Meydan set for Super Saturday
Super Saturday has arrived at Meydan Racecourse, the second biggest meeting of the UAE season and the dress rehearsal for Dubai World Cup night in three weeks' time.
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All eight races that appear on the Emirates-sponsored card have a 'mirror image' race on Dubai World Cup, offering trainers a valuable opportunity to test their charges ahead of the world's richest raceday.
The official feature is the Group 1 third and final round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, over the same 2000m all-weather course and distance as the $10million Dubai World Cup.
Fourteen have been declared, including the Saeed bin Suroor-trained pair of Prince Bishop and African Story, first and second respectively in the Group 2 middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge just over four weeks ago.
Bin Suroor has won this race on three occasions with subsequent Dubai World Cup winners Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006).
Kieren Fallon again rides Prince Bishop with William Buick replacing suspended stable jockey, Silvestre De Sousa, on African Story.
"Both are in good form and have come out of that race well," Bin Suroor told www.emiratesracing.com. "Prince Bishop looked better than ever winning that and I was really pleased with him. He has been working well since and Kieren Fallon gets on really well with him.
"African Story needed that run a month ago and has improved a lot fitness-wise since. We think 2000m is his trip now and he loves the all-weather surface. Hopefully both will run well but it is a good race."
Fellow Godolphin handler, Charlie Appleby, is saddling his first Super Saturday runners and relies on Cat O'Mountain in the feature. Ultra impressive when winning a 2200m all-weather handicap on his local debut, he then disappointed in a handicap over Saturday's course and distance. Stable jockey, Mickael Barzalona rides.
"He was a disappointment last time but nothing really went right for him in the race so we will put a line through it and give him a chance to prove himself," said Appleby. "Obviously it is a big step up in class but hopefully he merits it."
Mike De Kock, seeking a third victory in the race, saddles Alexandra Palace and Sanshaawes with stable jockey, Christophe Soumillon, on the latter, seeking a third consecutive Meydan Racecourse victory.
De Kock said: "They are both in good form but taking a big step up in grade. Hopefully they can at least be competitive in what is obviously a good race."
Elleval, runner-up in last year's UAE Derby, also won his most recent Meydan Racecourse outing and is another who seems to save his best for the all-weather. Trainer David Marnane said: "It is very exciting to have runners at this meeting, especially Elleval in the big race of the night. He loves this all-weather surface and we were delighted with his win last time.
"To have a runner in the Dubai World Cup would be amazing and this is his chance to prove he merits a place in three weeks. We are really looking forward to it.
A total of 14 have also been declared for the second Thoroughbred Group 1 on the card, the Jebel Hatta, which is the final race of the meeting and is over the same 1800m turf course and distance as the Dubai Duty Free.
De Kock, who has also won this race three times, saddles four runner with Soumillon aboard Vercingetorix, winner of all five career starts to date.
Stable companion Anaerobio, the mount of Pat Cosgrave, is seeking a third 2014 Meydan Racecourse victory, while Mushreq, is another looking for a second Dubai World Cup Carnival win this year. He will be ridden by Paul Hanagan with Richard Hughes aboard the trainer's fourth runner, Mars.
"It is great to have four horses good enough to contest this calibre of race," said De Kock. "We think all four are capable of running well with Mushreq and Vercingetorix already course and distance winners. We were particularly pleased with Vercingetorix's win as he did not travel well from South Africa through quarantine.
"The trip may stretch Anaerobio but he has been in good form and Mars has been improving in his work. We tried him on the all-weather but he should appreciate this return to turf.
"It is a good race, as you would expect, but hopefully all four can be competitive."
Appleby introduces a fascinating new runner to the UAE in the shape of Vancouverite, previously with Andre Fabre in France and last seen when ninth in the Group 2 Prix Niel having previously won at Group 2 level.
Appleby said: "We hope he is a genuine Dubai Duty Free contender so this is the obvious spot for him. He is in good form at home, though not a flashy worker but has done everything we have asked of him.
"I am looking forward to getting him on the track."
Bin Suroor who has won the race four times, including last year with subsequent Dubai Duty Free winner Sajjhaa, relies on Quick Wit.
The trainer said: "He was a little disappointing last time but has been working very well and we are keen to give him a crack at a good race like this. Hopefully he will run well."
Before winning this last year, Sajjhaa had won the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes over Saturday's course and distance and this year's impressive winner of that race, L'Amour De Ma Vie trained by French-based Swede, Pia Brandt, will try and emulate her.
Trade Storm, winner of last year's Group 2 Zabeel Mile for David Simcock, was second in that same race this year and has to be feared, along with Australian Group 1 winner, Linton.