01 February 2017

Record-Breaking Le Bernadin Bids for More Al Maktoum Challenge Accolades

Muarrab Seeks Comeback in Group Al Shindagha Sprint

The fifth Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting of 2017, worth US$1.14m and sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminium, will see dual Al Maktoum Challenge R1 winner, Le Bernadin stake a claim for the middle round of the Dubai World Cup prep series.

The fascinating renewal of the Group 2 1900m feature is worth $250,000 in prize money and has attracted a field of nine. Le Bernadin made history four weeks ago when becoming the first dual winner of the 1600m Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, the first race in the Al Maktoum race series, which was established in 1994.

Connections of the Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained eight year old now seek another milestone. A win on Thursday night will boost Le Bernadin into the ranks of four Dubai World Cup Carnival greats to have claimed both the first and second legs of the Al Maktoum Challenge in the same season.

The feat was previously achieved by Halling (1995), Wathik (1998) and My Indy (2009), while this second (middle) round was won by subsequent Dubai World Cup winner, Moon Ballad, in 2003.

Le Bernadin’s regular rider, UAE Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, maintains the partnership and may have his work cut out as the draw was not kind to Al Rayhi’s charge.

Burdened with the nine stall, the widest of all, O’Shea said: “I would have been a lot happier, especially over the 1900m, with a low draw. But that is out of our hands so we will just have to see how things unfold and ride the race as I find it."

“The horse is in very good form and has won over 2000m in lesser company so Thursday should help us plan the rest of his season depending on how he fares.”

UAE Champion Trainer, Doug Watson, saddles both Storm Belt and Second Summer, who is the choice of stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, on his local debut.

A Grade Two winner in the US, he looks an exciting new recruit, whereas Storm Belt, the mount of Sam Hitchcott, is a course and distance winner who also landed The Entisar, a 2000m Listed race, here on the Meydan dirt on his penultimate outing.

“We are happy with both of them and expect two good efforts,” said Watson. “Storm Belt is obviously proven under these conditions, whereas Second Summer is a nice new horse we have been looking forward to running.”

South African trainer, Mike de Kock, seeking a fourth win in the race, saddles Lindo Amor, a very pleasing third behind Le Bernardin in the opening round when staying on in the straight under Christophe Soumillon who is again in the saddle.

That was hardly surprising considering his best form in Argentina was over as far as 2000m.

“We were very pleased with that first run when he was bumped at the start but gave his all,” said De Kock.

“He will have improved from that run and the extra trip should certainly sit him.”

The main support race is also on dirt with just six going to post for the 1200m Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint sponsored By Emirates Global Aluminium in which the Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained Muarrab looks like he will be very hard to beat.

Owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as is his stable companion, Shaishee he was a Dubai World Cup Day winner last year and landed the Group 1 Golden Shaheen over this course and distance. Unsurprisingly Muarrab is the selection of the owner’s retained jockey, Jim Crowley.

He has finished second in both his starts this season, also over this 1200m, but was only caught close home on the opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival in the Listed Dubawi Stakes by the admirable veteran, Reynaldothewizard.

Two of Thursday’s five opponents, the Irish-trained duo of Moviesta and Wild Dude, were behind him on that occasion with the latter third, two places but almost nine lengths clear of his compatriot.

Wild Dude was having just his second start for Mick Halford, after failing to cope with the sand track in Seoul on his debut for the yard and the trainer did win this race with Russian Soul in 2014.

A Grade 1 winner in the US and the mount of Pat Smullen, Wild Dude may get closer to Muarrab this time but does have more than four lengths to find.

However, the Doug Watson-trained Cool Cowboy could be the main danger, reverting to sprinting after competing at 1400m and 1600m, including a Super

Saturday victory at the latter trip, in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar, all since his last 1200m appearance.

On that occasion he finished second to the aforementioned Reynaldothewizard in the Dubawi Stakes of 2016 while Muarrab disappointed in fifth.