THOUGHTS automatically spring this weekend to the 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival with Meydan staging a quality card, headlined by a pair of Listed races this evening before the first Thoroughbred turf feature, the Listed National Day Cup, at Abu Dhabi on Sunday. With lofty aspirations on his agenda such as the Saudi Cup, Pegasus World Cup and an attempt to go one better than in this year’s Dubai World Cup, Gronkowski, so cruelly denied by history maker Thunder Snow in the last named race back in March, was the standout name among the entries on Monday. A 4yo Lonhro colt, that Meydan effort was arguably a career best, though some may point back to his runner-up finish in the 2400m Group 1 Belmont Stakes behind US Triple Crown winner Justify as of equal merit.
Either way, he is a formidable opponent in The Entisar, a Listed contest over the same 2000m on dirt as the Dubai World Cup but, as alluded to, this is his first step towards bigger targets. Tenth in that World Cup but previously highly progressive for Ahmad bin Harmash, New Trails was second in this last year after winning a course and distance handicap off a mark of 90. Victorious in a carnival handicap over 1800m off 99, he then chased home North America, over the same track and trip, in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 before, back over 2000m, fourth in Super Saturday’s Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3. A strapping 5yo Medaglia D’Oro gelding, he always gave the impression he was going to be a better horse this season; before winning his seasonal and local debut he had been off the track for 549 days. He is one to keep a close eye on this season.
One with the benefit of a run already this campaign, a winning one at that, is Mystique Moon, to be saddled by Doug Watson for Mohd Khalifa Al Basti. A 5yo gelded son of Shamardal, he has a similarly progressive profile albeit starting his UAE winning at the ‘backwater’ of Sharjah (time and time again we mention the success Sharjah winners have subsequently enjoyed at Meydan in much bigger races). That Sharjah victory was over 1800m and his other two local wins, including his seasonal debut, have been in conditions races at Jebel Ali but, over this 2000m, he looked unlucky in a carnival handicap in January and this is an opportunity to show his true mettle. That 2000m handicap was won by Saltarin Dubai for Satish Seemar, a second course and distance win for the horse who also landed the 2018 Listed Curlin Handicap.
The 1200m Listed Garhoud Sprint looks a fascinating renewal with Watson giving a dirt debut to Sheikh Hamdan’s exciting Ekhtiyaar, a 5yo gelded son of Bated Breath who found only Blue Point too good in the 1200m Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint on Super Saturday. He reportedly works well on dirt so, if able to produce something like the level of his turf form on the switch of surfaces, he should be thereabouts. The dirt is not a concern for Fawzi Nass’ Nine Below Zero, a course and distance winner on his first dirt outing and subsequently beaten just a neck, again over this 1200m, in Super Saturday’s Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal. Walking Thunder won his first three starts for Ahmad bin Harmash before finishing second in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas. That was over 1600m and this will be the shortest trip the 3yo Violence colt has faced. He had previously won the trial for that colts’ Classic, beating The Entisar hopeful Manguzi, subsequently winner of the 1800m Al Bastakiya Trial before finishing third in the big race itself, and producing a career best when filling the same berth in the UAE Derby when Walking Thunder was well beaten.