Thursday’s fourth Meydan Racecourse fixture of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival is undoubtedly the best so far, with not only a pair of Group 2 Thoroughbred turf features to savour, but also the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 on the dirt for the Purebred Arabians.
Both Linngari, 2006/2007, and more recently, Safety Check, 2015/2016, defended their crowns in the official feature, the 1400m Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort Sponsored by DP World-UAE region, something Ahmad bin Harmash is hoping Championship can achieve.
One of the stars of the 2017 carnival, before injury sadly ruled him out of Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup night, he won the Al Fahidi Fort before following up in the Group 2 Zabeel Mile. The mount of Silvestre de Sousa, this will be Championship’s first start since, but his trainer does not sound unduly concerned by the 350 days off. He said: “He has been fit and ready to run for a while but there just have not been really suitable opportunities for him. We are expecting a good run from him and looking forward to getting him back on the track.”
Trainer Mike de Kock saddles both Janoobi (post 3), owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and to be ridden by his retained jockey Jim Crowley, as well as Noah From Goa, under Christophe Soumillon for Sheikh Mohd bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. The latter, third in this last year on his local debut has the benefit of a run already this time, a very pleasing third to D’Bai, while Janoobi will find this trip more to his liking than the 1200m over which he was introduced to the UAE a fortnight ago. De Kock said: “Both of mine have improved from their first runs this season, as we expected them to. We think both are capable of big efforts in what looks a competitive renewal.”
For Godolphin, Saeed bin Suroor has won the race just once, remarkably, the inaugural running in 2000, while Charlie Appleby saddled Safety Check to win the race twice, two and three years ago. Both are well-represented this year with D’Bai bidding to emulate former stable companion, Safety Check, with both having won the same 1400m turf handicap on the first night of the carnival en route to this. Safety Check won that handicap in 2015, while D’Bai broke his track record in the same race three weeks ago.
Appleby also saddles Jungle Cat in race 6 and said: “D’Bai, just like Safety Check did, has really thrived in Dubai and we are following the same route. He should have strong claims, while Jungle Cat is something of a carnival veteran. Stepping him up to 1400m seemed to suit him last year and he is working well.” Bin Suroor relies on Dream Castle in race 5 and said: “He failed to fire on his first start this year but needed the run and the drop to 1400m is in his favour.”
Also first run in 2000, the 1800m Group 2 Al Rashidiya has been dominated by Bin Suroor and De Kock who can boast 13 victories between them. The South African, seeking a ninth in the race, saddles both Light The Lights in race 6 and the eagerly awaited local debutant, Al Sahem in race 1. Both are owned by Sheikh Mohd bin Khalifa. Winner of the Singspiel Stakes last year, Light The Lights is having his third start already at the 2018 carnival. Seventh in the Singspiel Stakes, he then won a 2000m turf handicap and is the choice of Christophe Soumillon.
The mount of Pat Cosgrave, a Grade One winner for Sean Tarry in South Africa, Al Sahem is having his first start since July of last year and is expected to need the run. De Kock said: “Al Sahem will improve for the run, but is pleasing us at home and is a nice horse for an international campaign, hopefully including Hong Kong. We have left Christophe on Light The Lights who is obviously in good shape having won his second start and should be thereabouts.”
Bin Suroor, who has won the race five times, relies on Benbatl, impressive winner of that Group 3 Singspiel Stakes, over this 1800m turf course and distance. Drawn widest of all the seven runners, he will again be ridden by Oisin Murphy. Bin Suroor said: “We were delighted with that win in the Singspiel Stakes, this was the obvious next target for him and his last piece of work was very good.”
UAE Champion Trainer, Doug Watson, will be hoping Paddy’s Day can achieve something that has not been done since 2012 when Sahib Du Clos won the 2200m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge having already won the 1600m first round. This will be the longest trip he has tackled, but Paddy’s Day is a Grade One winner over 2000m in his native US and Pat Dobbs again rides. He was chased home three weeks ago by Barnamaj, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
For a race first contested in 1994, it seems remarkable that only that year’s winner, Kahayla, one of just two dual winners, is the only horse to win in consecutive years. She also won in 1995 (it was originally a 2400m race and reduced to 2200m in 2010). Elise Jeanne will be hoping to remedy that statistic with Faucon Du Loup (post 8) who won this by 11 lengths last year.