BENBATL, subsequently a triple Group One winner for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor was the star turn on the opening night of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival so this year’s cast have a hard act to follow. His smooth success in the Group 3 Singspiel Stakes, over 2000m on turf, was a third in the race for both owner and trainer, all partnered by different jockeys and they combine with three of the maximum allowed field of 16 set to face the starter. Of the trio, the fact Christophe Soumillon is sporting the blue cap aboard Dream Castle suggests he is the main hope although his sole victory to date remains on debut as a 3yo in April 2017 at Doncaster.
A 5yo gelded son of Frankel, he was then second in the Group 4 Greenham Stakes at Newbury before finishing a staying on, over 1600m, in the 2000 Guineas. He finished that initial campaign with a close second in the Group 2 International Topkapi Trophy at Veliefendi in Turkey before embarking on a 2018 Meydan carnival campaign. A third in the 1400m Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort was the best of four efforts, the final of which was when beaten a long way on a sole dirt foray in the 1600m Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday. He has not been seen, at least in public, since and would not be the first horse to improve markedly when campaigned by his trainer with the carnival in mind.
On his local debut, Bin Suroor’s charge was only seventh in a 1600m turf handicap by Salsabeel, one of the six darts Godolphin are throwing at this carnival prize board and trained by Charlie Appleby. That was his only Meydan outing and he ran just twice in Europe, most recently when caught on the line in the Group 3 Prix Quincey Barriere. However, he is to be ridden by Brett Doyle so, with William Buick suspended, it appears James Doyle has elected to ride stablemate Key Victory. Victorious on his sole juvenile start, in a 1400m juvenile novice stakes at Newmarket in October 2017, he made a winning seasonal debut in the 2000m Listed Newmarket Stakes on the same Rowley Mile course.
Beaten less than four lengths when eighth in the French Derby, he was a disappointing favourite in the 2000m Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot. The fact that he has not been seen since suggests he has been targeted at the carnival for some time. No horse has won the Singspiel Stakes, inaugurated in 2011, twice but Light The Lights will try and remedy that for Mike de Kock, like Bin Suroor seeking a fourth win in the race, under Olivier Doleuze. Having landed the spoils in 2017, under Soumillon, he was only seventh in this behind Benbatl 12 months ago before he and the Belgian jockey landed a 2000m handicap from subsequent Group 1 Jebel Hatta winner Blair House. He finished his 2018 UAE campaign by winning the 2200m Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship in March and is having his first start since.
On official ratings, Deauville is the one to beat on his first start for Fawzi Nass and now in the ownership of Victorious for whom Luke Morris takes the mount. Victorious, if you will excuse the pun, in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes of July 2016 for Aidan O’Brien, he was a well beaten seventh in the 2017 Dubai Turf on his one previous Meydan foray. For Germany, Degas has the second highest rating and is a dual Group Three winner in his homeland where he is trained by Markus Klug who is having his very first UAE runner. Over 1200m on the dirt, the main support race, the Group 3 Dubawi Stakes is a new addition to the opening night of the carnival having been scheduled earlier this season.
Only seven have been declared but it looks a very tricky race for the Pick Six players to fathom with some kind of case to be made for each of the septet with, perhaps, Scandinavian raider Trickbag, drawn widest, the weakest link (editor note: we know he will win now!) It is great to see legendary UK trainer David Barron back in the UAE for the first time since 2014 and he saddles Above The Rest, a dirt debutant but seemingly improving. His most recent of four victories was in the 1200m Group 3 Chipchase Stakes on the all-weather at Newcastle and supplementing six turf victories on ground varying from soft to the fast side of good, so he certainly versatile.
Also inaugurated in 2011, the Dubawi Stakes was won four times for Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen by the now retired Reynaldothewizard but, sadly, the much lamented Ertijaal is not able to seek a fourth consecutive victory in the 1000m turf handicap having succumbed to colic in November. But I digress with Seemar and Mullen combining with Raven’s Corner, an exciting sprinter owned by Touch Gold Racing but who is not always straightforward in the stalls, as when blowing the start in the Listed Garhoud Sprint four weeks ago. That said, it was an improvement of 12 months earlier when he was withdrawn after playing up badly in the stalls.
This season’s Garhoud Sprint was won by Drafted, ridden by Sam Hitchcott who is again in the saddle with stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, aboard My Catch. Both are trained by Doug Watson with Dobbs’ mount seeking a fourth course and distance victory having landed the 2016 Garhoud Sprint and last season’s Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint among those quartet of victories. From Korea, Ace Korea is a fascinating contender and drawn one, just inside High On Life who is well berthed for a horse who likes to race on the pace. The UAE 1000 Guineas Trial, a conditions race for 3yo fillies over 1400m on the dirt appears to revolve around Godolphin’s Dubai Beauty; if she merits her official rating of 104 she will be very hard to beat under Soumillon for Bin Suroor.
The best of the handicaps appears to be the concluding one, over 1400m on turf, with the weights headed by Janoobi, to be ridden by Jim Crowley for his main employer, Sheikh Hamdan and De Kock. Bin Suroor and Soumillon again combine, this time with Top Score, thrice a course and distance winner and probably the one to beat.