International Stars Jet in for Opening $1m Dubai World Cup Carnival Night on 5th January 2017
Local Hero Le Bernadin Bids to Make History in Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge
The 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival gets underway at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday evening when the locally-trained Le Bernadin will bid to become the first horse to win the US$250,000 Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 race twice.
The Purebred Arabians get proceedings underway at 6.30pm with Group 1 action in Al Maktoum Challenge R1, while the Thoroughbreds will contest the featured Group 2 version of the race later on the card.
Some of the world’s top race horses are wintering in Dubai to contest for a share of the US$10,925,000 prize money offered across the ten Dubai World Cup Carnival meetings held prior to the Dubai World Cup on Saturday March 25.
Both the Thoroughbred and Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenges are over 1600m, on Meydan’s dirt surface, and the Thoroughbred race, Presented By Elegance In Equestrian, has attracted a quality field of ten.
Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, last year’s victor, Le Bernardin has the opportunity to become the first dual winner from his great draw in one.
He will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, the jockey who steered him to victory 12 months ago, although this year he arrives on the back of a defeat, having finished fourth, under a penalty, in the Listed Dubai Creek Mile – a race he won last season.
“He ran well enough on his reappearance and is delighting us at home,” said O’Shea. “We actually had a poor draw last year but this time we have a great one which is a real bonus.
“We are very pleased with his preparation and expect a big run in what looks a hot race.”
That Dubai Creek Mile was won this season by Fitzgerald, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, who is among the most improved horses in the UAE this season.
“He has won his last two starts well and again takes a step up in class,” said Bin Harmash. “He has continued to work well and deserves to take his chance. We will find out how much he has improved in the process.”
Antonio Fresu maintains the partnership after their emphatic Dubai Creek Mile success.
Third in that race was Cool Cowboy who filled the same berth in last season’s Group 2 Godolphin Mile for Doug Watson.
He will be ridden by Sam Hitchcott with stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, electing to partner stable companion, Polar River.
Winner of both the UAE 1000 Guineas and Oaks last season, Dobbs’ mount was then second in the UAE Derby but was well beaten in fourth on her course and distance return this season. However, Watson, whose string is in fine form, does not appear perturbed.
“She needed that first run when she was carrying a penalty and has been working very nicely since,” said the Watson who is UAE Champion Trainer.
“Obviously she is taking on older colts and geldings but she receives weight this time and should make a bold show.
“We have put a visor on Cool Cowboy who won the Burj Nahaar over course and distance last season on Super Saturday. It looks a strong renewal but our two are in great form.”
Charlie Appleby saddles Emotionless for Godolphin and, if the now four-year-old can bounce back to his juvenile form, he will be a serious threat under William Buick.
Winner of the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, having landed his maiden on debut, he was then injured in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
His 2016 campaign consisted of just two starts when well beaten, in good company, on each occasion but was sent to Dubai in good time to prepare for the Carnival.
“He has been here since November and has thrived,” said Appleby. “He has been working really well on our dirt surface at home and we could not be happier.
“His pedigree offers every hope dirt will suit him and he is a very happy horse at the moment. He had problems last year and can hopefully bounce back.”
South African Mike de Kock’s runners can never be ignored in these races so his Lindo Amor, on his first start for the yard, is another to consider.
The meeting opens with the Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenge R1 Presented By Longines Conquest Classic and 12 have been declared.
It looks an above average renewal with the last two winners of Dubai World Cup Day’s Kahayla Classic among the dozen.
Both are owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose new retained jockey, Jim Crowley, rides locally for his new employer for the first time on the Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained AF Mathmoon.
He won the Kahayla Classic last March, 12 months after the Sheikh Hamdan’s Manark landed the same prize for Erwan Charpy.
However Charpy’s charge has only run twice since and not for over a year so is entitled to need this return to action.
Sporting the colours of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Eric Lemartinel-trained RB Burn won the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian race, the €1.2million Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Crown, at Abu Dhabi in November.
That, his local debut, was on turf but he won his only previous dirt outing, at Houston in April 2015, and will again be ridden by Gerald Avranche.
General admission to Meydan Racecourse is free and there are hospitality packages to suit every budget.
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Le Bernadin seeks a record second victory in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge for Purebred Arabians at the opening Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday January 5, 2017.
Credit: Dubai Racing Club//Andrew Watkins