The eyes of the racing world will be firmly fixed on Meydan on Thursday evening for the eagerly awaited first night of the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival, highlighted by the opening rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Both are over 1600m, with the Thoroughbred version, which carries Group 2 status, looking particularly competitive with 15 set to go to post.
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Trainer Saeed bin Suroor, seeking a ninth victory in a race first run in 1994, relies on Emirates Flyer, set to sport the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, not the Godolphin blue most often associated with the trainer.
Bin Suroor said: “He has been working very nicely and is a horse who always tries his best. He will certainly improve for the run but we are hoping for a big effort.”
Emirates Flyer was third in last year’s UAE Derby in March and will be ridden by James Doyle.
The Godolphin silks will be carried by Outstrip, trained by Charlie Appleby for whom he was a first Group One winner when winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2013. He has not won since but has faced some stiff tasks in the interim.
Adam Kirby takes the ride and Appleby said: “He works particularly well on the dirt at home and we think the turns at Meydan will really suit him.
“It is obviously a tough race but he deserves his chance and we exp-ect him to go well. We are going to learn a lot about him, especially regarding the surface.”
South African Mike De Kock has both Royal Ridge, the mount of Paul Hanagan and Zahee, to be ridden by Christophe Soumillon in the field.
The most successful international trainer at the Carnival said: “Both have been working well but will progress with a run under their belt. Royal Ridge has really adapted well to the surface in his work and can hopefully replicate that in a race situation."
De Kock is also doubly represented in the Listed Singspiel Stakes over 1800m on turf with Mushreq, winner of the same race last year, back to defend his crown under Paul Hanagan.
Soumillon partners stable companion Sanshaawes, who was last seen when well beaten in the Dubai World Cup.
Silver Galaxy could turn golden for Al Muhairi at Jebel Ali
Trainer Musabah Al Muhairi, who has been firing in winners left, right and centre in recent weeks, is seeking a fourth consecutive victory in Friday’s Listed Jebel Ali Stakes over 1950m with Silver Galaxy.
Interpret won the race last year, under Silvestre De Sousa, and following in the hoofprints of dual winner Treble Jig. And it is De Sousa in the saddle on Silver Galaxy, his sole representative this year.
Unraced in the UK, the 4yo only made his debut on November 20 and only lost his maiden tag at the third attempt, in a 1600m Jebel Ali maiden. His only subsequent start produced a remarkable effort when destroying 12 rivals in an 1800m handicap, also at Jebel Ali.
Al Muhairi also had Interpret among the entries but has elected to rely on De Sousa’s mount. The Brazilian, a former Godolphin jockey, said: “I am really looking forward to riding him on Friday as he is rapidly improving.
“Obviously this is a lot tougher challenge than those he has faced so far but he is a horse we really like. We have to be very hopeful.”
Trained on the course by Dhruba Selvaratnam, Dormello, the mount of Oisin Murphy, looks one of the main dangers, despite two average efforts so far this season.
Selvaratnam said: “This has been his target for the first part of the season and hopefully, he will run a big race. Silver Galaxy was ultra impressive the last time and could be the one we all have to beat.”
Doug Watson relies on Jutland, second in the race in 2013 but only fifth 12 months ago. He was a course and distance winner on his only start so far this season and has been given a 46-day break to arrive here fresh.
The Satish Seemar-trained Mawhub has won his two most recent starts, both over 1800m at Jebel Ali, and has looked progressive in the process. He has to be feared also in a fascinating renewal of the course’s first big race of the season.
The Jebel Ali Mile prep, over 1600m, has only attracted a field of five, including last year’s winner, the Al Muhairi-trained Colmar Kid. However, De Sousa elects to ride stable companion Atlantic Brave, a recent winner at Meydan.
As probably expected, the 1600m listed opening round of the Arabian Triple Crown went the way of Al Asayl Stables and new trainer Salem Al Ketbi.
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However, stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea picked the wrong one on this occasion (as he feared before the race), selecting to ride RB Torch who was denied by stable companion Abhaar.
Both had won their only previous start, as had Al Ketbi’s third runner, Estourah, and O’Shea confessed it was a really hard choice to mistake.
On Saturday, he said: “All three had won their one and only outing and choosing between them was very, very difficult.”
As it transpired he picked the wrong one and weighing room colleague Adrie de Vries was the man in the right place. And De Vries said: “You always know you have a good chance riding for this outfit and so it proved again today.
“This horse won well first time and has built on that today.”
The horse was completing a double for trainer Al Ketbi after the comfortable victory of Shaheer in the opening 1600m maiden.
The only Thoroughbred race on the card, the concluding 2400m handicap, was won by Ukrainian, ridden by Royston Ffrench for his main employer Ali Rashid Al Raihe and following up their course 2200m victory of five weeks ago.
Former Godolphin jockey Silvestre De Sousa is riding on the crest of a wave and added one more to his burgeoning tally for the season aboard Nizam Al Gharbia in a 1200m conditions race.
The first round of the Arabian Triple Crown, a 1600m Listed contest, is the official feature at Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening with RB Torch looking a live hope for Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea and trainer Salem Al Ketbi.
The trainer actually saddles three of the 14 (maximum) field and the trio are all winners of their only previous start.
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O’Shea’s mount created a very favourable impression when scoring over 1400m on the Al Ain dirt on his debut and, after much thought, the jockey sticks with him.
O’Shea said: “These decisions are never easy, especially when all three are unbeaten and done nothing wrong.
“RB Torch had been working well before his win and impressed all of us when winning at Al Ain. I am just hoping he handles the Abu Dhabi turf just as well.”
O’Shea’s choice leaves Richard Mullen to ride stable companion Estourah with Adrie De Vries aboard the trainer’s third runner, Abhaar.
Qatar’s Champion Jockey, Harry Bentley, rides local debutante Da’Areen for Majed Al Jahouri and Sheikh Mansour. She looks a big danger to the Al Ketbi trio, despite failing to win in eights starts in her native France.
She was not beaten too far in a Group Three contest at Toulouse on her most recent outing and takes a drop on class here.
The only Thoroughbred race on the card, a 2400m handicap, features a clash between last year’s first, second and third.
Mullen won the race on the Satish Seemar-trained Inthar 12 months ago, but chooses to ride stable companion Antinori this time.
Apprentice Marc Monaghan takes over on Inthar. Former UK Champion Jockey, Paul Hanagan, rides for the first time since fracturing his collarbone in November.
He rides Udabaa for trainer Doug Watson and his main employer Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, in a race they were third last year. Watson also saddles Dr Faustus.