Richard Mann previews the latest installment from the Dubai Carnival at Meydan with round two of the Al Maktoum Challenge the feature race on another cracking card.
Group Two honours are up for grabs in round two of the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan on Thursday and there is every chance of a frenetic gallop, leaving no hiding place for the seven runners.
Despite the small field, two of the big players - North America and Cosmo Charlie - are confirmed front-runners while impressive recent course victor New Trails likes to be ridden handily and won't be far off the early pace.
The fact North America, runner-up to Thunder Snow in this race last year, and Cosmo Charlie sport the same colours does raise the question as to whether that pair will adopt their usual tactics and risk taking each other on, but both need to be ridden prominently and it is hard to imagine either not going forward again.
In the case of North America, a taking winner of round one of the Al Maktoum Challenge, he is particularly dependant on getting on the front end and his performances when adopting hold-up tactics – most notably when a leading fancy for last year’s Dubai World Cup – have seen him run way below his peak.
Similarly, Cosmo Charlie has looked at home in making every yard of the running in each of his last two starts, most recently when beating the reopposing New Trails comfortably.
Cosmo Charlie was allowed to get loose on the lead on that occasion, though, and were that not to be the case when the pair meet this time around, there a grounds to argue that New Trails could be worth chancing to extract his revenge.
To begin with, his relative inexperience of this surface and Dubai in general lends itself to the argument he will continue to progress and his subsequent wide-margin victory in handicap company certainly suggested that to be the case.
It is worth remembering that he has only raced on this surface three times in all and was plying his trade in France as recently as last summer.
With his new trainer, Ahmad bin Harmash, enjoying another fruitful carnival and having nurtured late-developer Championship to big-race success at this meeting in recent years, it would be folly to be think we have already seen the best of New Trails.
Make no mistake, he will need a personal best to win a contest of this quality but he looks capable of bridging the gap needed and should North America and Cosmo Charlie take each other on up front, the race could be set up perfectly for him to sit just off the pace and make his move as they turn for home.
Tactically, there is the potential for this race to work out beautifully for New Trails and even if the early pace isn’t as strong as expected, he shouldn't be too far away that he is unable to land a telling blow.
The UAE 2000 Guineas is headed by Godolphin runner Estihdaaf who might well have won a trial here last month but for a slugging start.
That was his first start on the dirt, or any artificial surface for that matter, and expect him to lay down another bold challenge from stall number one with Christophe Soumillon sure to be positive from the outset.
He'll need to be smart, though, if he's to topple the unbeaten Walking Thunder who won his trial at the beginning of January in facile fashion, tracking the early pace before kicking nine lengths clear in the closing stages.
A son of Voilence, a sire who is doing particularly well with his crop in the US at the moment, he looks tailor-made for this test and stall number five should allow Connor Beasley to sit handily before making his move.
With impressive debut scorer Moshaher handed a marked step up in class by trainer Doug Watson on only his second career start, he must be accorded plenty of respect and is another to throw into the mix in what looks a fascinating renewal.
Dubhe is an interesting runner stepped up to 2m for the first time in the Al Naboodah Honeywell Partnership Handicap but he was a shade disappointing when reappearing over 1m4f here recently for all a more aggressive ride would have surely seen him to better effect.
A watching brief is advised with him for now but his rout of the very smart Communique at Sandown back in the summer tells you what a classy operator he is on his day.
His trainer, Charlie Appleby, could easily work his magic with him and the Godolphin handler boasts another leading chance with Nordic Lights in the Al Naboodah Travel Handicap.
He ran a cracker when chasing home First Nation three weeks ago and ought to go one better sooner rather than later, for all progressive recent scorer Desert Fire looms a big danger on this occasion.
Desert Fire holds the key to the second and final bet of the night as he collared Race Day when they met over 1m here last time.
Race Day looked to have the race in safe keeping until wilting with 50 yards to run and the step back to 7f should prove ideal, as will Soumillon getting the leg up for the first time.
He has only been inched up 2lb for that career best effort and like so many of Dubawi's progeny, he looks the type to keep improving with age and warrants a bet in race where a number of the principals have questions to answer.
Posted at 2020 GMT on 06/02/19.