Only Le Bernardin has won the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, the 1600m dirt feature on tonight’s second meeting of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival, a feat he achieved consecutively in 2016 and 2017. Heavy Metal will bid to emulate him by defending his crown, one he earned 12 months ago by beating subsequent Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow, who chased him home, and in third, North America who went on to land the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 over the same 2000m dirt course and distance as the Dubai World Cup in which he lost all chance when missing the break.
A 9yo gelded son of Exceed And Excel and whose dam was a Grade One winner in her native South Africa, Heavy Metal will seek to emulate Barbecue Eddie, victorious in the 2013 renewal on the old Tapeta surface, and the oldest winner of the race first contested in 1994. He too was nine. The last one was a prolific campaign for Heavy Metal, during which he registered half of his eight local victories, beginning, in December 2017, with a win in the Listed Dubai Creek Mile whereas this season he makes his seasonal return in this race. Saddled by Sandeep Jadhav for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, he is seeking an eighth course and distance victory and obviously has to be feared under his optimum conditions, but will need to be at least somewhere near his best in what looks a quality renewal.
Third last year, on his seasonal debut as it is again this year, North America is trained by Satish Seemar, originally for Imhamed Nagem but now, since just before the 2017 Group 2 Godolphin Mile, Ramzan Kadyrov. A disappointing tenth, beating three home, in that World Cup night assignment, he filled the same berth, when actually last, in the big race itself in March when blowing the start. Those two ‘last Saturday in March’ aberrations apart, his career with Seemar has been a stellar rise to the big time. A maiden, after six outings for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby, his first start for Seemar was a winning one, in a 1600m maiden, as were his next three outings all over the same course and distance.
The second one was a verdict over Heavy Metal, the third, the Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday the fixture at which, 12 months later, he landed his Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3. Appleby saddles Gold Town, a 4yo homebred gelded son of Street Cry who landed his local and dirt debut, over 1400m, in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial before winning the 1600m Group Three itself three weeks later by more than ten lengths. On the back of those efforts, he actually started favourite for the 1900m Group 2 UAE Derby on the World Cup card but, along with seven others, was never able to land the equine equivalent of a glove on the imperious Mendelssohn, finishing fourth.
He has not been seen in public since and this race has been nominated as his first target. Chasing home Heavy Metal, who had enjoyed an uncontested lead under a canny Ryan Moore ride, in the 2018 Godolphin Mile was Muntazah, trained by Doug Watson for Sheikh Hamdan and considered unfortunate by many. Homebred, the 6yo Dubawi gelding was closing in the final 200m but the winner had flown. That was just his third UAE outing and, perhaps significantly, his only one on dirt having won the Listed HH The President Cup, on the Abu Dhabi turf, on his previous start. He does have the benefit of an outing this season, showing up for a long way, back in the capital, before fading in the straight when contesting the 1600m Listed National Day Cup.
‘A big unit’, that run, 32 days ago, should have put him spot on for this and he is half of a powerful Watson trio with Kimbear a very interesting second string to his bow. Owned by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Muaimi, for whom he won the 2017 Godolphin Mile with Second Summer, Kimbear has always been held in the highest regard by his trainer. A 5yo entire son of Temple City, he made a winning local debut, on this card 12 months ago, in a 1600m dirt handicap before finishing runner-up twice. His big moment, thus far at least, came on Super Saturday when victorious in the 1600m Group 2 Burj Nahaar when his victims included Heavy Metal who was only fourth.
Drawn one on that occasion, Kimbear was given a great ride by Pat Dobbs, again in the saddle, leading until the straight when passed by Heavy Metal but able to regain the initiative in the final 100m. He made his seasonal return, over an inadequate 1200m, when third to stable companion, Drafted, in the Listed Garhoud Sprint five weeks ago. With Heavy Metal in the field, a strong gallop is guaranteed and Watson’s third contender, Etijaah, also owned by Sheikh Hamdan, will be hoping they go too fast with his best form over 2000m.
A horse who seems to relish the Meydan kickback, certainly more than his jockeys do anyway, he should be staying on late, hoping to ‘pick up the pieces’. The Group One Purebred Arabian equivalent has attracted the maximum field allowed, 16, and looks wide open. For Sheikh Khalifa and Eric Lemartinel, Mawahib and Pat Cosgrave could be the one to beat from stall one.Two of the seven races are restricted to the Classic 3yo generation with, on turf, the inaugural running of the 1400m Dubai Trophy. All eyes would have been on Godolphin’s Royal Meeting, winner of both his juvenile starts, culminating in the 1400m Group 1 Criterium International at Chantilly at the end of October, but he was not declared by Satish Seemar who instead relies on Magic Image and Estihdaaf.
Again Cosgrave could be on a winner, this time Sporting Chance for Simon Crisford and Abdulla Al Mansoori. A colt by Kodiac, he won three of his seven starts last year, including the Group 3 Prix Eclipse at Maisons-Laffitte in September. On the dirt, over the same 1600m course and distance as the first colts’ Classic itself, the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial revolves around a Godolphin runner to be saddled by Bin Suroor. Royal Marine, well beaten when sixth on his 1200m Newmarket debut, then won a 1400m Doncaster maiden before adding the 1600m Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on his third and final 2018 outing.
A homebred 3yo Raven’s Pass colt, he is basically testing the water surface wise but, if taking to dirt, is going to be hard to beat.Walking Thunder, on the other hand, is something of a dirt veteran; well, he has won both career starts, most recently over this course and distance, for Ahmad bin Harmash, Connor Beasley and the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate.
Race 1: Mawahib
Race 2: Sporting Chance (NB)
Race 3: Walking Thunder
Race 4: Major Partnership
Race 5: Kimbear
Race 6: New Trails (Nap)
Race 7: Mailshot