It’s the second-biggest day of the year at Meydan Racecourse and ‘Super Saturday’ has certainly lived up to billing, with bumper field sizes across the nine races and runners from 13 different countries.
The official highlight of what is a well-established Dubai World Cup trials day is G1 Maktoum Challenge R3, sponsored by Emirates Airline, a prep race for the $12million Dubai World Cup itself.
The field of 14 includes four Group 1 winners, one of which is the Fawzi Nass-trained Salute The Soldier, successful in this race in 2021. If he wins again, he will be the first dual winner of the contest, which dates back to 1994.
“He’s in good form,” said jockey Adrie de Vries. “Last time he stumbled coming out of the gate, overreached and pulled a shoe. That cost him his position early on and he was at the back of the field and got a lot of dirt, which he doesn’t really like. You can forget about that run.
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“He doesn’t have the best of draws  on Saturday, but if we can overcome that and get a good position out of the kickback then I’m hopeful he’s going to run another big race.”
Taking him on is four trained by Bhupat Seemar. Bendoog will be ridden by James Doyle, Kafoo by Dane O’Neill, Law Of Peace by Tadhg O’Shea and Sanad Libya by Richie Mullen.
“Bendoog is drawn in four and he’s done really well this year,” said Seemar. “He’s kept on improving with every run and he was quite impressive when he was behind a very talented horse in Algiers last time. He’s a forward-going horse with a good draw, so hopefully he’ll get a good break.”
Kafoo was fourth in this race 12 months ago and arrives here after finishing fourth in the G3 Jebel Ali Mile last time out.
“Kafoo has also done well and this is his true distance,” said Seemar. “He’s drawn well in eight as he doesn’t want to be too far in or too far out.
“The other two horses come from the back, so if the pace is fast it will suit Law Of Peace and Sanad Libya.”
There is strong South American representation with Brazilian born, Uruguay-based Antonio Cintra sending out Atletico El Culano and course and distance winner Ajuste Fiscal.
“Both of the horses are in good condition and have had strong seasons here, against practically the same horses they face here,” said the multiple Uruguay Champion Trainer. “We are confident both will run good races and give themselves a chance of qualifying for World Cup night.
“The final workouts for both left us very happy and they look fantastic.”
Jebel Hatta Draws a Field of 15
The Group 1 Jebel Hatta, prep for the G1 Dubai Turf, is the third top level race on the card. Run over 1800metres on turf, it has attracted a field of 15, including defending champion Alfareeq who will make history if able to win this for a second time.
There is an exciting challenger from overseas in Russian Emperor, who will be the first runner in Dubai for 13-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey Douglas Whyte, who has been riding the Group 1 winner in trackwork during the week.
The son of Galileo arrived in Dubai fresh from Amir’s Trophy success in Doha and Whyte is viewing this race as a prep for the G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic.
“Saturday is going to be a stepping stone for my horse and myself,” said the South African, who rode as a jockey several times in Dubai. “He’s got barrier three so I can see him settling, probably, worse than midfield. Hopefully, he can work home and run a creditable race for Hong Kong, and then its on to the Sheema Classic.”
Four go for Godolphin; two trained by Charlie Appleby and two by Saeed bin Suroor, who has won this six times.
Bin Suroor fields Land Of Legends and Real World (pictured), who returns to action for the first time since being gelded and since chasing home the great Baaeed in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
“This will be Real World’s first start since June and I expect him to be 80 to 85 per cent ready for the race,” said the trainer of the 2022 Zabeel Mile winner. “He has had issues in the past but has been working nicely recently. We are treating this very much as a prep-race for the Dubai Turf and he will certainly come on for the run.”
William Buick, stable jockey to Appleby, has elected to ride Master Of The Seas, who made a smooth return to action when winning the G2 Zabeel Mile last time out.
“It was always the plan to head here with Master Of The Seas following the Zabeel Mile and he has a decent draw in stall two,” commented Appleby, who has won this race three times, latterly with Barney Roy in 2020. “While Real World is the class act, we are confident that our horse can be a big player with that run under his belt.”
James Doyle, who won this race in 2015 with Hunter’s Light and again in 2018 with Blair House, partners track record holder Valiant Prince, who is four from four at Meydan.
“Valiant Prince is drawn wide in 14, which will make it quite a challenge for him,” added Appleby. “He has done nothing wrong in his two starts this year and can prove a big player if he can get a clear run round.”
Appleby Has Major Players in Dubai City of Gold
With Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Rebel’s Romance sadly missing the race due to a leg inflammation, Appleby relies on Global Storm and Kemari in the G2 Dubai City Of Gold [sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo], which is the prep for the G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic. He comes up against two trained by Bin Suroor in Global Heat and the well-regarded White Wolf.
“Global Heat will be suited by the return to a mile and a half. He came out of the Nad Al Sheba Trophy in good order and I am hoping for a good performance,” said the trainer. “White Wolf ran well on his first start of year but didn’t handle dirt in the Curlin Handicap. I am looking forward to seeing how he gets on, as he is a horse I like.”
Wide Open Mile and Sprint Contests
There are two Group 3s on the card, the first of which is the Burj Nahaar [sponsored by Emirates Skywards]. 2022 winner Desert Wisdom, trained by Ahmad Al Shemaili, defends his title against a capacity field of 15 rivals.
He will be ridden by Adrie De Vries, who believes that the five-year-old has a tough task. “Desert Wisdom hasn’t been the same horse as last year,” he said. “Last time he was ridden quite positively after a bad start and when I rode him first time out he didn’t get a good run as well.
“Back at a mile, I wouldn’t count him out. I haven’t galloped him but I see him in the mornings and he looks really good in his coat. I was very lucky with him last year, with draws, and a nice run along the inside, so that is what I’m going to look for again.”
Desert Wisdom’s rivals include 2021 G2 Godolphin Mile winner Secret Ambition, the mount of Tadhg O’Shea, while Doug Watson sends out three; Everfast, Canvassed and Fanaar, who beat Secret Ambition in the G3 Jebel Ali Mile last time out.
Race three, the G3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint [sponsored by Emirates Holidays], will give some pointers towards the G1 Al Quoz Sprint. City Walk, Miqyaas and Coachello were all winners last time out, as was George Boughey’s Al Dasim who is two from two over course and distance in three-year-old contests.
Another UK raider is the Ian Williams-trained Spirit Of Light, who drops to this trip for the first time, having run over 1400metres last week.
“I’ve always wanted to see him over six furlongs,” said owner Sayed Hashish. “He prefers to have a breather and finish strong, so we will learn if the straight course will suit his style.”
The card’s other sprint is the concluding G3 Mahab Al Shimaal [sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo], prep for the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen. 10 run, including two trained by Bhupat Seemar. Tuz beat the reopposing Isolate in the G3 Al Shindagha Sprint last time out, but this time must break from stall 10.
“Tuz was very impressive in his last run, but he was drawn very favourably, in one. He’s drawn 10 this time, but he has plenty of early speed, which is his asset. He might have to go fast and furious from ten but this would be the plan.”
Seemar also runs new recruit Sound Money, who has moved from the barn of Chad Brown in the States.
“Sound Money is a lovely horse,” said the trainer of the five-year-old. “He stays a bit further but he has plenty of class and speed so he should not be far off in a six furlong (1200metre) race. It is his first run for us, but he’s training really well so he should give a good show.”
Hashish sees his silks carried by the progressive Colour Up, a winner over course and distance just last week. “It took a lot of thought between me and Doug [Watson, trainer, to decide whether to back up so quickly],” he said. “It was dependent on his first work to assess how is he and the gate draw. Both went well, so I hope I’m making the right decision.”
The Listed Al Bastakiya [sponsored by Arabian Adventures] sees 12 three-year-olds compete for a spot in the G2 UAE Derby. California-based trainer Doug O’Neill sits this out with his UAE 2000 Guineas winner Tall Boy but fields Ami Please, second in the G3 UAE Oaks last time out.
“Ami Please ran a nice race last time,” said Leandro Mora, in charge of the O’Neill team in Dubai. “We’re very happy with how she’s come on from that.”
The field includes two last time out winners, Lahresh and Go Soldier Go, the latter having been successful over this course and distance for trainer Fawzi Nass.
A capacity field lines up in the opening G1 Maktoum Challenge Round 3 [sponsored by Arabian Adventures) for Purebred Arabians, in which Kahayla Classic runner-up Kerless Del Roc looks the one to beat. His rivals include G2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah winner AF Almomayaz, ridden by Adrie de Vries for trainer Qaiss Aboud.
“It was a weak Group 2 which he won last time, over a mile, and I think the 2000metres will stretch him,” said de Vries. “He has an impossible draw as well  but I think connections are keen to try and see if they can go for the big one.”
Racing gets underway at 3:30pm and tickets have held their Carnival prices, starting at just AED2 for General Admission. To book, visit dubairacingclub.com