Richard Mann previews Super Saturday of the Dubai Carnival with a top-class card at Meydan presenting a few betting opportunities.
Recommended bets: Super Saturday
The Dubai Carnival has provided punters with a constant feed of high-class Flat action throughout the winter months but Super Saturday is where things get really serious at Meydan and this year's edition is as interesting as any in recent memory.
The return of Thunder Snow - last season's World Cup hero and Breeders' Cup Classic third - provides the card with a genuine top-notcher and a low draw should ensure he has no excuses in round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge Sponsored By Emirates Airline at 14.55.
Thunder Snow was simply breathtaking when routing West Coast in the Dubai World Cup almost 12 months ago and this should put him cherry ripe for a repeat bid in the big one in a few weeks' time.
As ever, expect him to be ridden aggressively on the front-end and, as we have seen all winter, such tactics on the Meydan dirt can prove to be a huge advantage.
Nevertheless, Thunder Snow isn't forced to be at his best this weekend as trainer Saeed bin Suroor plots his path back to the World Cup and it's worth remembering he was turned over by North America in this race last year.
As such, he might just be worth taking on at prohibitive odds once again and I'm really keen to chance Dolkong, most impressive when landing a Listed Handicap here only nine days ago.
That brutal 9 1/2-length victory was a watershed moment for South Korean-based Aussie Simon Foster, and for all Dolkong clearly has a considerable amount improvement to find in order to ruffle up Thunder Snow on Saturday, I think there are definite grounds to believe he can do so.
The potential for Thunder Snow to be below his best on this occasion is a fair starting point but Dolkong shouldn't be underestimated in his own right, a lightly-raced five-year-old who should be approaching the peak of his powers now and who has had so little racing on the dirt that significant improvement can still be expected from him on this surface.
His profile would certainly suggest that to be the case, having been well beaten on his Carnival debut back in January before stepping up on that form when third in handicap company prior to his impressive recent victory over this C&D.
That latest performance was a significant step up on his previous efforts here - he comprehensively reversed form with old foe Saltarin Dubai - and with that in mind, I'm happy to bet at double-figure odds that an even bigger performance is in the offing.
Stall six has the potential to be a slight negative but he is learning all the time and what was most notable about his victory last time was that he was able to come from behind and make up ground on the dirt, something we have barely seen from horses here all winter.
A sharper break from the gates and a handy early position behind likely pace-setter Thunder Snow should prove an ideal spot as he looks to pounce in the straight and expose any fitness chinks in the hit favourite.
There is further Group One action as the Jebel Hatta Sponsored By Emirates Airline (15.30) brings the card to a close and all eyes fellow bin Suroor inmate Dream Castle in this one.
The dogs were barking about this son of Frankel long before he made a winning debut at Doncaster back in the spring of 2017 and he was subsequently given the green light to line up in the 2000 Guineas only a matter of weeks later.
Things didn't quite work out for him thereafter but bin Suroor's patience and a gelding operation have been rewarded with two dominant victories at the the Carnival this winter, most recently when landing the Group Two Al Rashidiya in fine style.
He looks close to the finished article now and is clearly ready for this step up to Group One company. Much like former stablemate and last year's Dubai Turf hero Benbatl, Dream Caslte has really benefited from bin Suroor's patient approach and he can take another step up the ladder now.
Chief in opposition is the admirable Century Dream but despite running a host of fine races in defeat in the last 12 months, he hasn't got his head in front since landing an Epsom Group Three contest back in the summer and he might have to settle for another podium finish along with Wootton who is still to prove himself at the highest level.
Wide-margin UAE 2000 Guineas hero Estihdaaf is the likely favourite in the Al Bastakiya Sponsored By emirates.com (12.35) but I'm keen to get this one beat.
Despite a slow start, he was allowed to lead up from his low draw in the Guineas before dictating terms thereafter.
Saturday's draw, out in stall 13, looks a potential nightmare for jockey Pat Cosgrave and should he miss a beat at the start again, he could easily be posted out wide or be forced to drop in and face the kickback.
He looks a poor favourite to my eyes and in Divine Image, comes up against a really smart filly who is improving all the time and crucially, has been handed a favourable draw in stall three.
The daughter of Scat Daddy built on her promising UAE 1000 Guineas second when seeing out the longer trip really well to win the UAE Oaks over this C&D last month.
Despite breaking smartly on that occasion, she encountered all sorts of traffic problems before picking up really well in the straight to score cosily at the line, a performance even more meritorious given that jockey William Buick had dropped his whip at the two furlong pole.
She is very good and rates the best bet of the day for the all-conquering Appleby operation.
Lavaspin is an old friend of this column and continues his rapid ride through the ranks when contesting the opening race of the card, the Group Three Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored By Emirates Skywards (12.00).
Satish Seemar's five-year-old is now three wins from his last three starts but despite having another low draw to aid his chance, the likeable front-runner is in much deeper waters now with the likes of Drafted and Tato Key bringing very solid form to the table following their 1-2 finish in a good race here last time.
Ekhtiyaar is another who did readers a favour recently, landing an almighty gamble on his second start for the Doug Watson stable, but he is surely booked for second at best behind the top-class Blue Point in the Group Three Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint Sponsored By Arabian Adventures (13.10).
Blue Point made a polished winning reappearance here last month and is expected to use this as another stepping stone to the Al Quoz on World Cup night.
Elsewhere, Muntazah produced a big performance when routing a few of these in the Firebreak Stakes last time and he will be a worthy favourite of the Group Three Burj Nahaar Sponsored By Emirates Holidays (13.45), while will be fascinating to see how St Leger fifth Old Persian fares on his return to action in the Group Two Dubai City Of Gold Sponsored By Emirates SkyCargo (14.20).
Posted at 1715 GMT on 08/03/19
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