Judging by the early entries published for Saturday at Meydan, the card is living up to its moniker of “Super Saturday.” The seven prep races for Dubai World Cup night hold no shortage of interest.
Travers (G1) hero Keen Ice (pictured) is set to renew rivalry with another 2015 Triple Crown veteran, Mubtaahij, in the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1). But less expected is the presence of the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Watershed, who takes a dramatic step up in trip for the about 10-furlong dress rehearsal for the March 26 World Cup (G1). Hong Kong’s Gun Pit, the Saudi-based Teletext, and Carnival regulars Faulkner, Special Fighter, and Storm Belt (second to California Chrome last Thursday) are also on the preliminary list. Note that The National’s Geoffrey Riddle reports that Keen Ice will get a rider switch to the all-world Ryan Moore Saturday.
Godolphin’s Tryster is the one to beat in the Jebel Hatta (G1), a course-and-distance stepping stone to the about nine-furlong Dubai Turf (G1). The South African pair of Ertijaal and Harry’s Son seek to bounce back off subpar efforts, the former on dirt.
The about 12-furlong Dubai City of Gold (G2) shapes up as a strong renewal, with such leading lights as King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) hero Postponed, the Aga Khan’s Dariyan, and David Simcock’s well-regarded Balios all engaged. All rank as solid contenders for the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night.
The Meydan Sprint (G3) has likewise come up salty for a prep: defending Al Quoz Sprint (G1) champion Sole Power has flown in from Ireland for this tune-up, where he’ll square off against another high-class five-furlong specialist in Goldream, reigning Meydan Sprint winner Sir Maximilian, and Godolphin’s Jungle Cat and Toscanini. A conspicuous absentee is the Carnival’s dominant turf sprinter, the Irish-bred Ertijaal.
In contrast, Hong Kong’s Rich Tapestry is the best entrant in the about six-furlong Mahab al Shimaal (G3), the stepping stone to the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1). Muarrab, defending Mahab al Shimaal winner Shaishee, and United Color are among the locals. American fans will see a familiar name in Sweet Swap. A talented turf sprinter for John Sadler, he now resides in Saudi Arabia.
UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) romper Market Rally attempts the second leg of the UAE Triple Crown, the Al Bastakiya, held over the about 1 3/16-mile distance of the UAE Derby (G2). Godolphin could bring out both US Triple Crown nominee Blue Creek and Hawkbill.
The Godolphin Mile (G2) prep, the Burj Nahaar (G3), has a Carnival feel to it with Le Bernardin, Cool Cowboy, Prayer for Relief, Gold City and Layl all in the mix. Sefri, who has been racing at Jebel Ali, may make his first Meydan appearance in quite some time. Saudi shipper God’s Speed would make his Emirates bow.
At this early stage, cross-entries are common, not only involving the Super Saturday races, but also reaching to Thursday’s usual Carnival program at Meydan. A case in point is American expatriate Golden Soul, whose Thursday options include the marathon Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3) and a turf handicap, as well as Super Saturday’s Dubai City of Gold and Maktoum Challenge Round 3.
Euro Charline takes her Dubai Turf prep in Thursday’s Balanchine (G2). Her main opponents are exiting the Cape Verdi (G2), led by Godolphin’s Very Special, Excilly, More Aspen and Si Luna.
Also Thursday, Roger Varian’s up-and-coming stayer Battersea aims to burnish his Dubai Gold Cup (G2) credentials in the Nad al Sheba Trophy. Evergreen Star Empire, globetrotting Sheikhzayedroad, Godolphin’s Famous Kid, and German shipper Wasir also factor in the about 14-furlong turf test.
The all-conquering Polar River threatens to turn the UAE Oaks (G3) into a walkover Thursday, for all three (!) of her possible rivals are cross-entered. Godolphin’s Pure Diamond could opt for Thursday’s Meydan Classic or even Saturday’s Al Bastakiya against the boys. Sweden’s Dolly Swagger might also seek refuge in the Meydan Classic. Mike de Kock has entered Argentine Group 1 heroine Vale Dori for a Dubai debut, which could just as well come in the Al Bastakiya or the Balanchine. But racing officials will probably scrounge up a few more live bodies to prevent a Polar River walkover.
Godolphin’s Comicas looms large in the Meydan Classic after taking its trial. A smart new shooter to the scene is First Selection from the Simon Crisford yard.
Final declarations, including riding assignments and post positions, will be revealed Tuesday. And we’ll be back with more Super Saturday thoughts later in the week.
Keen Ice photo courtesy of Dubai Racing Club via Twitter.