Al Maktoum Challenge highlight of opening Dubai World Cup Carnival weekend

Riders compete during a race at the spectacular and iconic Meydan Racecourse which  will be witness to Carnival action from Thursday. — Twitter
Riders compete during a race at the spectacular and iconic Meydan Racecourse which will be witness to Carnival action from Thursday. — Twitter

By James Jose

Published: Wed 20 Jan 2021, 8:21 PM

Last updated: Wed 20 Jan 2021, 8:26 PM

The landmark 25th renewal of the prestigious Dubai World Cup is still a good 66 days away and the preparations for that gets going with the Dubai World Cup Carnival that begins on Thursday evening.

For the next six consecutive weekends, the spectacular and iconic Meydan Racecourse will be witness to Carnival action, that acts as the prep to the centrepiece on the last Saturday of March.

And the first weekend sees a rich seven-race card highlighted by four Group contests — three Group 2 and one Group 3 races.

And while all the seven races can hold their own, looking at the quality of the field, the feature of the night is undoubtedly Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge.

The Group 2 affair, to be run over eight furlongs, sees a solid 11-horse field with six-time UAE Champion Trainer Satish Seemar having a trio of runners and fellow six-time UAE Champion Trainer Doug Watson double-handed.

But all eyes will be on Godolphin’s Gift Of Gold. Saddled by Saeed bin Suroor, the six-year-old from Invincible Spirit will be making his dirt debut after having previously run on turf and once on the all-weather surface. This will be his fifth appearance at Meydan but those were on turf and over distances of 2810 metres and 2410 metres. A drop in trip might work in his favour.

And bin Suroor and jockey Frankie Dettori will be looking to extend their dominance in the race. The Emirati trainer will be eyeing a record ninth victory, while the famed Italian jockey will be pushing for a fifth triumph.

“We are basically taking a chance with Gifts Of Gold on a new surface and dropping him in trip,” said bin Suroor.

“We hope he will handle the surface because he is a big, strong, versatile type who, if the dirt experiment does not work out, could go for something like the Al Rashidiya back on turf,” added the most successful Dubai World Cup trainer.

Seemar, meanwhile, has Emblem Storm, Quip and Roman Rosso, but felt Quip has a strong shot at the race.

“Quip, we think, is our best chance and we hope can show his true form this season, his first with us,” said Seemar, who won this race with Surfer in 2015 and North America two years ago.

Quip, the sixth-year-old from Distorted Humour, will be the mount of Richard Mullen, while William Buick partners Emblem Storm. Roma Rosso is the ride of record eight-time UAE Champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea.

The Carnival runs till February 25 after which Super Saturday, the dress rehearsal for the World Cup, will take place on March 6.


1. Al Furjan, TB, Handicap, 1400M (a7F), Dirt, $65,000, 6.30 p.m

2. Dubai Racing Club Classic, TB, Listed Handicap, 2410M (a12F), Turf, $88,000, 7.05 p.m

3. Dubawi Stakes, TB, Group 3, 1200M (a6F), Dirt, $130,000, 7.40 p.m

4. Singspiel Stakes, TB, Group 2, 1800M (a9F), Turf, $163,000, 8.15 p.m

5. Al Maktoum Challenge R1, TB, Group 2, 1600M (a8F), Dirt, $228,000, 8.50 p.m

6. Al Fahidi Fort, TB, Group 2, 1400M (a7F), Turf, $163,000, 9.25 p.m

7. Dubai Dash, TB, Listed Handicap, 1000M (a5F), Turf, $88,000, 10 p.m

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