Author: Duane Fonseca

NINE time Dubai World Cup winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor can’t wait for the Dubai World Cup Carnival to get going. And the Godolphin handler has his reasons. He acknowledges the importance of the international part of Dubai’s winter season in the grand scheme of things internationally and the chance it offers trainers, particularly those plying their trade in Europe, to fine tune their stars for the long European season. “The Dubai World Cup Carnival presents us with the opportunity to test our new horses and we hope to show our stars during the course of the weeks that it is run,” Bin Suroor told Al Adiyat.

“It’s also a great way to warm up for the season in Britain and elsewhere in the world because races in the Dubai World Cup Carnival programme are tough to win because of the quality of horses that are sent to Dubai to compete here.” Godolphin’s longest serving trainer, Bin Suroor knows what it is to shoulder the responsibility of saddling runners in the royal blue silks of owner HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He has a posse of names at his disposal, with a good mix of both experienced names like Benbatl and Dream Castle expected to contest events alongside newcomers to his yard like Final Song, Dubai Life, First View and Lost In Time.

Benbatl enjoyed a brilliant run in the 2018 DWC Carnival when opening with victory in the Group 3 Singspiel Stakes; then claiming the Group 2 Al Rashidiya before his close second in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday behind Blair House and his eventual romp in the Group 1 Dubai Turf. Dream Castle followed suit in 2019, winning the Singspiel, Al Rashidiya and the Jebel Hatta, before failing in the Dubai Turf won by the absolutely s u p e r b Almond Eye. Both Benbatl and Dream Castle are expected to make their carnival bows in the second week, with Suroor likely to take the same route as in previous years with the pair. “It’s still early to discuss the rosters and where each of the horses will be running, but we expect many of them to do well,” said Bin Suroor, who will miss the services of the now retired 2017 Group 2 UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow, who later became the only horse to win consecutive Dubai World Cup titles achieving the feat in 2018 and 2019.

While Bin Suroor is yet to decide on the future of his stalwarts, he appears to have a course charted for the young ones in his charge to follow. Final Song and Dubai Life, promising 3yo fillies from his yard, are expected to feature in the UAE 1000 Guineas and the UAE Oaks. Final Song should be a tough contender having tasted Group action when taking creditable placings in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket in July. In her last run at Newmarket in October, the 3yo Dark Angel filly placed sixth in the Group 3 Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes.

Pinatubo, who became the highest rated 2yo in Britain last year when he was handed a rating of 128, which was higher than the mighty unbeaten Frankel. “We have a good group of promising 3yos who are now qualified to run in Classics locally and internationally, some of which we will run during the course of the carnival as a test to see how they fare on dirt because most of our Classics are dirt races,” Bin Suroor added. The Emirati is the most successful handler in the history of the carnival, which was instituted in 2004, and has so far secured a massive 232 winners, with South Africa’s Mike de Kock next best with 150. Despite his lofty standing, Bin Suroor starts every term from scratch and said: “We don’t dwell on the past or stay stagnant in areas we have already reached and won regardless of the magnitude of the victories, because we are always looking forward.”

Speaking of the lofty status of the DWC Carnival in world racing, he added: “We are always prepared and are ready to participate whenever the DWC Carnival comes calling. “Carnival racing has evolved so much over the years and become one of the toughest events with the competition severe because trainers from around the world always send their best horses. “Even in terms of competition from local trainers, there are many that win races every year and it’s not just international trainers and horses that are competitive, some of the local horses graduate during the domestic season and become highly competitive in the carnival programme, so you cannot take things lightly. There is nothing that can be taken for granted.”