Ed Marnane: The absence of the Saudi Derby-bound Soft Whisper, impressive winner of the UAE 1000 Guineas, has left the door open for Doug Watson to win his third UAE Oaks, one of the features of a cracking seven-card at Meydan on Thursday.
First run in 2001, the UAE Oaks has attracted a small field for this year’s contest and looks a weaker renewal, none of the seven fillies declared are rated above 96. Mnasek, runner-up to Soft Whisper last month, has strong claims of giving Watson his first UAE Oaks since Rayya took the prize in in 2018, two years after Polar River completed the UAE 1000 Guineas/Oaks double for the former champion trainer.
Shock winner of a maiden on her racecourse debut at Meydan earlier in the season, Mnasek ran well in the UAE 1000 Guineas on her next appearance, a performance that is deserves to be upgraded having been very slowly away.
By Empire Maker, winner of the Belmont Stakes, third leg of the American Triple Crown, Mnasek is open to improvement stepping up in distance to 1900m. She’s fancied to uphold the placings with her stable companion Super Chianti, who finished just over two lengths behind her in the opening classic of the season.
Last Sunset, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, switches to dirt following a respectable effort in the Meydan Classic trial and bids to give her trainer an eleventh UAE Oaks.
Previously she had run well in the trial for the UAE 1000 Guineas, doing well to finish 2.50 lengths behind Soft Whisper after slow start on her dirt debut. Frankie Dettori, her rider, has enjoyed plenty of success in the race, winning it a record six times.
She has plenty going for her and holds obvious claims.
Twelve months ago, Down On Da Bayou gave trainer Salem bin Ghadayer and Mickael Barzalona their first UAE Oaks. They combine with the well-bred Jumeirah Beach, a half-sister to top stayer Dee Ex Bee and the wide-margin winner of moderate Meydan maiden when making all the running.
She will need to improve stepping up to Group 3 level and makes little appeal, despite the yard banging in the winners.
In Race 6, Charlie Appleby’s Althiqa seeks to emulate Poetic Charm, Very Special, Promising Run and Magic Lily and complete the Cape Verdi/Balanchine double.
She’s vulnerable stepping up to 1800m under a 1.5 kg penalty, and can be opposed with Dubai Love, one of four runners representing Godolphin.
The selection, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, wasn’t beaten far in the Cape Verdi and is likely to enjoy the extra 200m.
D’bai can build on his solid return in the Al Fahidi Fort last month, when splitting Land Of Legends and Glorious Journey.
The Dubawi gelding is fancied to take his tally to three at Meydan in the Zabeel Mile, Race 5. Trained by Charlie Appleby, he has the assistance of William Buick, the most successful rider in the history of the Group 2 race with three wins.
There was plenty to like about his comeback, running on strongly in the closing stages on the back of a three-month layoff.
Gladiator King will be a short-priced favourite in the finale, the Al Shindagha Sprint (Group 3). The US-bred son of Curlin took the prize last year and made an encouraging return when third in the Dubawi Stakes following a 327-day break.
Satish Seemar has booked William Buick to ride his smart sprinter, who was entitled to need his comeback and should strip fitter for the race. Seemar has a good record in the race, winning it three times since the inaugural running in 2000.
Earlier on the card, Godolphin can win the Curlin Handicap (Listed), Race 3, named after the 2008 Dubai World Cup winner with the unexposed Real World, trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
The Dark Angel colt has lost little in defeat in two starts on dirt this year, the latest when creditable fourth behind the progressive Firnas. The refitting of a visor looks a positive equipment change.
In a race that not many hold decent claims, Tailor’s Row, a confirmed front-runner, has to enter calculations in the hands of top French rider Mickael Barzalona.
Winner three times this season, he arrives in great heart having posted a personal-best in the Jebel Ali Stakes (Listed) on his latest run, just going down by a nose to Saltarin Dubai in a thrilling finish.
The top-weight will need to improve to defy a stiff mark and may have to settle for minor honours.
Of the others, the Satish Seemar trained Sanad Libya and the hat-trick chasing Twelfthofneverland make most appeal, along with Godolphin’s unexposed four-year-old Desert Peace, a colt who makes his dirt debut but boasts a pedigree that suggest he should handle the conditions.
Racing gets under way with a handicap, run over a distance of 1600m on dirt. Doug Watson and Pat Dobbs can kick off with a winner with Golden Goal, who can follow up his recent win and cement his claims for the Godolphin Mile next month.
He impressed when beating Desert Doctor and seven others, leaving the impression he had more to offer having travelled strongly before kicking clear in the closing stages.
Bright Start caught the eye on his Meydan and dirt debut last month, slamming Zero To Hundred under a positive front-running ride in maiden company on the back of a near three month break.
He’s very unexposed and rates the chief threat getting plenty of weight from the selection.
5 GOLDEN GOAL 10 BRIGHT START 8 DESERT DOCTOR 3 HYPOTHETICAL
5 LAZULI 3 EQUILATERAL 6 WAADY 2 CASPIAN PRINCE
8 REAL WORLD 9 DESERT PEACE 10 TWELFTHOFNEVERLAND 1 TAILOR’S ROW
5 MNASEK 4 LAST SUNSET 7 SUPER CHIANTI 2 JUMERIAH BEACH
5 D’BAI 2 BEDOUIN’S STORY 10 LUCIUS TIBERIUS 8 ESCOBAR
3 DUBAI LOVE 1 ALTHIQA 9 STYLISTIQUE 10 SUMMER ROMANCE
6 GLADIATOR KING 7 IMPORTANT MISSION 5 BOCHART 4 BEHAVIORAL BIAS
5 Golden Goal [Race 1]
10 Lucius Tiberius [Race 5]
6 Gladiator King and 7 Important Mission [Race 7]
[Races 4 to 7]
Leg 1: 4, 5, 7
Leg 2: 2, 5, 10
Leg 3: 1, 3, 9, 10
Leg 4: 6, 7