Three weeks before the first night of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival, Meydan Racecourse stages a meeting befitting of the international extravaganza, featuring a triad of Listed races for Thoroughbreds.
The main highlight is The Entisar Sponsored By Al Tayer Motors over the same 2000m course and distance as the $10-million Dubai World Cup (G1), which has attracted a highly competitive field of 13, including last year’s winner Storm Belt - one of four in the race saddled by Doug Watson.
As he did 12 months ago, Fernando Jara comes in for the spare ride on Storm Belt from post four, with Patrick Dobbs electing to partner last-out Godolphin Mile (G2) winner Second Summer from post 11. Dobbs’ mount is penalised for that success, but certainly has the potential to develop into a genuine World Cup contender this year.
“We had hoped to get him to the World Cup last season,” Watson said. “But, having run very well first time, he did not perform as we had hoped on Super Saturday, so we ended up in the Godolphin Mile. Obviously, he won that for us and, on reflection, I am not sure we would have wanted to take on Arrogate (with) the form he was in on the big night.
“Hopefully Second Summer is a World Cup horse for this season,” Watson continued. “The draw could have been kinder, he has a penalty and will benefit for the outing, but he is in great form at home and should run well in what looks a strong race.”
Second Summer, shown winning the 2017 Godolphin Mile, returns Thursday, picture Dubai Racing Club,Neville Hopwood
Jockey Sam Hitchcott, meanwhile, has chosen Faulkner, second in the 2016 Godolphin Mile (G2), behind another Watson star, One Man Band. Faulkner, who breaks from post 12, was then off the course until chasing home stable companion, Cosmo Charlie, in a 1600m conditions race at Meydan a month ago.
Etijaah (post three) is a fourth Watson runner and another course and distance winner who contested the race won by Cosmo Charlie last month. Dane O’Neill rides from post three for his employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Watson said: “Sam has gone with Faulkner, who delighted us on his return after such a long time off. Again, the draw is not the best, but he is a horse we have always held in the highest regard.
“If he breaks well, Storm Belt has a good draw in four, just outside Etijaah who will appreciate the return to 2000m,” he continued. “We would like to think all four of ours have good chances.”
It could be that Godolphin’s Fly At Dawn (William Buick, post 10) is a bigger danger to the Watson quartet. Trained by Charlie Appleby, Fly At Dawn has also not run since World Cup Day, when fifth in the UAE Derby (G2), but did win at Meydan over 1400m, beating Cosmo Charlie, in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial in January.
Conditioner Gopi Selvaratnam relies on well-beaten 2016 runner-up Top Clearance (Oisin Murphy, post eight).
Barreesh (Colm O’Donoghue, post one), Tannaaf (Leonardo Salles, post two), Linguistic (Royston Ffrench, post five), Khusoosy (Tadhg O’Shea, post six), Good Contact (Patrick Cosgrave, post seven), Los Barbados (Adrie De Vries, post nine) and Farrier (Richard Mullen, post 13) complete the lineup.
Cosmo Charlie, yet another from Watson’s Red Stables, faces just six rivals in the 1600m Listed The Dubai Creek Mile Sponsored By Lincoln Continental, won last year by Fitzgerald for Ahmad bin Harmash. The son of Stay Thirsty will be piloted by Patrick Dobbs from the rail post.
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Heavy Metal (Ffrench, post seven), a Group 3 winner last Carnival, carries the highest rating (113) going in and was last seen finishing eighth of 13 in Second Summer’s Godolphin Mile. He will be challenged by the likes of Yu Long & Team Cheval’s multiple Grade 1 winner Wild Dude(Silvestre De Sousa, post four) and Mohammed Khalifa Al Basti’s regally bred Daily Bulletin (O’Shea, post two), a son of American standouts Medaglia d’Oro and Life at Ten.
Azraff (Connor Beasley, post three), Stratton Street (Mullen, post five) and Stunned (Hitchcott, post six) complete the lineup.
In lieu of the mile fixture, Fitzgerald is declared for a cracking renewal of the 1200m Listed The Garhoud Sprint Sponsored By Lincoln Navigator. The son of South American super-mare Filarmonia drew the outside post 12 under reigning English champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa.
Not only is last year’s winner, the Watson-trained My Catch (Dobbs, post two), among the dozen runners, but also two previous winners of the Group 1 Golden Shaheen are declared: Sheikh Hamdan’s Muarrab (O’Neill, post nine) – winner of this race in 2015 and second last year – and Fawzi Nass’ ageless 2012 victor Krypton Factor (De Vries, post four).
Appleby and Godolphin combine with top-rated Comicas (Buick, post six), second in this year’s Golden Shaheen, while Satish Seemar saddles Raven’s Corner (Mullen, post seven), winner of his two most recent outings – both over this course and distance.
Portamento (O’Shea, post one), Nawwaar (Antonio Fresu, post three), Yalta (Ffrench, post five), Satwa Story(Cosgrave, post eight), Desert Force (Hitchcott, post 10) and Ennobled Friend (Beasley, post 11) complete the lineup.
Adding to a Christmas Cracker of a card is the second of seven slated races, The Lincoln MKC Trophy, an intriguing maiden 2-year-old event that could be the unveiling for a series of possible eventual UAE Derby hopefuls. Watson-trained Rougher, a son of Lookin At Lucky, offers intrigue when he breaks from the rail post under Patrick Dobbs, while a quartet of Sateesh Seemar trainees are topped by well-bred debuting A. P. Indy grandsons Ocean Snow (Cosgrave, post 14) and Jabir (O’Donoghue, post four).