MIKE DE KOCK
Ed Marnane: Mike de Kock saddles his first runners – Yurman and Effectif – of the season in Race 1, a Maiden Plate over 1400m on dirt at Meydan on Thursday.
The unraced Argentinian-bred pair are by former stable star Asiatic Boy — the only winner of the Dubai Triple Crown, the 2000 Guineas, Al Bastakiya and UAE Derby 14 years ago.
If the market spoke in their favour, they’d warrant respect in a race that is hard to have strong views, as half of the 14-strong field are making their racecourse debuts.
Salem bin Ghadayer, who has made rapid start to 2021, is two-handed with top French rider Mickael Barzalona booked to ride Rare Ninja and Meshakel, Royston Ffrench’s mount.
The former, narrowly beaten by Zhou Storm on his racecourse debut here in November, has plenty of experience on his side and must come into the reckoning in first-time blinkers.
Meshakel, formerly trained by Mark Johnston, made a respectable start to his UAE career at Jebel Ali on Friday, finishing second to stable companion Hurry Up.
He was no match for the impressive winner and will need to take a big step forward to open his account at the fifth time of asking.
Godolphin’s Nation’s History, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, makes most appeal of the unraced horses. Representing a powerful yard, he’s by Dark Angel, a sire with a fair record on dirt at Meydan.
Charlie Appleby made a disappointing start to his Dubai campaign when well-fancied Looktotherainbow flopped on her Meydan debut last week, trailing in a remote eighth behind Soft Whisper in a trial for the UAE 1000 Guineas.
Rebel’s Romance can provide the Godolphin handler with a welcome first success of 2021 in the UAE 2000 Guineas trial, Race 5, the highlight of a competitive seven-race card.
Rebel’s Romance, William Buick’s mount, is unbeaten in two runs in the UK, both on synthetic surfaces at Newcastle and Kempton. The switch to dirt is an obvious concern but being by Dubawi out of a Street Cry mare, suggests he ought to handle the conditions.
Rated 99, he is the highest ranked runner in the field and will take plenty of beating.
This year’s contest looks a strong renewal, with two unbeaten colts – Zhou Storm and Mouheeb – among the 11 runners declared.
The latter, trained by Nicholas Bachalard, made a good impression at Jebel Ali on his debut last month, easily defeating Hurry Up and 10 others. The runner-up gave the form a timely boost when bolting up in a maiden at Jebel Ali six days ago.
Mouheeb merits respect stepping up in class and distance.
Local trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi has his team firing on all cylinders, saddling a treble at Meydan last week and Zhou Storm has leading claims chasing his third victory at Meydan this winter.
By Due Diligence, Zhou Storm has made the running in both his races, every time finding plenty for pressure and showing a good attitude. If allowed to dominate, he could be hard to beat, despite being done no favours with draw in stall No 10.
Zhou Storm’s stable companion, Grand Dubai, gives Al Rayhi a strong hand, and he can’t be ignored. He has progressed steadily with racing and opened his account in a 1600m maiden at the third attempt here last month, exhibiting a likeable attitude.
The drop in trip is a slight negative but he could reward each-way backers at decent odds.
Firnas, unbeaten in two starts since returning from his summer break, arrives here in the form of his life and makes plenty of appeal in the 2000m handicap, Race 4.
Trained by Salem bin Ghadayer, he posted a personal-best when winning the Listed Entisar Stakes, over the same course and distance, last month. He’s the class act of the line-up and is fancied to give weight to his seven rivals.
Saeed bin Suroor’s unexposed four-year-old Real World, in receipt of 5kg from Firnas, rates the chief threat to the selection. Impressive winner of a minor event at Chelmsford on his racecourse debut in October, he ran well on his Meydan and dirt debut four weeks ago, just failing to catch Sanad Libya in a driving finish.
He’s open to plenty of improvement and has the assistance of Pat Cosgrave, who combined with Suroor when winning last week’s feature aboard Soft Whisper.
The Dubai Trophy, over 1200m on turf, Race 6, looks a good opportunity for Godolphin’s 84-rated First Smile, trained by Saeed bin Suroor. Runner-up in her first two races in the UK, she got off the mark when easily winning a minor event at Lingfield, showing a sharp turn of foot in the closing stages having travelled strongly through the race.
Out of the Queen Mary heroine Jealous Again and half-sister to the ill-fated smart Irish sprinter Sceptical, she possesses plenty of speed and sets a high standard in a race very few really appeal.
Race 1: 13 RARE NINJA 11 NATION’S HISTORY 1 YURMAN 12 NIBRAAS
Race 2: 15 GERVAIS 10 MAYAADEEN 8 SHANTY STAR 1 ALMOREB
Race 3: 8 NOVA ROMA 1 GLOBAL HEAT 5 HARBOUR SPIRIT 10 MIRACLE MAKER
Race 4: 1 FIRNAS 7 REAL WORLD 3 SALTARIN DUBAI 4 GRAND ARGENTIER
Race 5: 7 REBEL’S ROMANCE 11 ZHOU STORM 6 MOUHEEB 4 GRAND DUBAI
Race 6: 10 FIRST SMILE 4 FIRST PROPHET 1 BARBER OF SEVILLE 8 TAHDEED
Race 7: 9 CORVAIR 2 DUBAI LEGACY 10 NAYSLAYER 5 FANAAR
Best Bet: 1 Firnas [Race 4]
Best Value: 10 Gervais [Race 2]
Best Swinger: 8 Nova Roma and 1 Global Heat [Race 3]
Leg 1: 1, 3, 7
Leg 2: 4, 5, 6, 7
Leg 3: 10
Leg 4: 2, 5, 9, 10, 11