WEEK FOUR of the Dubai World Cup Carnival and another fascinating card of six races undoubtedly highlighted by the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, a 1400m turf feature that had been, until 2014, contested over 1600m. Since the 200m reduction in trip, Charlie Appleby has dominated the race and, seeking a fifth winner in six years, is well represented with three of the seven entries announced on Monday after which, given the paltry number of nominations, the race was reopened. Glorious Journey is set to become a first ever UAE runner to sport the famous maroon and white silks once sported by Sheikh Mohammed’s own horses but now the registered colours of his daughter’s HH Sheikha Al Jalila Racing.
A 5yo gelded son of Darley’s superstar sire Dubawi, he finds himself carrying a penalty incurred for his victory in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury, over this specialist trip of 1400m, before far from disgraced when ninth in the Group 1 Prix Foret on ParisLongchamp’s Arc card. Half of his four victories have been registered at 1400m with one apiece at 1200m and 1600m, twice scoring on good going with definite cut in the ground for the other pair. He has also been placed in good company on fast ground so is clearly versatile and must have every chance to carry what were once arguably the most famous silks in world racing into the Meydan winner’s enclosure for the very first time. For the record, the last time they were seen in the UAE was in February 2006 when carried to victory in a 1600m turf handicap at the carnival, worn by Ted Durcan aboard Cashier for John Gosden.
Appleby also saddles one of the main dangers in the shape of Mythical Magic, a 5yo gelded son of Iffraaj and second, behind stable companion D’Bai in this last year before going on to win the Group 2 Zabeel Mile, obviously over 1600m. He has won over this shorter trip, a Listed race at Deauville, on soft ground, in August 2017. Completing the Appleby trio is Mubtasim, acquired from the William Haggas yard in October 2018 at Tattersalls for 140,000gns. A 6yo Arcano gelding, he won on his carnival debut last February before chasing home stablemate On The Warpath three weeks later, in 1400m turf handicaps on both occasions.
He only had one subsequent outing back in Britain, exacting revenge over On The Warpath in a 1400m handicap at Newmarket’s Craven meeting in the middle of April. It would appear he has been aimed at the 2020 carnival for some time and Appleby has proved a past master at such long term planning. Jockey bookings are always fascinating in these instances with William Buick opting to partner Mythical Magic, James Doyle aboard Glorious Journey leaving the ‘spare ride’ aboard Mubtasim for Brett Doyle. For Saeed bin Suroor, who has, quite remarkably, saddled the winner of this just once, the inaugural running in 2000 with Grazalema, a very first UAE winner for apprentice Richie Mullen in 2000 on just his second ride locally, Royal Meeting has to enter calculations.
A 4yo Invincible Spirit colt, he has only appeared in public on four occasions, winning both starts as a juvenile, the second in the 1400m Group 1 Criterium International at Deauville in October 2018. It was then almost a year, 356 days to be precise, before he was seen again, at Caulfield in Australia, finishing a close third in the 1400m Moonga Stakes before his one attempt at a different trip, when failing to beat any of his 15 rivals in the Group 1 Kennedy Cantala Handicap over 1600m on soft ground at Felmington. That was at the beginning of November after which he reportedly flew straight to Dubai so has had plenty of time to acclimatise. Further intrigue, or perhaps spice, is added by the presence of Blitzkrieg, recently landed on these shores from the US and one of three runners on the card for trainer Doug O’Neill.
A 5yo gelded son of War Front, he won the 1600m Grade 3 San Francisco Mile Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in April 2019 and has had a run already this year, on New Year’s Day, finishing a close third, over 1100m at Santa Anita, in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes. As mentioned above, the race was reopened but nobody accepted the opportunity to join the fold with the seven original entries all holding their ground. The main support race is the Listed UAE 1000 Guineas, a 1600m dirt highlight for the 3yo fillies and pretty much a repeat of the 1400m trial of three weeks ago, won by Final Song for Bin Suroor and Godolphin. Inaugurated in 2001, the Godolphin handler has saddled the winner on no less than ten occasions and must have every chance of improving that tally with this homebred daughter of Dark Angel.
She clearly handled the surface well in that trial, her dirt debut to double her career tally. The extra 200m might be a small query; she showed blistering pace to win over 1000m at Ascot on her 2yo debut in May but she was seemingly not stopping at the end of the 1400m in the trial, chased home by Down On Da Bayou, Rio Angie, her own stable companion Dubai Love and Silent Night, all seeking revenge here. For Appleby, Godolphin’s Chasing Dreams may as well have been chasing shadows on her UAE bow when very disappointing in the Dubai Trophy, a 1200m turf race for 3yos. A daughter of Starspangledbanner, that was a first career defeat having won both her juvenile starts, a 1000m Newmarket maiden in April at the Craven meeting and over 1200m on the Wolverhampton all-weather in October. She is surely better than able to show, just a fortnight ago when, possibly, she resented the atrocious weather conditions. Who could blame her?