Vazirabad returns and filly rivalry continues at Meydan

Vazirabad two time winner of Dubai World Cup
Caption: Two-time Dubai Gold Cup winner Vazirabad returns to Meydan action on Thursday (credit: DRC/Andrew Watkins)

Thursday’s ninth and penultimate meeting of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival is all about quality with no less than four thoroughbred stakes races, as well as the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 for Purebred Arabians.

The official highlight on the dirt is the 1900m Group 3 UAE Oaks, restricted to three-year-old fillies. This features a rematch between Winter Lightning (post 6, Patrick Cosgrave), Rayya (post 1, Pat Dobbs) and Expressiy (post 3, William Buick), the first three home in the 1600m UAE 1000 Guineas, as well as previously filling the same finishing order in the 1400m UAE 1000 Guineas Trial.

Winter Lighting is trained by Saeed Bin Suroor who has saddled 10 previous winners of the UAE Oaks which was first contested in 2001.

The three-year-old has raced just once as a juvenile in England, finishing second in a Newmarket maiden in October. She shed her maiden tag in the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial, fighting hard to overhaul Rayya before beating the same rival comfortably in the UAE 1000 Guineas. Pat Cosgrave, in the saddle for both her Meydan wins maintains the partnership.

Bin Suroor said: “She has come out of her last race very well and her most recent piece of work was particularly good. She goes to Meydan in great form and we expect another big run from her.”

Rayya has also had just three starts having easily won a 1400m juvenile fillies’ maiden in December before her two defeats by Winter Lightning. Owned by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, she represents the always respected duo of Pat Dobbs and Doug Watson.

Watson said: “She is in great shape and has been pleasing us at home. She is, we hope, improving all the time and we think the extra distance will suit. The trainer added: “Obviously, Winter Lightning is going to be hard to beat but our filly is in top form.”

Also owned by Godolphin, but trained by Charlie Appleby, Expressiy was 10 lengths behind Winter Lightning in the trial, a gap she reduced to four and a half lengths in the UAE 1000 Guineas.

Appleby said: “The extra trip should certainly suit her and she has done nothing but improve this year. Obviously she has ground to make up but we certainly hope she can at least get closer to the two fillies who have beaten her twice.”

The best of the turf races is the 2810m Nad Al Sheba Trophy sponsored by Al Naboodah Civil Engineering and features the return to Meydan of Vazirabad (post 10, Christophe Soumillon), winner of the 3200m Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup in each of the last two seasons.

Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre for HH Aga Khan, he was however, beaten in this last year by Godolphin’s Beautiful Romance, trained by Bin Suroor who saddles both Red Galileo (post 6, Pat Cosgrave) and Natural Scenery (post 4, Gerald Mosse) in opposition this year.

Bin Suroor said: “Vazirabad is obviously a very hard horse to beat but Red Galileo ran very well last time and should do so again.

The trainer commented: “Natural Scenery was, to be honest, a bit disappointing last time when behind Red Galileo but is working well so we hope for a better effort.”

She was fifth, Red Galileo third, in a 3200m handicap race won by Prince Of Arran (post 11, James Doyle), a first UAE winner for Charlie Fellowes and again in opposition. He is trained in England, as is Sheikhzayedroad (post 8, Martin Harley) who won this in 2016 for Mohammed Jaber and David Simcock. A 2014 Grade 1 winner in Canada, he was third in this last year and filled the same placing behind Vazirabad in the Dubai Gold Cup.

The Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 sponsored by Al Naboodah Facilities Management Trophy is run over the same 2000m dirt course and distance of the Dubai Kahayla Classic sponsored by Mubadala on the Dubai World Cup card. Round 3 features a rematch with Paddy’s Day (post 6, Pat Dobbs) and Barnamaj (post 8, Jim Crowley) who are clashing for a third time this season.

The mount of Dobbs, Paddy’s Day, trained by Watson, won the 1600m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, chased home by Barnamaj who reversed the form in the 2200m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 four weeks ago.

Watson’s horse has since landed the 1600m Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah and the trainer said: “This is the obvious race for him and we then have four weeks until the Kahayla Classic. He is a tough and very talented horse who takes his racing exceptionally well.”

Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Barnamaj has only had those two starts in the UAE and on dirt. The owner’s retained jockey, Jim Crowley again rides and said: “We knew the trip would suit him last time and this slightly shorter one should be fine. Again, we look to have Paddy’s Day to beat.”

The final meeting of the Dubai World Cup Carnival is next weekend’s Super Saturday, the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup card three weeks later.