Who would have thought that Super Saturday, the traditional dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup meeting and one of the highlights of the prestigious Carnival, would ever be rivalled or surpassed?
But tomorrow’s Fashion Friday meeting at Meydan racecourse, which takes place just over 60 days before the Meydan showpiece on March 30, looks set to overshadow the erstwhile build-up race day on several levels.
The stacked nine-race card, sponsored by Longines, features three tremendous Group 1 races, three equally exciting Group 2 contests, two Group 2 events and a Listed race to boot.
With prize money in excess of Dh10 million on offer, it is no surprise that over 20 international raiders from six countries will take on the best locally-trained horses in a bid to win a share of the booty and announce themselves as contenders for the Dubai World Cup meeting.
The highlight is the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, a three-race series that was devised as a prep for the $12m Dubai World Cup, which has attracted a quality field of twelve including highly-regarded American Grade 2 scorer Clapton, the US-bred and Russian owned Kabirkhan, who made a sparkling UAE debut winning by four widening lengths, and several past stalwarts among them Atletico El Culano, Military Law and Everfast.
Trained by Chad Summers, who famously saddled Mind Your Biscuits to win the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2017-2018, Clapton has ambitiously campaigned in 25 races over the past two years.
“He’s a horse that has brought us here,” Summers said during a press conference at Meydan on Thursday. “You have to have a horse with the right mental make-up to come here from California.
“He looks happy here. He takes his time walking all the way from the barn to the gallops. He sees all the animals, everything that's going on around here and looks happy.
“A happy horse gives you a better chance of success. But you also have to bring the right horse to take on some of the best horses in the world and we hope that Clapton is that horse,” added Summers.
Kabirkhan, who is trained by eight-time champion handler Doug Watson, won on debut with a lot on hand, while Military Law and his conqueror in The Intisar last month, Atletico El Culano, are worth keeping an eye on.
The Jebel Hatta, which is a key prep for the Dubai Turf on World Cup night, has attracted nine quality runners led by Godolphin’s globetrotter, Mawj.
One of the principal flag bearers of Emirati handler Saeed bin Suroor’s stables, the Classic-winning daughter of Darley stallion Exceed And Excel looks the one to beat in the 1,800m turf contest.
Mawj was last seen finishing a game second in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita in November and her trainer Bin Suroor commented: “Mawj has enjoyed a nice winter in Dubai so far. She has been working nicely and looks a happy filly at the moment.
“She has shown in the past that a mile is her best trip, although she won over nine furlongs at Keeneland in the autumn.
“This looks like a nice race to start her season before we consider other targets, and I am very happy with her,” the Emirati handler said.
Mawj faces a genuine threat from fellow Godolphin-owned Measured Time, an impressive winner of the Al Rashidiya over course and distance last month, and the Richard Fahey-trainer Spirit Dancer, winner of the Group 2 Bahrain International Trophy in November.
“There is no point coming here with a sunshine horse you need to be competitive,” said Fahey. “Fingers crossed he’s the right horse. He has ticked most of the boxes.
“It’s a tough race but we wanted to step up to Group 1 class and I think we’re ready. I would have preferred if the race was a little bit easier.”
Fashion Friday will also see Saffie Osborne, the British show jumper turned racehorse rider, attempt to win her first race at Meydan after some decent efforts in the past.
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