Qalandars had also defeated Sultans in last year's final
With the $30.5m Dubai World Cup meeting less than eight weeks away, the Dubai World Cup Carnival moves into top gear when Meydan Racecourse hosts a high-quality seven-race card on Friday.
The twin highlights of the evening are the second legs of the exciting Al Maktoum Challenge series for thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians, races that have a significant bearing on the big day on March 25.
The Al Maktoum Challenge series was conceived as a stepping stone to the Dubai World Cup with two of its winners, Moon Ballad in 2003 and Thunder Snow in 2018 progressing to win the $12m contests on dirt.
Algiers, a horse trained by the father-and-son pairing of Simon and Ed Crisford, is bidding to follow in the illustrious hoof-prints of that pair by winning Friday’s 1,900-metre tests, which is just one furlong short of the Dubai World Cup trip.
The six-year-old Shamardal gelding, who began his career on the luxurious French tracks when previously raced by the peerless Andre Fabre, recorded a hugely impressive six-and-a-half-length victory over his five rivals in the first leg a month ago.
Looking ahead to Friday’s litmus test for Algiers, Ed Crisford. said: “We were delighted with his win in the first round and the way he did it so comfortably. He has adapted really well to dirt racing and is so versatile having also won on turf and been placed on the all-weather. He has won as far as 2400m so the step up in trip is not likely to be an issue.
“He is drawn wider than ideal but he was in the first round and overcame it then so hopefully he can again.”
Among the eight rivals that Algiers will oppose are three Group One winners including the Fawzi Nass-trained Salute The Soldier, who triumphed in 2021, Uruguayan powerhouse Atletico De Curano and First Constitution, a Chilean bred who was previously in the care of seven-time Eclipse Award-winning handler Todd Pletcher.
Nass will hope to start the evening on a winning note when he sends out the highly-regarded Hiab Al Zaman, a Grade One winner in his native US in the Purebred Arabian equivalent of the Al Maktoum Challenge R2.
Among the mob of 15 opposing are Rajeh, winner last year for Musabbeh Al Mheiri, and 2021 victor RB Frynch Dude, trained by Helal Alalawi.
The feature races are supported by a pair of classy turf contests, the first of which for fillies and mares is the 1600m Group 2 Cape Verdi, a contest that has been almost completely by Godolphin trainees who have won nine runnings since 2011.
Charlie Appleby won the contest 12 months ago and sends out With The Moonlight and Wild Beauty, while five-time Cape Verdi-emwinning handler Saeed bin Suroor is represented by the reincarnated Soft Whisper and White Moonlight.
Bin Suroor said: “Soft Whisper is a tough filly, who always tries in her races, and came out of her win in the Ipi Tombe Stakes in good form. She has been going well at home and I’m looking for another success from her.
“White Moonlight is a big, strong filly, who is improving all the time. Her latest piece of work went well and the step back up in trip will suit. We are hopeful of another good effort.”
Commenting on his pair Appleby said: “With The Moonlight is clear on official ratings and, while the trip will be on the sharp side, I feel that the style of racing at Meydan will suit her.
“Wild Beauty has come on for her first start of the year and will hopefully be very competitive. I feel we have two fillies that should be bang there in the finish.”
The second Group 2 race of the meet is the Singspiel Stakes, where Godolphin are in search of a fifth success. To do so they have entered a quartet of runners, with Appleby relying on Ottoman Fleet and Valiant Prince, while Bin Suroor runs Dubai Future and Desert Fire.
Appleby said: “Valiant Prince has come out of the Al Rashidiya well. He has to carry a penalty for that win but has a nice draw in stall two and should be very competitive based on what he achieved last time out.
“I feel Ottoman Fleet has come forward since the Al Rashidiya, when he travelled well before getting a bit tired in the last 100 yards. He is better at the weights with Valiant Prince this time, which should put him bang there.”
Commenting on his two challengers Bin Suroor said: “Dubai Future ran well to finish second in the Al Rashidiya and this course and distance suits him. This is another tough race but he heads into it in good form.
“Desert Fire won nicely in last season’s Al Rashidiya but was disappointing in the Zabeel Mile a fortnight ago. He came out of that race in good condition and I am hoping for a better performance this time.”
6 pm: Al Maktoum Challenge
1. Hiab Al Zaman, 2. Barakka
6.35 pm Vazirabad Handicap
1. First Ruler, 2. Dhahabi
7.10 pm Al Shindagha Sprint
1. Mouheeb, 2. Mubakker
7.45 pm Cape Verdi
1 With The Moonlight, 2. Soft Whisper
8.20pm Al Maktoum Challenge R2
1. Algiers, 2 Bendoog
8.55 pm Singspiel Stakes
1. Valiant Prince, 2 Shelir
9.30 pm The Valley
1. Legend Of Dubai, 2. Tranquil Night
Day’s Best: Algiers
Qalandars had also defeated Sultans in last year's final
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