The inaugural Dubai Cup gets underway today at Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club.
The tournament will see five teams go head to head for the right to be crowned maiden winners of an event dreamed up by Mohammed Al Habtoor, founder of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series.
The five teams contesting the tournament will be Mahra Polo, UAE Polo, Bin Drai Polo, Habtoor Polo and Dr A Polo. Mahra, UAE and Bin Drai will all be hoping to go one better than earlier this season, with all three having tasted defeat in finals.
The UAE team were beaten 10-4 by Desert Palm in the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge in February. Last month, Bin Drai were beaten 9-7 by Zedan in the Julius Baer Gold Cup final and Mahra also suffered a two goal defeat in the Bentley Cup final, going down 7-5 to Abu Dhabi.
The medium tournament, with an 8-10 goal handicap, kicks off with two matches today, one tomorrow and two on Wednesday, with the top four teams playing the final and third/fourth place playoff on Friday.
“The Dubai Cup 2015 is a great addition to the polo circuit in Dubai,” said Al Habtoor, patron of the Habtoor Polo team.
“I launched the Dubai Polo Gold Cup in 2009 and it has grown into one of the most prestigious and highest handicap polo events in the region. Tournaments like these enhance Dubai’s position as a leading polo destination.”
Team Godolphin have made a flying start to 2015 – and not just here in the UAE. The Dubai World Cup victory of Prince Bishop, trained by Godolphin stalwart, Saeed Bin Suroor (though sporting the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum) was the culmination of yet another ultra productive Dubai World Cup Carnival.
That put the ‘icing on the cake’ of an eighth consecutive Carnival title for both Godolphin (owner) and Bin Suroor (trainer).
However, while most eyes were focused on Meydan, Godolphin’s ‘second trainer’, Charlie Appleby, has been making waves on the Polytrack in England.
The English all-weather championships, which began at the end of October, provided a goldmine for Godolphin and Appleby, in particular.
The championships concluded on Friday, after which an Appleby treble – highlighted by the victory of Tryster in the featured Easter Classic – left Godolphin on a remarkable 98 winners and Appleby alone on 76.
“TRYSTER is a very good horse and will be given a break now. There’s no reason why he can’t translate his form onto turf” – Charlie Appleby
— Champions Series (@ChampionsSeries) April 3, 2015
To put that into context, Mark Johnston held the previous trainers’ all-weather championship record with 69 winners.
An obviously delighted Appleby said: “It is a great achievement for my whole team and vindication of a new approach from Godolphin as a whole.
“Basically, this is something we have never done but we have strategically deployed a team in the UK over the end of last year and the early part of this. Personally, I think it has been great and the whole yard has been active and buzzing.
“We sat down last year and identified certain people to stay in the UK and, obviously, horses whom we thought would suit the racing calendar available. Judging by the results, we have been pretty spot on which, hopefully, bodes well for the forthcoming summer season in Europe.
#AWChamps becomes the Charlie Appleby show. Well done to my old partner in crime.
— Alan J McCabe (@AJMccabeRacing) April 3, 2015
“Everybody has done a great job, be it in Dubai or England, and that, hopefully, takes the whole team back to Europe in a great frame of mind.
“Credit to the all-weather championships, they have introduced a great series with attractive prize money and a great variety in races and opportunities.
“We have enjoyed ultra competitive handicaps, as well as opportunities at a higher level. You really do need a decent horse to win at these meetings these days. Perhaps, in the past, it was not that competitive. It can only bode well for the future and profile of all-weather racing.
“And from our point of view, we have been able to give Godolphin apprentice jockeys Kevin Stott and Shane Gray a chance to help them in their careers.”
UAE Champion Trainer Musabah Al Muhairi and stable jockey Silvestre de Sousa topped off a highly successful season with victory in the Chengdu Dubai International Cup presented by Longines at Jinma Lake in China yesterday.
Special Fighter beat off challenges from the Doug Watson trained pair of Jutland and Henry Clay to triumph in the RMB1.5m (US$241,990) 2218m race.
He was followed over the line by Counterglow, a 2.5 length second under Wayne Smith and the Richard Mullen-ridden Start Right.
Al Muhairi was completing a double after his Special Boy, winner on the same card last year, claimed the opening contest, The Wenjiang Sprint over 1400m for jockey, Tadhg O’Shea.
Chengdu Dubai International Cup to Special Fighter (IRE) double for trainer Musabah Al Muhairi and a great winner for Sylvestre De Sousa
— Dubai Racing Club (@DRC_Meydan) April 3, 2015
“It’s been an amazing season for Oasis 1 Stables and to top it off with an international win in China is fantastic for the whole team who all work very hard,” said Al Muhairi.
“It’s been great to come back to Chengdu for a second time and showcase our racing.”
Doug Watson and Sam Hitchcott also combined for a double on the day when Life Partner won the Wenjiang Meydan Classic over 1600m and Hacienda claimed the Guangsha Mile sponsored by the Bank of Dalian.