Dubai The $6 million (Dh22 million) Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) is the penultimate race but it is as usual one of the strongest races on the card.
There is another terrific field assembled to take each other on in this prestigious Group 1 contest, which is the joint richest turf race in the world together with the Dubai Turf (G1).
Great Britain has the strongest record in the race with five wins and with Roger Varian you have to say he has a great chance to join that elite club. Postponed won the King George last year for Luca Cumani at Ascot and subsequently joined the Varian team. He has had a run over here in Meydan for his new trainer and he could not have been more impressive in the Dubai City of Gold under regular jockey Andrea Atzeni. Shaikh Mohammad Bin Obaid Al Maktoum’s colt sets a very high standard and looks the one to beat in this great renewal.
Also representing the UK is David Simcock who runs the appropriately named Sheikhzayedroad. This horse is no slouch and often moves faster than it’s namesake during rush hour. He is a horse with many doubters, but you cannot fault his form and he had a smooth prep race victory here also.
Alain De Royer-Dupré won this race last year with Dolniya and is hoping to double up with Dariyan who is also owned by Aga Khan and also ridden by Christophe Soumillon. Not a bad performer in his own right, he was taught a lesson last time by Postponed and would struggle to reverse those placings. Gailo Chop is another french challenger and despite winning the MacKinnon Stakes in Flemmington, there are tougher nuts to crack in this race.
Also from Europe is the Master Aiden O’Brien’s Highland Reel. In 2015 he won the Group 1 Secretariat Stakes and the Hong Kong Vase and with stable jockey Ryan Moore on board he looks a real threat.
The Japanese have launched another multi-pronged attack on this race and Duramente very much looks the one to beat. He won the Japanese 2000 Guineas and their Derby and it will be fascinating to see him taking so many other top class horses. He should not sink in such lofty company and looks more than capable of being there at the end. Of the other two Last Impact looks the more likely to feature in the finish.
When the Qataris have sent horses over in the past they have always run well. Dubday showed particularly good form on the world stage and The Blue Eye will be hoping to tread a similar path. Harry Bentley has had yet another great winter in Qatar and he gets the ride here tonight on the track he cut his teeth on when learning about Middle Eastern racing.
Postponed looks to be the certain selection in this race with genuine Group 1 form at the highest level and the benefit of a recent win in the Dubai City of Gold. Highland Reel is not here to just breathe the desert air for fun and will mount a serious challenge as he has loads of natural speed. Duramente looks to be best of the rest in an intriguing contest.