Ed Marnane: A pair of Group 1s – the Jebel Hatta and Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 – headline a fantastic Super Saturday card at Meydan on Saturday, the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup later in the month.
The Jebel Hatta has been the key local trial for the Dubai Turf, Benbatl ran second before crushing an international field in the $6m contest three years ago. Charlie Appleby, who has won two of the last three renewals, holds a typical strong hand with Art Du Val and Al Suhail, the choice of stable jockey William Buick.
Al Suhail, owned by Godolphin, bounced back from poor run in the 2000 Guineas when easily winning the Henry Cecil Stakes, a performance that showed he was right back to his best. Returning after a 240-day break, he’s unlikely to lack for fitness from a yard that are banging in the winners.
British challenger Lord Glitters has enjoyed a productive winter stint in Dubai, winning the Singspiel Stakes (Group 2) and finishing a close third behind Zakouski and Court House most recently at Group 2 level, under a 1.5kg penalty. Despite turning eight in January, he retains plenty of enthusiasm and ability, and clearly demands respect.
Court House, representing Simon Crisford, was only caught close home, having led for most of the way. That was a welcome return to form for the Dawn Approach gelding, having run poorly in the Jebel Ali Mile (Group 3) on his seasonal and dirt debut previously.
He’s unexposed on turf, has more to offer and shouldn’t be underestimated.
The final leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge, over 2000m on dirt, Race 6, sees Salute The Soldier renew rivalry with Thegreatcollection, 23 days after the pair fought out the finish of Round 2.
The former, trained by Fawzi Nass, registered his second win from four starts on Meydan’s main track when holding off the late challenge of Thegreatcollection, trained by Doug Watson.
Salute The Soldier, the highest rated runner in the field, could be vulnerable stepping up in distance to 2000m, a trip he’s unproven to date. Sectional times confirmed he was tiring in the closing stages but had enough in the tank to bravely fend off Thegreatcollection.
The runner-up, a four-time winner at Meydan, has enjoyed a successful winter, winning the Dubai Creek Mile (Listed) and never finishing worse than second in four appearances. He can be trusted to run his race and he won’t be far away.
Course specialist Secret Ambition, trained by Satish Seemar, was given an enterprising ride when landing the Firebreak Stakes, making all when running out a comfortable winner. He’s vulnerable going up in distance and I have reservations he can dominate this field, once again, especially drawn nine of ten.
Racing kicks off with the Al Bastakiya (Listed), the second leg of the Dubai Triple Crown. Uruguayan champion El Patriota created a big impression on his UAE debut, defeating Speight’spercomete and Endifaa in the trial in January. The victory extended his unbeaten record to four on dirt. The three-year-old colt is a confident selection to follow up and cement his claims as a leading player for the UAE Derby.
In the Dubai City of Gold, Race 2, Walton Street is hard to oppose and is likely to be most people’s banker of the card. Trained by Charlie Appleby, he comes here at the top of his game, easily winning a handicap, over the same course and distance on his seasonal reappearance. Always travelling powerfully, he ran out a comfortable winner when setting a new track record.
A maximum field of 16 has been declared for the Burj Nahaar (Group 3), a trial for the Godolphin Mile. Midnight Sands, trained by Doug Watson, thrived last season and was unbeaten in four races, all at Meydan.
Now back under the care of Watson after an unsuccessful stint in the US, Midnight Sands is likely to improve for the run after a four-month break.
The veteran and course specialist North America, seven-time winner at Meydan, has a bigger absence to overcome having been off the track since flopping in the Saudi Cup 12 months. A confirmed front-runner, he’s ideally berthed in stall one and if allowed a soft lead, he could be hard to catch.
He is clear on the ratings and was a Group 1 winner in his prime, defeating two-time Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 three years ago.
The progressive Madkhal, winner of two of his last three races on dirt here, isn’t a forlorn hope, particularly at juicy odds. He has plenty to find on the ratings but comes here in top form, and could cope with a rise in class on his Group 3 debut.
The Mahab Al Shimaal (Group 3), Race 4, looks ultra-competitive, attracting a full field of 16. Canvassed, trained by Doug Watson, impressed when sent sprinting, winning a course and distance handicap last month. It was a performance that caught the eye and he can follow up, and punch his ticket to the Golden Shaheen in the hands of Pat Dobbs. Watson and Dobbs combined to win the 2019 renewal with Drafted.
1 EL PATRIOTA 10 SPEIGHT’SPERCOMETE 8 PANADOL 7 ENDIFAA
6 WALTON STREET 3 DUBAI FUTURE 4 DUBAI WARRIOR 7 BRILLIANT LIGHT
5 CANVASSED 9 IMPORTANT MISSION 2 BOCHART 11 PREMIER STAR
6 GOLDEN GOAL 9 MIDNIGHT SANDS 8 MADKHAL 10 NORTH AMERICA
1 AL SUHAIL 7 LORD GLITTERS 4 COURT HOUSE 11 ZAINHOM
11 THEGREATCOLLECTION 8 SALUTE THE SOLDIER 9 SECRET AMBITION 4 NEW TRIALS
4 MAN OF PROMISE 8 ROYAL CRUSADE 14 ACKLAM EXPRESS 13 FINAL SONG
Best Bet: 1 El Patriota [Race 1]
Best Value: 8 Madkhal [Race 4]
Best Swinger: 1 El Patriota and 10 Speight’spercomete [Race 1]
[Races 4 to 7]
Leg 1: 6, 8, 9, 10
Leg 2: 1, 7
Leg 3: 8, 11
Leg 4: 4, 8, 13, 14