The Group 2 Balanchine Stakes, a 1,800m turf contest restricted to fillies and mares, is the highlight of this evening’s (Thursday) seventh meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival and Certify, unbeaten in five career starts to date, will surely be hard to beat.
The Godolphin filly, trained by Charlie Appleby, won all four juvenile starts in 2012, highlighted by the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile before becoming one of Godolphin’s horses who missed all in 2013 after testing positive for a prohibited substance.
She made her comeback three weeks ago, oozing class as she won the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes, also for fillies and mares but over 1,600m, with jockey Mickael Barzalona clearly believing he had the race in the bag at halfway. She has to carry a penalty for that win but Appleby still sounds confident.
He said: “She has always been a very classy filly and a bit special.
“It was a shame we could not run her last season, but it is great I have been allowed to keep her in training and she was showing plenty of her old ability before her comeback.
“It is always a relief when they transfer their home effort back onto the track and she really did. She has improved a lot since as well, physically and mentally as she had been off a long while. The penalty makes it harder but the extra 200m should not be an issue. We have to be very hopeful.”
Three of the five she beat three weeks ago are in opposition again, including runner-up L’Amour De Ma Vie, but it could be another French rider, dual Group 1 winner Flotilla, who rates the biggest danger despite a lacklustre local debut behind Certify in the Cape Verdi.
Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf in 2012, she also won last year’s French 1000 Guineas for trainer Mikel Delzangles. Of the pair who did not run in the Cape Verdi, Moment In Time, representing David Simcock and the UK, looks to hold the best claims ro make a challenge after her career-best third in the Group 1 EP Taylor Stakes when last seen in October.
The main support race, also on turf, is the inaugural running of the Listed Dubai Millennium Stakes, over 2,000m and for which 13 runners have been declared.
The Mike De Kock-trained Mujaarib made a winning local debut three weeks ago, winning the Group 2 Al Rashidiya over 1,800m, again on the grass track. He will be ridden by Paul Hanagan, riding for his main employer Sheikh Hamdan, and the jockey said: “I was suspended when he won last time when he surprised us all. We really thought he would need that run so it was a very pleasing effort.
“He has a penalty this week as aresult of that win, but he should be competitive.”
France’s Dastarhon and Godolphin’s Tasaday both caught the eye in the Al Rashidiya and are therefore also to be considered.
German raider Empoli, who refused to enter the stalls for his intended local debut last week, looks a threat with Adrie De Vries riding for trainer Peter Schiergen.
ADCB Ghantoot Polo Team were crowned champions of the McLaren Silver Cup Final after defeating Desert Palm 2 by nine goals to eight in a thrilling final at the Dubai Equestrian Club.
The ADCB Ghantoot team, comprised of Abdullah bin Dismal, Juan Zubiaurre, Facundo Sola and Pelayo Berazadi, were able to claim the early advantage but Desert Palm 2 managed to stage a mini comeback by scoring four goals by the end of the second chukka.
In the third period ADCB Ghantoot got back into the match with a great performance by Sola as he took control of the game and led his team to a 7-4 lead.
Despite Ghantoot’s advantage, Desert Palm 2 refused to accept defeat as they closed the gap to one goal in the fifth and last chukka with only a minute of the game remaining.
However, in a nail-biting final minute which kept the spectators engrossed, Desert Palm 2 were unable to find another goal as Ghantoot claimed the Silver Cup title.
Facundo Sola was the MVP of the match and also named MVP of the Silver Cup after an exhibition of great polo that included a goal with a broken mallet.
Sola, Ghantoots star player for the night was named MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the match for his efforts to keep the team alive in the game which also included scoring a goal with a broken mallet.
Match progression: 2-1/ 4-4/ 7-4/ 8-6/ 9-8
Elsewhere, Habtoor Polo won the the Hildon Cup, defeating Mahra Polo by six goals to five in another big match on the same day.
Mohammed Al Habtoor’s team won the brother’s duel as they ended the third Chukka with a 5-2 advantage.
Mahra’s Nacho Gonzales had the last action of the game but in the end Habtoor managed to hold on to win the Hildon Cup title.
Match Progression: 2-1/ 2-2/ 5-2/ 6-5
Next Up in the Dubai Open Polo calendar is the Dubai Polo Gold Cup, the biggest event of the series and the fourth largest tournament of its kind in the world.
Ten teams will battle it out at this year’s Gold Cup which gets underway on 24 February at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian club in The Arabian Ranches.
HH Sheikha Maitha Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who made her tournament debut a victorious one, last year, is returning to defend her Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge title with a new UAE team. The team, which also features leading Emirati player Mohammed Al Habtoor, will face off against three other pro-am polo teams in the 9th edition of the tournament.
This year's event will be held from the 17 – 22 February 2013 at Desert Palm Retreat and Polo Club in Dubai, with the final being played on a Saturday for the first time in its history. Main sponsors Cartier hope the day's action will be enjoyed by an impressive guest list invited on their behalf to enjoy both the polo on display and the retreat's hospitality.
Delivering a local emphasis on proceedings, five patrons will be players from the region, including the Cartier team’s Saeed Bin Drai, Faris Al Yabhouni, and Amr Zedan of the CNN team as well as Tariq and Rashid Al Bawardi, sons of the event host Ali Al Bawardi who are playing for the home side, Desert Palm.
In a marked change from previous years, the sole European representative this year is Adriano Agosti. Once more he is playing for the Cartier team and he will be eager to repeat his 2012 victory.
All the patrons will be playing alongside an equally impressive list of professionals, made up of some notable South American players including 10-goaler David “Pelon” Stirling..
All the games will be played at Ali Al Bawardy's Desert Palm estate, one of Dubai’s premier boutique retreats.
La Martina has been reappointed as the Official Team Kit Supplier for both players and horses.
CARTIER INTERNATIONAL DUBAI POLO CHALLENGE TEAMS 2014
Cartier (red): Adriano Agosti (CH) 0; Saeed Bin Drai (UAE) 0; Francisco Elizalde (ARG) 7; Raul Laplacette (ARG) 6
CNN (blue): Amr Zedan (KSA) 0; Faris Al Yabhouni (UAE) 0; Facundo Fernandez Llorente (ARG) 4; David Stirling (URU) 10
UAE Team (black): HH Sheikha Maitha (UAE) 0; Alfredo Capella (ARG) 8; Guillermo Cuitino (ARG) 6; Mohammed Al Habtoor (UAE) 0
Desert Palm (grey): Tariq Albwardy (UAE) 1; Rashid Albwardy (UAE) 2; Martin Valent (ARG) 5; Facundo Castagnola (ARG) 6