Saeed bin Suroor hopes Royal Marine can prove as effective on a dirt surface by stamping his authority over his rivals in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at Meydan on Thursday.
After signing off last season with victory in the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Paris Longchamp in October, the son of Raven’s Pass will face a field of 12 rivals as he bids to give the Newmarket handler his first win in the mile conditions contest since 2016.
Bin Suroor said: “Royal Marine is a very good horse and is doing well. He has enjoyed the climate here and has been working well. He looks healthy.
“It will be interesting to see if he handles the dirt for future races. I expect him to run well on it. If he does, we can look at the UAE 2000 Guineas the UAE Derby.
“The plan was to run him in Dubai to give him a chance to run in these races. If doesn’t handle it, we will keep him in Dubai and ready him for the European season.”
Last season’s UAE 2000 Guineas winner Gold Town, from the yard of Charlie Appleby, will make his first start of the year in Round One of the Group Two Al Maktoum Challenge, in which the Sandeep Jadhav-trained Heavy Metal will bid for back-to-back victories.
The valuable six-furlong handicap sprint sees some well-known names taking part.
David Barron’s Above The Rest is top-weight, with David O’Meara’s Intisaab, the Bin Suroor-trained Major Partnership and Jamie Osborne’s newcomer Dream Today others among the 13 runners.
Bin Suroor also holds strong claims in the Special Olympics Cup through Glassy Waters and Welsh Lord, while Syphax, formerly with Kevin Ryan, is looking to bounce back to his best.
The William Haggas-trained Original Choice is drawn one in the Cepsa Energy Cup, in which Joseph O’Brien runs King’s Field.
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Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter is to be aimed at the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan on March 30.
Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old was a historic winner of Australia’s greatest race as the first to be trained in the UK.
He came from the rear to defeat Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo, with Charlie Fellowes’ Prince Of Arran completing a one-two-three for the Brits.
“Cross Counter has come back from Melbourne stronger and brighter than ever, and he has put on 25 kilos in body weight. He looks great,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.
“After discussing his programme with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, we have pencilled in the Dubai Gold Cup as a starting point for 2019, and we will see where that takes us.
“It will be an opportunity for His Highness to see Cross Counter on the big night, and also for Godolphin fans in Dubai to give the horse the ‘home town’ welcome he deserves.
“A defence of his Melbourne Cup crown is an obvious long-range target, but we know he will be getting a lot more weight this time.”
Appleby also revealed that Old Persian, who beat Cross Counter in the Great Voltigeur, will be aimed at the Sheema Classic; Brundtland could join Cross Counter in the Gold Cup; Loxley is to be aimed at the Dubai Turf, and Blue Point the Al Quoz.
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Dream Castle was an impressive winner for the Godolphin team in the Group Three Singspiel Stakes on the opening card of the Dubai Carnival at Meydan.
In a race totally dominated by Godolphin, who were responsible for the first five home, it was Dream Castle (12-1), who came out on top with a dominant display to win for the first time since making a victorious debut at Doncaster in April 2017 after which he was fifth in the 2000 Guineas.
The son of Frankel came good as he showed a decisive turn of foot when stepped up to nine furlongs for the first time.
Ridden by Christophe Soumillon, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained five-year-old beat stablemate Racing History by a length and a half with Charlie Appleby’s Salsabeel a head away in third.
Bin Suroor’s Team Talk was fourth with Bay Of Poets from the Appleby stable fifth.
“He ran a huge race. The trip really suited him well and it gives us confidence for the future to run him over the same trip,” said bin Suroor.
“The Dubai Turf will be his main target.”
Stablemate Bin Battuta (11-4) could be bound for the Dubai Gold Cup back at Meydan in March after overcoming 495 days off the track with victory in the Longines Gents Record Collection Handicap.
The five-year-old burst through a gap a furlong and half from home in Soumillon’s hands to lead home a one-two for Godolphin this time by beating the Appleby-trained Ispolini by a length and a half.
“We gave Bin Battuta a long break after his last run and he looks much better physically now – he is a different horse in the mornings compared to previously,” bin Suroor told www.godolphin.com.
“The pace wasn’t too quick, but Bin Battuta was always in a nice position tonight and finished his race well.
“I think a mile and six furlongs or further might suit him better in the future. We will probably run him in another 12-furlong handicap and then look at Group races for him.
“He could be a horse for the Dubai Gold Cup on Dubai World Cup Night.”
Newmarket trainer George Scott’s first runner at the Carnival was a winner thanks to Another Batt (12-1), who took the Longines Master Collection Moon Phase Handicap for Excel Racing, whose members include Southampton striker Charlie Austin.
The four-year-old was produced by Connor Beasley with a long run in the centre of the course to beat Godolphin’s Top Score by a length.
“He’s a horse that seems to love travelling. He went to Turkey as a two-year-old and won impressively and he has thrived out here,” Scott told Racing TV.
“He’s a really talented horse. I probably over-raced him as a two-year-old. He is improving.
“He was shuffled back early on in the race, but I did say to Connor he loves passing horses.
“We were planning the handicap route, but we’ll see where the horse takes us.”
Richard Mullen had the race won a long way from home on Raven’s Corner (7-2) in the Dubawi Stakes.
The six-year-old, trained by Satish Seemar, had the toe to keep with the pace-setting pair of My Catch and High On Life in the early stages before being sent on early in the straight.
Drafted made up a lot of ground to take second place in this Group Three race over six furlongs, but was too late to trouble the winner and was a length and three-quarters down at the line.
Al Hayette (12-1) came with a rattling run on the outside to spring a surprise in the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial.
Owned and trained by Ismail Mohammed, the daughter of Union Rags stayed on strongly in the final furlong for Fabrice Veron to score by two lengths from Nashirah.
Jim Crowley enjoyed a success for his boss Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum when steering Faatinah (4-1) home by two and a half lengths from Irish raider Hit The Bid in the Longines Ladies Record Collection Handicap for Australian trainer David Hayes.