Race 2 at Meydan on Thursday morning is the $100,000 Dubai Trophy Stakes for three-year-olds going seven furlongs on the turf. It will be run around one wide, sweeping, left-handed turn and a field of 16 is entered.
The bulky field will make trips difficult and the race may turn into chaos since the highest rated horse – SPORTING CHANCE (#4) – drew post 1. New rider Pat Cosgrave will have to either gun him to the front and use early energy or run the risk of finding clear running room after being shuffled back into traffic. Sporting Chance did show high speed in his last start in France when beaten four lengths and won the Eclipse Stakes (G3) two starts back going six furlongs on soft turf. Ironically, Simon Crisford, who ran the Godolphin operation for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktroum, is back as a trainer.
ESTIHDAAF (#7) showed some ability in his career debut at York in September when he got away slowly but finished full of run. He came back at Newmarket for a straight seven-furlong maiden and new rider Oisin Murphy broke him cleanly, allowing the son of Arch to press the pace. Estihdaaf surged to a short lead with a furlong to go, then was run down by a longshot on the rail. At the wire, he lost third to a favored stablemate.
Last out at Leicester on a very soft turf course going another straight seven furlongs, Murphy broke Estihdaaf well and the dark bay settled into stride, took the lead and responded when challenged late to win easily at odds on. Godolphin has the luxury of taking their time with him and now he shows up here with high expectations. He should stay out of trouble from post 6 and Chrisophe Soumillon should be able to place him prominently without lighting him up.
Estihdaaf is by good turf sire Arch and out of the Ghostzapper mare Enrichment, who is a full sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Better Lucky, a lover of the turf. There is plenty of room for development for Estihdaaf when the distances stretch out this year.
On the rest of the Thursday card from Meydan, I like:
RACE 3: WALKING THUNDER (#15) is undefeated in two starts already on the dirt here and now moves up to the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial going one mile on the dirt. He will have to beat heavily-favored ROYAL MARINE (#2), who won his last two starts including a Group 1 on the turf in France going this distance, but doesn’t have much pedigree for the dirt.
RACE 5: GOLD TOWN (#8) was developing into a good one here last year after winning the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) going this distance by 10 lengths in fast time. He ran into Mendelssohn next out in the UAE Derby (G2) and was soundly beaten, as was everybody else. Off since then, the gelded son of Street Cry gets his 2019 season underway with James Doyle.
RACE 6: GOOD EFFORT (#8) ran on the same Leicester soft turf course on the same day that Estihdaaf did last October. He was a close third in fast time and should appreciate the firmer turf here. He won’t get a lot of betting action due to his connections but on the handicap conditions, merits a chance at 12-1 odds.