Stage set for opening night of 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival

Stage set for opening night of 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival

04/01/2017 at 22:08Updated 04/01/2017 at 22:12

The 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival gets underway at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday evening where Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge headlines a seven-race card.

All eyes on the opening night will be on locally-trained Le Bernadin who will be bidding to become the first horse to win the US$250,000 Group 2 race twice.

Some of the world’s top race horses are spending the winter in Dubai to contest for a share of the US$10,925,000 prize money on offer across the 11-meeting 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival, which will have meeting cards everyThursday night at Meydan through to 23 February, followed by the Super Saturday programme on 4 March and the Dubai World Cup card three weeks later on 25 March.

Swiss watchmaker Longines presents the opening night of action which gets underway with the Purebred Arabians in Group 1 action in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, while the Thoroughbreds will contest a featured Group 2 version of the race later on the card.

Both the Thoroughbred and Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenges are over 1600 metres on Meydan’s dirt surface, and the Thoroughbred race, Presented By Elegance In Equestrian, has attracted a quality field of ten.

Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi last year’s victor, Le Bernardin has the opportunity to become the first dual winner and will fancy his chances having been a great draw. He will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, the jockey who steered him to victory 12 months ago, although this year he goes into the race on the back of a surprise defeat having finished fourth in the Listed Dubai Creek Mile – a race he won last season.

That Dubai Creek Mile was won this season by Fitzgerald, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, who is among the most improved horses in the UAE this season and Antonio Fresu maintains the partnership after what was an impressive and emphatic success.

Third in that race was Cool Cowboy who filled the same berth in last season’s Group 2 Godolphin Mile for Doug Watson. He will be ridden by Sam Hitchcott with stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, electing to partner stable companion, Polar River.

Winner of both the UAE 1000 Guineas and Oaks last season, Dobbs’ mount was then second in the UAE Derby but was well beaten in fourth on her course and distance return this season. However that will not concern Watson whose string are in fine form.

Charlie Appleby saddles Emotionless for Godolphin and, if the now four-year-old can bounce back to his juvenile form, he will be a serious threat under William Buick. Winner of the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, having landed his maiden on debut, he was then injured in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. His 2016 campaign consisted of just two starts when well beaten, in good company, on each occasion but was sent to Dubai in good time to prepare for the Carnival.

South African Mike de Kock’s runners can never be ignored in these races so his Lindo Amor, on his first start for the yard, is another to consider.

The meeting opens with the Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 Presented By Longines Conquest Classic, in which 12 horses have been declared.

On paper it looks an above average renewal with the last two winners of Dubai World Cup Day’s Kahayla Classic among the dozen.

Both are owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose new retained jockey, Jim Crowley, rides locally for his new employer for the first time on the Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained AF Mathmoon.

He won the Kahayla Classic last March, 12 months after the Sheikh Hamdan’s Manark landed the same prize for Erwan Charpy. However, Charpy’s charge has only run twice since and not for over a year so is entitled to need this return to action.

Sporting the colours of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Eric Lemartinel-trained RB Burn won the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian race, the €1.2million Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Crown, at Abu Dhabi in November.

On what was his local debut on turf, he won his only previous dirt outing at Houston in April 2015 and on this occasion will again be ridden by Gerald Avranche.

Thursday’s opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival promises to be an exciting start to three months of top-quality racing which sees some interesting changes for the 2017 campaign.

Prize money across the Dubai World Cup Carnival has been increased by $467,500 over the ten meetings up to and including Super Saturday, with the minimum purse for a Dubai World Cup Carnival Handicap now standing at a healthy $100,000.

The Dubai World Cup day Al Quoz Sprint has been increased in distance from 1000 to 1200 metres and replaces the Dubai Golden Shaheen as the UAE leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

The $1million turf sprint now represents the culmination of a newly-implemented 1200 metre turf division featuring five key Dubai World Cup Carnival handicaps and the new $200,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint on SuperSaturday.

The 1200 metre turf campaign runs alongside the dirt programme over the same trip, with those following a campaign benefiting from five build-up races including the Group 3 $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal on Super Saturday prior to the Group 1 $2million Dubai Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup day.

Trainers opting for the 1000 metre turf sprint still have the option of three handicap races before the running of the Group 3 $175,000 Meydan Sprint held on Thursday 16 February.