• October 21, 2018
    Last updated 8 minutes ago

dubai world cup

Stars set to shine at Gulf News race meeting

Mouth-watering seven-race card highlighted by Round 2 of Al Maktoum Challenge

Leslie Wilson Jr, Racing & Special Features Writer
18:38 February 7, 2018
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Dubai: Gulf News returns to sponsor the entire seven-race card on week five of the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan on a meeting brimming with high-quality races that are topped by the UAE 1000 Guineas and the second round of the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge.

Throw in the Group 2 Al Shindagaha Sprint, one of the key build-up races to the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, also sponsored by Gulf News, on Dubai World Cup night, and you have an absolute cracker of an evening in store.

A fantastic card by any standard, but which if these races has the potential to bring the house down at Dubai’s iconic racecourse?

UAE 1000 Guineas Trial winner Winter Lightning (Patrick Cosgrave) bids for a repeat in the feature race. Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The Al Shindagaha Sprint.

Run over 1200 metres on a fast dirt surface, the contest has a rich history of producing some of the most exhilarating finishes ever witnessed at the venue and this year’s renewal has all the makings of following suit.

Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby, who has a hat-full of big chances elsewhere on the card, is responsible for preparing the huge ante-post favourite, Comicas.

A winner of the Group 3 Dubawi Stakes over the same course and distance three weeks ago, the son of Distorted Humor faces six rivals, among them Muarrab and Reynladothewizard, who finished second and third on that occasion.

“He’s come out of his race well and he’s basically taking on the same horses again,” Appleby said. “He gets a penalty, but I am pleased with the way he’s training. It’s one of those races where you’re definitely disappointed if you’re not in right there again. Our biggest challenge is taking them on with our penalty.

“We were really pleased with how he was going into the Dubawi and confident that he would come forward after winning.

“After this, we’re looking to Super Saturday. Hopefully that holds his ticket to the Golden Shaheen.”

However, Reynaldothewizard, Zabeel Stables’ ageless wonder horse would appear to be the biggest danger. Like many older horses, the 12-year-old has not lost any of his sparkle, or sprinting prowess, as evidenced by his fast-finishing third to Comicas from an unfavourable draw in Gate 1, in the Dubawi Stakes.

With the benefit of that performance behind him, and now breaking from the more familiar Gate 6, Reynaldothewizard can be expected to go closer if not win the Al Shindagaha for the second time since 2015.

Both Muarrab and Reynaldothewizard are past winners of the Dubai Golden Shaheen, a race in which Comicas was second last year behind American speedball Mind Your Biscuits.

The official feature race of the night is the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 over 1,900 metres sponsored by Gulf News, a race that Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour has won no less than ten times, including in 2014 with Prince Bishop, who won the Dubai World Cup the subsequent year.

This time around Bin Suroor banks on Thunder Snow, who landed both the UAE 2,000 Guineas (G3) and UAE Derby (G2) in 2017. The four-year-old son of Australian stallion Helmet was runner-up in Round 1 of the 1,600-metre Al Maktoum Challenge on January 1, where he finished behind Heavy Metal, who re-opposes.

Bin Surour commented: “Thunder Snow has been doing well since his return in the first round and the step up in trip will play to his strengths, as he likes further.

“He has been working well and is fit and ready to go. Heavy Metal was impressive last time but we’re hopeful Thunder Snow can show his class and run a big race. He’s a horse that we have a lot of faith in.”

Heavy Metal, trained by Salem Bin Ghadayer obviously revels on the Meydan dirt as that win was his sixth on the surface. However, he is stepping up to 1,900 metres for the first time locally and his trainer said: “Obviously, he loves it at Meydan on the dirt surface and he has continued to work very well since his last win.

“This is a different test, over further, but we could not be happier with the horse at home.”

The third feature race on the card is the UAE 1,000 Guineas sponsored by Friday, the first of five Classics run at Meydan during the season. The race has attracted a field of eight, headed by 1,400-metre trial first and second, Winter Lightning and Rayya. The former is trained by Bin Surour for Godolphin and Rayya by leading UAE handler, Doug Watson.

Assessing Winter Lightning’s chances, Bin Surour said: “She won the trial and has done well since. She is very much like Thunder Snow. She is relaxed and nothing bothers her.

“There are some nice fillies in the race, but we are looking for another good result.”

The Meydan Classic Trial, sponsored by getthat.com, has drawn a maximum field of 16 runners. Appleby appears to have strong claims with Zaman, who was a brave second behind Expert Eye in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last August.

The Richard Hannon-trained Tangled will appreciate the return to turf, having struggled on the dirt in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial here last month.

Mutamayel, trained in Australia by David Hayes, looks an interesting prospect.