It may not be a Carnival meeting, but today’s Meydan card is interesting nonetheless and opens with what would appear one of the strongest maidens ever contested on the UAE’s landmark racecourse.
With the maximum field of 14 in the 1,400m Tapeta contest, a low draw could be crucial and Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby, fresh from Thursday’s big race win with Certify, has two in the race, both well drawn four-year olds.
Stable jockey Mickael Barzalona chooses to ride Bustopher, second on his only UK start in a maiden on turf at Newmarket. He is joined by stable companion Ennobled Friend, who showed promise in both his UK starts.
Appleby said: “They are two decent horses with very few miles on the clock. This is the ideal opportunity to get them out and both should run well.”
South African Mike De Kock saddles the three-year-old Moonfaarid. De Kock explained: “The Tapeta is fine, he works well on it. The draw in nine is OK, but the 1,400m trip is going to be his minimum.”
Paul Hanagan rides, Fawzi Nass owns and trains Asmar, also a three-year-old, who caught the eye when staying on for third on his only start, a month ago over 1,600m on the Meydan Tapeta.
The official feature is a 1,400m turf handicap for which 15 have been declared. The Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Chasing Halos should not be far away, while anything De Kock saddles at the moment has to be considered.
He has both Red Duke and Final Button in the race. The Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Mundahesh switches to turf having won a 1,400m Tapeta handicap two weeks ago.
Similarly, the Ahmad bin Harmash- trained Ducab is swapping surfaces in the other turf handicap, over 1,800m.
The UAE’s newest racecourse opens its doors on Friday afternoon with a six-race card at the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf club.
The maximum field of 12 are set to contest each race, five for Purebred Arabians and one for Thoroughbreds, with the undoubted highlight a 1,600m conditions race.
With Dh120,000 on offer, the Purebred Arabian feature has attracted a quality field, including multiple Group 1 winner Fryvolous, representing Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel.
However, champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea chooses to partner stable companion Gali Rich. Majed Al Jahouri saddles four runners, with Silvestre De Sousa’s mount Rasikh looking the main hope.
Ali Rashid Al Raihe trains AF Lafeh, another to consider along-side the Eric Lemartinel-trained Bigg N Rich. The new track, on which horses have been trained for over 10 years, is described as ‘all-weather’ and has undergone major refurbishment over the last two years.
Club racing manager Neil Abrahams said: “It was fine for training on but we have had to do a lot of work to upgrade the track, surface and facilities to racing standard. “The surface is now a perfect racing depth whereas before it was too shallow.
We had a great trial last week and the surface is mainly sand but with a bit of fibre in it to keep the moisture in. “The surface is very forgiving, with plenty of cushioning, so ideal for the horse’s welfare. We are really looking forward to Friday.”
Thursday's fourth meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan is undoubtedly the best to date with a pair of Group 2 features, both on turf, sharing the limelight.
A quality field of six has been declared for the Cape Verdi Stakes, a 1,600m contest restricted to fillies and mares and won last year by Godolphin’s Sajjhaa, subsequently a dual Group 1 winner at the Carnival.
She was trained by Saeed bin Suroor, as is Shuruq, already a dual big race winner at Meydan, winning last year’s UAE Oaks and this year’s Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge.
In winning the latter, she became the first filly to win the race but has yet to win on turf, after four attempts. Bin Suroor explained: “We are happy to try her on turf here in Dubai as all her best form has been at Meydan. It was a big win three weeks ago and she has improved fitness wise for that run.”
Fellow Godolphin handler, Charlie Appleby, saddles Certify, having her first start since winning the 2012 Group 1 Fillies’ Mile.
Last year’s French 1000 Guineas heroine, Flotilla, certainly cannot be ruled out, along with the Mike De Kock-trained Mensoora, winner on her first two starts in South Africa before suffering an injury on her only subsequent start.
The Group 2 Al Rashidiya, over 1,800m, has attracted a field of 12 and some kind of case can be made for them all. The De Kock-trained Mushreq won well on the opening night and these do appear his optimum conditions.
UK raider Trade Storm was a dual Carnival winner for David Simcock last year – though he did struggle on his seasonal return and this is his first outing since September.
Bin Suroor’s runner, Tasaday, was a proven Group 1 performer in France last year and has her first start in the Godolphin blue. Silvestre De Sousa rides her, while Appleby has two in the race, Maputo, the choice of Mickael Barzalona and Kieren Fallon’s mount, Steeler.
Educate, having his first UAE run for Ismail Mohammed, is an intriguing runner having won a valuable Newmarket handicap, over this 1,800m trip, when last seen at Newmarket in September. The trainer said: “He was improving all last year and, hopefully, is an ideal Carnival horse.”