Hit The Bid kicks off what trainer Darren Bunyan hopes will be a profitable campaign on the opening night of the Dubai Carnival at Meydan, while Man On The Spot has tips.
Meydan preview, January 3
Hit The Bid kicks off what trainer Darren Bunyan hopes will be a profitable campaign on the opening night of the Dubai Carnival at Meydan.
The five-year-old was narrowly beaten by the late Dubai favourite Ertijaal on his first start of last year's Carnival and went one better in another valuable handicap at the track in February.
He did not manage to win on turf after returning to Ireland during the summer, but ran well in a Listed contest at Tipperary and the Flying Five at the Curragh before finishing down the field in the Prix de l'Abbaye at ParisLongchamp.
Hit The Bid was last seen winning the Group Three Mercury Stakes on the all-weather at Dundalk in October and is reported to be thriving ahead of his return to action in Thursday's Longines Ladies Record Collection Handicap over five furlongs.
Bunyan said: "He's in great shape and we're very much looking forward to running him.
"He loved it out here (in Dubai) last year and really learned to race properly. He came out here a boy and went home a man.
"It was just unfortunate that every time we entered him up when we got him back to Ireland it rained. It was unbelievable really considering what a dry summer we had.
"I'm sure he'll improve for the run. He's different to most horses in that he actually puts on weight when he travels rather than loses it - a bit like myself - but at the same time I'd be expecting a good show.
"I think we'll see the real Hit The Bid this year, that's the impression we're getting from him - that everything up to now has been a bonus.
"Hopefully it will be an exciting year."
Hit The Bid's rivals include fellow Irish challenger Freescape - trained by David Marnane - and Paul Midgley's British raider Orvar.
There is plenty of British interest across the card, with Godolphin trainers Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor unsurprisingly well represented.
Simon Crisford is triple-handed in the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial with Ghost Queen, Starry Eyes and Turn 'n Twirl all declared.
David Barron saddles Above The Rest in the Group Three Dubawi Stakes, while the William Haggas-trained Seniority will carry the colours of the Queen in the Longines Master Collection Moon Phase Handicap.
Man On the Spot's Meydan tips
2.30 - This is the opening meeting of the Carnival and the first race to be run on Turf this season. It was won last year by Golden Wood, trained by Chantilly-based Nicolas Caullery, who has Maifalki engaged this time. Four times a winner for Jason Ward last season, including a Listed contest at Craon, he'll be primed for this though he's 20lb higher than his last winning mark in the UK. EARNSHAW started off last season with a fine run behind Benbati where, as usual, he was running on when the race was all over. Today's longer trip should play to his strengths and another good season is envisaged. Godolphin have three entries with Bin Battuta was last seen finishing a neck second to Secret Advisor in York's Melrose Handicap in 2017. He hasn't raced subsequently though should be suited by the shorter trip. Ispolini won a Kempton maiden just over a year ago before running well enough in Group 3 company in the spring while Big Challenge completes the trio and he'll be fit enough having run at Chelmsford in October. Jim Crowley rides Jaaref rather than the owner's Basateen and his mount will strip fitter than most having followed a victory at Abu Dhabi with a close second in a Listed contest there last month.
3.05 - Godolphin usually have one laid out for this and it could be DUBAI BEAUTY this time. A debut winner at Newmarket in August, she disappointed when favourite for the May Hill at Doncaster but then ran very well in the Marcel Boussac at Longchamp and should be ready for this, though how she acts on the Dirt may decide the outcome. Her stable companion Swift Rose made an impressive start at Wolverhampton in November and won't lack for fitness and Nashirah also represents the owners and looks the type to progress this season. Simon Crisford had a tremendous 2018 and will be hoping to get this year off to a flying start. He has three entries but Ghost Queen's only victory came in a Catterick nursery. Starry Eyes made most in a Chelmsford maiden but it's Twist 'n Twirl who may do best of the trio having made a winning start at Lingfield last month. Al Shamkhah deserves her place in the line-up having come with a strong late run to catch Foggy Field in a track and trip maiden last month when the well-regarded Lady Wedad, a reserve here, was fifth.
3.40 - Hit The Bid and Dutch Masterpiece occupied the places in this last year behind Ertijaal then finished 1-2 in a handicap the following month. They reappear on the same terms with probably the same result. Marnie James, Orvar and Freescape all won last time out in the UK and Ireland. The form looks just short of what will be required and the latter, placed over a mile in Listed company here in March, has never raced over a trip this short. FAATINAH made a successful debut on the track a year ago and also scored after an absence in Australia in August. He's been racing at a higher level subsequently and is well enough drawn to go in again. Mike De Kock's Alfolk won a Group 3 at Turffontein a year ago but couldn't make the step up to Group 1 company a few weeks later. Race Day, four times a winner for Godolphin in the UK, has a handy racing weight but isn't well drawn.
4.15 - Ace Korea is a regular winner in South Korea though it will be a surprise if he's up to this class. High On Life won a handicap over this trip on Turf in February and will be fit enough having been racing this winter though he was six lengths behind Drafted when the latter gained his third victory on the track last month. Doug Watson also runs MY CATCH (NAP), who is better class than his stablemate having won a Group 3 over the track and trip in February. He's also won twice after a long break so looks the one to be on. Above The Rest makes his debut on the surface but won a Group 3 on Tapeta at Newcastle in June and David Barron, who is having his first runner here since 2014, will have him spot-on. Raven's Corner was behind Drafted on his return to action though wins his share around here when consenting to jump off on level terms and can never be ruled out but Sweden-based Trickbag would be a shock winner,
4.50 - DEAUVILLE is the top rated here and, though the 2016 Belmont Derby winner has never quite reached those heights again, his third to Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior in the Irish Champion Stakes confirmed his status at the highest level. Degas, a regular winner at Group level in Germany, was unlucky in-running in a Group 2 at San Siro in October. Dream Castle, a son of Frankel, didn't do as well as expected here last season but is probably capable of better while the tough Arod landed a Listed contest at Windsor in May. James Doyle has chosen Key Of Victory of Charlie Appleby's trio though the stable's Salsabeel can go well as he made a successful debut here last January and has only had two subsequent runs. Beaten a short-head in a Deauville Group 3 in August, he has a moderate draw to overcome but Brett Doyle knows his way around here. The 2017 winner Light The Lights is drawn on the wide outside and may have to wait for another day while Royal Hunt Cup winner Settle For Bay hasn't run since his Royal Ascot triumph.
5.25 - AURUM, one of three for Godolphin, could have got in lightly here having been placed in Listed company after his Newmarket debut success. Top Score needed his opening run here a year ago but continued to improve steadily and was only beaten a length in a Listed contest at HQ in August. The third Godolphin entry, Victory Wave, is very versatile and has won three of his last four though probably needs to improve again. The Queen has her first Meydan runner with Seniority, who had a cracking season in the UK scoring twice at Chelmsford before lifting the Golden Mile at Goodwood. He looks just the type for the Carnival while Never Back Down won a Listed race at Newbury in May. Mike De Kock will be keen to get a run into the classy Janoobi before he heads back into top company. Well beaten in his opening run last year he won the Group 2 Zabeel Mile later and was only beaten a length in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta. Jim Crowley has chosen him over his stable companion Suyoof, who he rode to victory in a handicap here in February.
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