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Championship and Ertijaal defend titles at Meydan

Thursday’s eighth meeting of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse is a high-quality one including three turf feature races, highlighted by the Group 2 Zabeel Mile Sponsored by District One Legacy. The race was won last year by Championship (post 10, Silvestre De Sousa) who is back to attempt to defend his crown.

Championship seen here winning the 2017 Zabeel Mile, looks to defend title at 2018 renewal, picture Dubai Racing Club and Andrew Watkins 

Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash for Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohd Al Maktoum, Championship was one of the stars of the early part of the 2017 carnival, winning the 1400m Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort before landing the Zabeel Mile. Sadly, a setback ruled him out for the rest of the season and he only returned to racecourse action in this year’s Al Fahidi Fort three weeks ago, when he beat just one of his eight rivals.

Bin Harmash also saddles Treasury Notes (post 2, Connor Beasly) for Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook Al Maktoum. The 6-year-old was and an excellent second in a 1400m turf handicap last Thursday on what was just his second UAE outing and first since March last year. 

“We were very pleased with Treasury Notes last week on his first run after a break. He has a nice low draw in two, whereas Championship has the outside gate”. Bin Harmash said: “That is not a problem though, as he likes to race prominently and should be able to from there. With a bit of luck in running hopefully both should run well in an open race.”

Also doubly represented is South African Mike de Kock who has both Janoobi (post 4, Jim Crowley) and Noah From Goa (post 3, Christophe Soumillon), an old adversary of Championship among the ten declared.

Crowley’s mount was a very game second in this year’s Al Fahidi Fort, whereas Noah From Goa was an even fifth in that race. The latter also chased home Championship in this Zabeel Mile last year, having finished third to him in the Al Fahidi Fort.

Further South African spice is added by the presence of Whisky Baron (post 9, Colm O’Donoghue), a first UAE runner for Brett Crawford and a Grade 1 winner in his trainer’s homeland.

Earlier on the card, Sheikh Hamdan’s Ertijaal (post 4, Jim Crowley) should make a bold attempt to retain his title in the 1000m Group 2 Meydan Sprint Sponsored by District One Greenery Stretch, in which there may only be six runners but looks a crackerjack of a contest. Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and the mount of Crowley, Ertijaal has only been defeated once in six starts over 1000m on the Meydan turf and that was in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint of 2016, won by Australia’s Buffering.

For Godolphin, Blue Point (post 2, William Buick) makes his local debut for Charlie Appleby. Winner of the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes as a juvenile, he was a dual Group 3 winner at Ascot last year. He makes his 4-year-old debut in what will be his first start over 1000m.

Appleby said: “He has been training very well and we are delighted with him. The Al Quoz Sprint which is now over 1200m is his main target, but we think he has the natural speed for 1000m.”

Ireland’s Hit The Bid (post 6, Oisin Murphy), a first Meydan runner for Darren Bunyan, chased home Ertijaal on the first night of the 2018 carnival in a handicap over this 1000m course and distance. Two weeks ago, again over this track and trip he won his second local outing when reportedly still only 85% fit.

The sextet also includes Sheikh Hamdan’s Fityaan (post 1, Fernando Jara) and Sir Maximilian (post 5, Tadhg O’Shea), representing Britain and Ian Williams, winners of this Meydan Sprint in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

Over 2000m, the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes sponsored by District One Mansions, is the third of the turf features with ten declared. The race includes four Godolphin runners and a pair for De Kock in one of the few carnival turf features he has yet to win. He is pinning his hopes on Light The Lights (post 10, Christophe Soumillon) and Al Sahem (post 9, Colm O’Donoghue)     , both owned by Sheikh Mohd bin Khalifa with Soumillon opting to ride the former.

The Godolphin quartet include Appleby’s Folkswood (post 1, William Buick), who last raced in Australia in November when fifth in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes, having previously finished third behind the imperious Winx and winning a Listed race before that. Appleby won this race with subsequent Group1 Jebel Hatta winner, Tryster, in 2016, a race in which Folkswood was second last year.

Appleby said: “His run behind Winx was probably his best yet and he then ran well in the Emirates Stakes. He is in good form and however he goes, this should put him spot on for the Jebel Hatta.”

Interestingly, Maria Ritchie, who also trains the aforementioned Fityaan, reintroduces Special Fighter (post 9, Fernando Jara) in this turf race. Winner of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 in 2016, he has only run three times since, finishing fourth in that year’s Dubai World Cup and second, attempting to defend his crown, in Al Maktoum Challenge R3 in March. Last year he failed to fire in the Dubai World Cup. His most recent turf outing was actually in China when winning a 2200m handicap at Jinma Lake in April 2015.

The undercard is strong on Thursday. Hong Kong dirt form will be on display when top conditioner Chris So unveils Classic Emperor in the evening’s sixth race, the 1600m $125,000 District One Mediterranean, while Doug Watson-trained Kimbear looks to possibly punch his ticket to the same end-goal, the Godolphin Mile (G2), with a top effort in the third race, the 1400m $160,000 District One 300 Villas Dash. 

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