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Godolphin hoping for Thunder and Snow as carnival begins

11/01/2018
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Somewhat unusually the Dubai World Cup Carnival kicks off with a guarantee of new names on the roll of honour for both Al Maktoum Challenge R1 races, the features of the opening night of the $10.87 million international extravaganza. Both races are over 1600m with the Thoroughbred Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 looking an absolute corker with the field headed by Thunder Snow, both a dual local Classic winner and twice victorious at Group One level. Homebred by Godolphin, he won the Group 1 Criterium International as a juvenile before adding both the UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby to his winning resume last year, proving the Meydan dirt surface holds no fears for him.

He added the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat to his haul, at Chantilly in July and is seeking to provide his trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, a ninth victory in this race which was first contested in 1994. As a 4yo, Thunder Snow is representing an age group who have won the race on no less than 11 occasions. Stable companion, the same owner’s Confrontation, made a winning local debut for Kiaran McLaughlin in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes in February 2016. That was over this 1600m track and trip. After joining Bin Suroor he only ran once last season when tailed off defending his Firebreak Stakes crown when something was clearly amiss.

He showed winning on his UAE bow that he can go well fresh and his trainer is more than adept at getting one ready off a break. Regular partner, Christophe Soumillon, is aboard Thunder Snow with Pat Cosgrave on Confrontation. Salem bin Ghadayer has his team in scintillating form and had four entries among the 14 when they were revealed on Monday. Of the quartet, only Heavy Metal was given a single entry which was in this race, hardly surprisingly given his emphatic winning return, over course and distance, in the Listed Dubai Creek Mile.

That was his fifth Meydan victory, fourth at 1600m and including the Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday last year. Like Heavy Metal, Long River celebrated a Super Saturday victory, in his case in the ‘piece de resistance’, the 2000m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 before contesting the $10 million Dubai World Cup. He was declared in the main race and will be hoping to go one better than last year when he chased home history maker, Le Bernardin who was becoming the first horse to win the race twice. That was his seasonal debut last year so the fact he has not run since the World Cup is not a concern. Mickael Barzalona has opted to ride Heavy Metal with Royston Ffrench aboard Long River.

UAE Champion Trainer Doug Watson relies on the 4yo Cosmo Charlie, another who won on last year’s Super Saturday card, in his case the 1900m Listed Al Bastakiya before well behind Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby. Watson’s charge has only ever run at Meydan and made a winning racecourse debut, over 1400m, as a juvenile, last December before chasing home Fly At Dawn in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial. He looked very good winning, over this 1600m, on his seasonal reappearance before failing to fire in the Dubai Creek Mile behind Heavy Metal. He is better than that and certainly should not be ruled out from bouncing back to form.

The mount of Pat Dobbs, he carries the colours of Ramzan Kadyrov, as does North America, trained by Satish Seemar and to be ridden by Richard Mullen. One of the stars of the 2017 carnival, until a blip in the Godolphin Mile when seemingly unsuited by the ‘sloppy’ conditions, he remains an exciting prospect but has been done no favours by the draw and is widest of all in eight. Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, Fitzgerald was ninth in this last year having previously won the Dubai Creek Mile of 2016. Dropped to 1200m for his one appearance thus far this season, he will appreciate the return to this trip and over which he was also third in last season’s Godolphin Mile.

Gloria De Campeao went on to win the 2010 Dubai World Cup, the first at Meydan albeit on a Tapeta, not dirt surface, after starting his campaign in this race. In the Purebred Arabian equivalent, Paddy’s Day is a fascinating contender having his first local start both on dirt and having joined Champion Trainer, Watson, after proving the Abu Dhabi turf, racing right-handed, is not his bag. Dobbs rides. A dual Horse of the Year in America, under similar conditions to those he will face this evening, he has joined a handler who has won this race three times before, on each occasion with a horse owned by Sheikh Hamdan for whom he saddles Bon Baiser De Faust this year.

Seeking a seventh victory in the race, the owner is also represented by Barnamaj with Jim Crowley electing to partner the latter, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, leaving Dane O’Neill to ride Watson’s second runner. RB Torch was impressive winning the 1400m Group 2 Bani Yas five weeks ago, representing the Al Asayl team of Sheikh Khalifa, Eric Lemartinel and Tadhg O’Shea, and looks a big danger to all. That said, it is noticeable O’Shea has elected to partner stable companion, Darius Du Paon, having just his eighth career start. A winner on dirt at Al Ain, his most recent outing was also a winning one when landing the 1600m Group 3 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup on the Abu Dhabi turf.

One trophy which could be defended is that of the upgraded Group 3 Singspiel Stakes over the same 1800m on turf as both the Group 1 Dubai Turf and Group 1 Jebel Hatta. It was won last year by Light The Lights, one of 22 entered this year and part of a trio nominated by South African maestro Mike de Kock, the most successful international trainer, by some way, at the carnival. Inaugurated as recently as 2012, the race has been a happy hunting ground for the handler who is seeking to land the prize for a fourth time.

De Kock’s charge was second in the Group 2 Al Rashidiya, also over 1800m, after his victory in this last year before disappointing in the Zabeel Mile and ending the campaign with a close sixth on Super Saturday in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta returned to this longer trip. That was the beginning of March and he has not run since but he was off for almost a year when winning this 12 months ago so that is not a concern. Christophe Soumillon rides and De Kock has also declared carnival stalwart, Sanshaawes, with Cosgrave in the saddle. Predictably, Godolphin look to have a strong hand with Bin Suroor, who entered three, running both Benbatl and Carry On Deryck, while Charlie Appleby also saddles a pair for ‘the boys in blue’ in the shape of Emotionless and Bay Of Poets.

Roger Varian is always a trainer to keep a close eye on when campaigning horses internationally, especially at Meydan, and his Cape Byron, owned by Sheikh Mohd Obaid Al Maktoum looks an ideal carnival horse; a 4yo, he has had just four starts, winning two, his final one as a juvenile and first as a 3yo. He was then third, of six, in a Listed race at Chantilly but given the Meydan success of connections with Postponed in particular, the horse’s very presence looks significant. Opal Tiara is another in the race from the UK, representing Mick Channon who, over the carnival years, has more than held his own.

With his football team, Southampton, for whom he played with distinction, as well as representing England, not in the best of form he will be looking to this admirable 5yo mare for a boost. And that is certainly not out of the question considering she is a course and distance winner already, having won last year’s Group 2 Balanchine Stakes having finished second, over 1600m, in the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes on her local debut. Admittedly, both races are restricted to fillies and mares but she beat the boys, albeit in a small field, when landing the Group 3 Supreme Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in 2016.

Given the prize money on offer, it is not surprising to see the whole card littered with equine stars including, forgive the pun, Godolphin’s Prize Money. He won twice at the 2017 carnival, highlighted by beating the aforementioned Postponed, on Super Saturday, in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold. He takes his chance in a 2410m turf handicap, alongside stablemate, Best Solution, winner of the Group 3 St Simon Stakes on his last start, three months after finishing second in Group One company in Germany. Both are trained by Bin Suroor.

As always, the turf handicaps look particularly competitive with the weights in the 1400m one headed by Noah From Goa, a Group One winner in South Africa for De Kock. He ran twice at last year’s carnival, chasing home Championship in the 1600m Group 2 Zabeel Mile having finished third, behind the same rival, in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, over this 1400m, on his local debut. Not declared for the main event by Charlie Appleby, Godophin’s Fly At Dawn does take his chance and is among the ultra strong opposition to De Kock’s charge. Fifth behind Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby, he has won on the Meydan dirt surface, landing the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over 1400m having previously chased home stablemate, Van Der Decken over the same course and distance.

Sheikh Hamdan’s Ertijaal, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, has won the 1000m turf handicap in each of the last two years and looks sure to make a strong defence of his crown, seeking the hat-trick. He was third, on World Cup day, in the 1200m Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on his most recent start when, over the race’s former 1000m trip, he would likely have won. When Heavy Metal won a handicap over track and trip, late last January, he was chased home by stable companion Frankyfourfingers who was very impressive winning his first start since, the 1600m Jebel Ali Mile Prep, between Christmas and the New Year.

That was his first victory since landing the Group 2 1900m Al Maktoum Challenge R2 in February 2015 having previously finished second in this opening round. He was also entered in the feature but takes his chance in a handicap over the same 1900m dirt course and distance as his big race win. So the waiting is over: let carnival battle commence and good luck to all!

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Issue Number: Issue 647
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