The sprinters take centre stage at Meydan this evening, the sixth meeting of the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival and Reynaldothewizard will be hoping to repeat his victory of 12 months ago in the 1200m Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint.
Trained by Satish Seemar, and winner of the 2013 Group 1 Golden Shaheen (on Meydan’s previous Tapeta surface), Reynaldothewizard is currently unbeaten on Meydan’s current dirt surface.
On Thursday night will be his fourth Meydan start since the switch to dirt and he also won the Listed Dubawi Stakes, over the same 1200m course and distance, on his seasonal debut in each of the last two seasons.
His jockey, Richard Mullen, said: “He seems in good shape but you never really know with him as he does very little at home in the mornings. He saves his best for the track, which is probably why, as a 10yo, he is still going so strong.
“This is a stronger race than the one we won last time but there looks a guaranteed fast gallop which will really suit him.”
Arguably the most interesting runner is Godolphin’s Marking; in the care of former UAE Champion Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who has only had three starts. After winning his first two he was second on Boxing Day in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes behind Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, Runhappy.
That was over 1400m and this will be the shortest trip he has tried but McLaughlin said: “We genuinely hope he could develop into a top sprinter. The drop in trip should not hurt and, when we arrived, I actually thought he was the most likely of the four Godolphin horses I have brought over to win.”
Another Group One winner among the 10 declared, in what appears a very strong renewal, is Hong Kong’s Rich Tapestry. He beat Reynaldothewizard in the 2014 Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal (Tapeta) on Super Saturday but also boasts an excellent record on dirt.
Paul Hanagan remains loyal to Muarrab, despite his disappointing effort behind Reynaldothewizard last time, leaving Dane O’Neill to ride Kifaah. Both are owned by Sheikh Hamdan who retains both jockeys.
Drawn in one, the Doug Watson-trained My Catch is another to consider but, however he gets on, Watson and stable jockey Pat Dobbs will be hoping they have already tasted Classic glory. They combine with Polar River, winner of both her career starts to date, and who faces just four rivals in the UAE 1000 Guineas.
Having turned the 1400m trial into a procession, it will be a major surprise if she is beaten here. Watson said: “She is a really nice filly and we are excited about her chances. Hopefully she will be hard to beat and, luckily, it is the first race on the card so I do not have too long to worry about the race.”
The UAE 2000 Guineas, over the same 1600m dirt course and distance, is the penultimate race on the card and has attracted a field of seven. Godolphin duo Steady Pace and Rouleau fought out the trial with the former, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, just holding off the latter, in the care of Charlie Appleby.
It would be no surprise were they to dominate this with French challenger, Qurbaan, a potential fly in the ointment. Trained by Francois Rohaut, for Sheikh Hamdan, he has yet to taste defeat after two career outings but will be racing on dirt for the first time.
Hanagan rides and said: “He is a nice colt. His work on the dirt has been good but, until they race on it, you just never know. Hopefully he takes to it.”
Godolphin’s supporters are being encouraged to upload images of themselves ‘wearing the blue’ to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – using the hashtag: #WearTheBlue.
Those posting images will automatically enter a competition where they can win weekly prizes.
The overall winner of the competition will be selected from the six weekly winners, with one lucky fan winning a hospitality box for 10 people at Meydan for the Dubai World Cup race meeting.
Wearing the famous blue silks of Godolphin has been a dream for some, as Godolphin jockey and 2015 Dubai World Cup winner William Buick explains. “It is the ambition of every jockey to ride for the best stables in the world and Godolphin is at the top of this list. I still pinch myself whenever I’m getting into my blue silks for racing.
The silks of fledgling owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Mansour Al Nahyan have been seen on a racecourse three times and, after Saturday’s Abu Dhabi victory of Shateh in the featured Group 3 Al Ruwais, have visited the winner’s enclosure on each occasion.
Areem won twice for him earlier in the season with both horses trained by Nacer Samiri, who also saddled the runner-up in the 1000m dash in the shape of Sha’Red, owned by Sheikh Mansour. Sha’Red was seeking a third consecutive win in the race his owner had won in each of the last five seasons.
Shateh, under Harry Bentley, was fastest away and was soon at the head of affairs, never relinquishing the lead.
Bentley said: “After 430 days off it is a great training performance and this horse is quick, talented and versatile. There are few 1000m races he can run in but he stays 1600m so the trainer has options with him.”
If stepped up to 1600m, Abhaar could be amongst his opposition after defending his crown in the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup.
Restricted to horses foaled in the UAE and afforded Prestige status, the Eric Lemartinel-trained Abhaar registered his fourth win in the capital over the 1600m trip.
Winning jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, said: “He may have only won by a neck but had plenty in hand as he just does enough. He would probably stay further now but is very good over this trip.”
Makzon, ridden by Freddy Tylicki for Ahmad bin Hamash, won the only Thoroughbred race, a 2200m handicap, just as he had three weeks ago.
Two 1400m maidens opened the card with AZ Al Nayef taking the first with Hector Crouch riding for trainer Helal Al Alawi, before the Mohd Al Shamshi Infijar and Carlos Sanchez landed the second.
Veronica Aske trained her third winner of her debut season, saddling Latifa Princess to score in a 1200m handicap under Sam Hitchcott.