06 March 2015

Three Super Saturday Group 1 Races on Dubai World Cup Prep Day

World Cup Stars in Action on Emirates-sponsored $1.8m Card

Super Saturday, the official dress rehearsal for the March 28, 2015 Dubai World Cup takes place at Meydan Racecourse tomorrow (Saturday) and spectators will be treated to two Thoroughbred Group 1 contests on the card as well as a top-tier Purebred Arabian race.

The tenth meeting of the Dubai World Cup Carnival is supported by the Dubai World Cup sponsor, Emirates.

Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge, Dirt, 2000m

The official feature is the Group One third and final round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, over the same 2000m dirt course and distance as the world’s richest horse race, the $10million Dubai World Cup and staged three weeks later.

Godolphin handler Saeed bin Suroor has a phenomenal record in this race, first contested in 1994, and is seeking to it for an 11th time.

His previous 10 winners include Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006) who all went on to land the Dubai World Cup itself.

Godolphin are actually seeking a 14th success in the contest, which before the Dubai World Cup was inaugurated in 1996, was the biggest race on the UAE racing calendar.

Bin Suroor saddles two this year with last year’s Dubai World Cup winner, African Story, looking to bounce back from a disappointing debut in the Group 2 middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge over 1900m.

He was only seventh on that occasion whereas stable companion Prince Bishop, who won the first and second rounds last year, was a close second. Stable jockey, James Doyle, rides African Story with William Buick aboard Prince Bishop, the same jockey bookings as for the second round.

“I was disappointed with African Story last time,” said Bin Suroor. “He just did not seem to like the kickback early in the race. Hopefully he can get a good position early on this time and then we expect him to run a huge race.

“His preparation has gone very well and he is in great form.”

African Story won the 1600m Burj Nahaar on this card in both 2012 and 2013, but was only eighth in Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 last year when Prince Bishop won well.

“Prince Bishop ran well last time and we were very pleased with him,” continued Bin Suroor. “He was finishing strongly on that occasion and the extra 100m will suit him. He has always run well in Dubai and is also going very well at home.”

As well as winning this race last year, he was fifth in the same contest in 2011 and third in both 2012 and 2013.

Second round winner, the Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Frankyfourfingers, will try and emulate Prince Bishop who won both races last year and Hunter’s Light who won both in 2013. Mickael Barzalona again rides.

Doug Watson has enjoyed a fantastic Dubai World Cup Carnival and two of his stars, Henry Clay and Storm Belt are among the nine declared with stable jockey, Pat Dobbs riding Storm Belt and Sam Hitchcott on Henry Clay

“Both remain fit and well and we are pleased with them,” said Watson. “They deserve a chance in this illustrious company and we know conditions suit them both.

“We are really looking forward to it.”

In the Group 1 Purebred Arabian equivalent, over the same 2000m course and distance as the Dubai Kahayla Classic, the traditional curtain raiser on the big night, the Majed Al Jahouri-trained Raaziq defends his crown.

He was chased home 12 months ago by Versac Py and AF Lafeh, who are again in opposition.

Richlore won the 2200m middle round of the challenge for Salem Al Ketbi under Adrie De Vries and is the choice of Tadhg O’Shea this time. De Vries rides stable companion Abu Alabyad, another who has to be considered in an open-looking contest.

Group 1 Jebel Hatta Turf 1800m

South African Mike De Kock is seeking a fifth win in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta, over the same 1800m turf course and distance as the $6m Group 1 Dubai Turf and is mob handed with no less than six of the 12 declared runners.

They are headed by last year’s winner, Vercingetorix, who went on to be second in the, then, Dubai Duty Free, suffering his first career defeat in the process. He has already won the Group 2 Al Rashidiya, over the same course and distance, this year and looks the one the other 11 have to beat under Christophe Soumillon.

“Vercingetorix is in top order and must have a big chance of repeating last year’s win,” said De Kock. “These are his optimum conditions and we expect another very big run from him.”

He is joined in the field by last year’s third, Anaerobio, ridden by Richard Mullen who tried to make all last season only to tire close home. Flying The Flag won a 2000m turf handicap last time under Johnny Geroudis who keeps the ride.

The sextet are completed by Darwin ridden by Paul Hanagan, Johann Strauss who is the mount of Dane O’Neill and 2014 two-time Dubai World Cup Carnival winner, Sanshaawes who will be ridden by Gavin Lerena.

“Flying The Flag won a nice race last week but is stepping up markedly in class in what is his last chance to earn an invitation for Dubai World Cup night,” said De Kock

“We hope Darwin will stay 1800m but there has to be a bit of a question mark, whereas Johann Strauss should relish the trip.

“He is a really exciting horse but we have just had to rush him a little bit to get here which is not ideal.

“This will probably be Anaerobio’s last race and Sanshaawes could also be approaching the end of his career but we hope he can grab a place here.”

Godolphin and bin Suroor, who have also won the race four times previously, rely on multiple Group 1 winner Hunter’s Light who actually won the concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge on this card two years ago.

He has reverted to turf his year and rewarded connections by winning both his Meydan starts, including the 2000m Listed Dubai Millennium Stakes on his most recent outing. James Doyle is seeking to maintain his 100 per cent strike rate on the horse having partnered him to both victories this year.

He looks the main danger to the De Kock battalion.

“He has won both his starts well this year and this race has been the target since his second win,” said Bin Suroor. “Obviously this is a much stronger contest but we would really like to win another Group One with him.

“His work has been very good and he should produce another good effort.”