydan Racecourse hosts its second 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting
DUBAI (January 9, 2019)—Thursday’s second meeting of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival is a fascinating one, which is highlighted by the opening round of the Al Maktoum Challenge (Race 5), as well as a pair of stakes for the rising sophomores, the inaugural running of the Dubai Trophy on turf and the 2000 Guineas Trial on dirt. A trio of rich and competitive handicaps support the top events, as well as the Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenge, which is contested over the same 1600m (one mile) as its Thoroughbred counterpart. The evening is sponsored by Pillar Partner Mubadala and the first race’s post time is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

AL MAKTOUM CHALLENGE ROUND 1 (Group 2, $350,000)

On his second start of last season’s (2017-18) campaign, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Sandeep Jadhav-trained Heavy Metal was never headed from stall two under Mickael Barzalona in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2). The pair will be hoping to repeat the feat from gate seven this year. A 9-year-old gelded son of Exceed and Excel, he is seeking to emulate Le Bernardin, winner of the 1600m dirt feature in both 2006 and 2007 and the only dual winner of a race established in 1994. He would also become the joint oldest winner alongside Barbecue Eddie who landed the spoils in 2013. Seeking a ninth Meydan dirt success and eighth over this 1600m, Heavy Metal ended the last campaign with a smooth success in the Godolphin Mile (G2)—then with Ryan Moore in the saddle—on the Dubai World Cup card.

“He is in very good form at home and we are looking forward to getting him back on the track,” Jadhav said. “A lower draw would have been nice in a strong race, but these are his optimum conditions and we are very hopeful.”

Second last year was subsequent Dubai World Cup (G1) winner, Thunder Snow, one place in front of North America, who went on to register a career-best when victorious on Super Saturday in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) two starts later. Unraced since failing to break and losing all chance early in the Dubai World Cup, the Satish Seemar-trained 7-year-old Dubawi gelding he is again making his return in this one-mile spot and enters with the field’s top rating (118). Regular jockey Richard Mullen will ride.

Assistant trainer Bhupat Seemar said: “He is ready for a run and in great form at home, but this is a trip on the short side for him and he is going to improve for the outing. Basically this is the first step towards his bigger targets later in the season, but he is certainly in good shape.”

Chasing home Heavy Metal in the Godolphin Mile in second was His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Muntazah, who was making his dirt debut on just his third UAE outing. Unlike the aforementioned pair, this 6-year-old Doug Watson-trained Dubawi gelding does have the benefit of an outing this season when tiring in the straight on the Abu Dhabi turf.

Heavy Metal’s most recent defeat was on Super Saturday behind Watson-trained Kimbear in the Burj Nahaar (G3) over this trip. Five weeks ago, the 5-year-old Temple City horse was third behind stable companion Drafted,in the 1200m Garhoud Sprint (Listed). Watson has a third bow to his string in deep-closing Etijaah, also wearing the Shadwell blue and white as Muntazah.

“All three are really in great shape,” Watson enthused. “Kimbear pleased us in the Garhoud Sprint, came out of the run very well and has had a nice break since. Likewise, with Muntazah, who has come on a lot for his Abu Dhabi run. Etijaah is just a grand older campaigner who tries his best all the time. Hopefully all three have a chance.”

Godolphin’s royal blue silks have only been carried to victory in the race on three occasions; most recently by Shuruq in 2014. Charlie Appleby saddles the owner’s Gold Town, a winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) over this trip last year. The 4-year-old Street Cry gelding has not been seen in public since finishing a distant fourth in the 1900m UAE Derby (G2) behind Mendelssohn.

“We took a decision to save him for Dubai and this race was always the first target,” Appleby said. “He has been working well and this should tell us where we stand with him, because it looks a good renewal.”

Completing the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 field are Simon Crisford-trained African Ride, making his surface debut with a pedigree that bodes well for such, as well as deep-closing South Korean import Dolkong and former Roger Varian trainee Masaarr (no, not that one), who tries dirt for the first time and has been in the care of Nicholas Bachalard.

UAE 2000 GUINEAS TRIAL (3-Year-Olds, $100,000)

Fifteen will face the starter in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, a 1600m dirt conditions contest also won by Gold Town last season when it was over 1400m. All eyes will be on Godolphin’s Royal Marine, a dirt debutant to be ridden by Christophe Soumillon for Saeed bin Suroor. A Raven’s Pass half-brother to proven Meydan dirt performer Secret Ambition, he is penalised for his victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) over Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend on his third and most recent outing in October.

Should he fail to fire, Walking Thunder, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash for the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate, is unbeaten after two Meydan outings on the surface, including over course and distance that was quite visibly impressive. Another who looks to move forward and offer a big threat is H And B’s Al Seel Legacy’s, winner of his only start for Watson, a 1400m dirt maiden in which he closed like a seasoned professional, slicing between foes en route to victory.

Giant Hero, a winner in his only start at Ellis Park in Kentucky, USA, for previous trainer and Dubai World Cup winner Steve Asmussen, makes his first start for Nicholas Bachalard and owner Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Unstarted since said July win, he will run 600m beyond what he has attempted, but his pedigree—being a son of Giant’s Causeway—may be in his favour.

Others to watch in what could be an unveiling of future dirt stars include Mike de Kock trainee Faith and Fortune, Godolphin’s Burj and intriguing recent Watson acquisition Dark Thunder.

DUBAI TROPHY (3-Year-Olds, $100,000)

A new turf conditions race for 3-year-olds, the 1400m Dubai Trophy has proved a welcome addition and attracted the maximum allowed field of 16. The race receives instant credibility by featuring proven commodity, Sporting Chance, a Simon Crisford trainee with Listed and Group 3 victories for Abdulla Al Mansoori. A Kodiac colt—same sire as Godolphin stayer Best Solution—he must stretch out in trip from 1200m. Crisford also has Trolius, an undefeated 3-for-3 in lesser company, who steps back in trip for Lady O’Reilly.

Others to watch in the race are Godolphin’s Good Fortune, who placed in Newbury’s Denford Stakes (Listed) behind talented Richard Hannon trainee Boitron two races back, as well as John Ryan-trained four-time winner Shining Armor and intriguing David Simcock pupil Woven, who broke his maiden last out at York on Sept. 9.

Remainder of Card

Other Thoroughbred intrigue is added by Joseph O’Brien saddling his first UAE runners, King’s Field and Equitant in the concluding Cepsa Energy Cup, a 1600m turf handicap, and Mike de Kock switching Light the Lights, winner of the 2017 Singspiel Stakes, to dirt for the first time in a 1900m handicap, the Special Olympics Cup.

The only Purebred Arabian contest, the opening Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (G1 PA) looks wide open and is another full field of 16. Sporting the red and white silks of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Pat Cosgrave and Mawahib were just denied in the 1400m Bani Yas (G2 PA) on her most recent visit to Meydan and the extra 200m will suit. She is trained by Eric Lemartinel, enjoying a prolific season as is fellow Purebred Arabian specialist Ernst Oertel who saddles both AF Al Hazer and AF Al Sajanjle for his main patron, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda with Tadhg O’Shea opting to partner the latter.