Dubai World Cup Carnival Arrives at Meydan Racecourse

2015 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 winner, Surfer, ridden by Richard Mullen, will defend his crown at the launch of the Dubai World Cup Carnival on Thursday January 7, 2016

Credit: Dubai Racing Club//Andrew Watkins

Al Maktoum Challenge R1 Features Defending Champions in Both Purebred Arabian & Thoroughbred Ranks

The opening meeting of the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival, worth US$920,000 gets underway at Meydan Racecourse tomorrow (Thursday) and is highlighted by the Purebred Arabian and Thoroughbred versions of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, both contested over 1600m.

Both renewals on the Longines-presented card feature the 2015 winners, back to defend their crowns in the new term.
In the past the Group 2 Thoroughbred version of the race has produced high profile winners, including the 2010 Dubai World Cup winner, Gloria de Campeao and 2005 Godolphin Mile winner, Star Emporium.

This renewal looks wide open with 13 declared, including the first four home in 2015, when Surfer landed the prize.

Trained by Satish Seemar, Surfer had always threatened a big race victory and he produced it in style 12 months ago. While he had the advantage of a previous (winning) run last term, he will be making his seasonal debut this time.

“He is in great form,” said assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar. “He goes very well fresh so the lack of a race should not be a problem. We decided to come straight here this season as he has seemed tired by Dubai World Cup night in each of the last three seasons.

“Hopefully starting his season a bit later will help him get to the big night in top form. We also run Gold City who pleased us on his comeback and thrives under Thursday’s conditions.”

Regular jockey Richard Mullen will ride Surfer with apprentice Hector Crouch, who is unable to utilise his claim in this Group race, aboard last year’s fourth-place, Gold City.

Gold City will be renewing his rivalry with the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained runner, Le Bernadin. It was three weeks ago that Gold City chased Le Bernadin home in the Listed Dubai Creek Mile and jockey Tadhg O’Shea will once again be in the irons aboard for the Al Raihe runner.

“He won very well the last day,” said O’Shea. “He seems in the same kind of form in his work but this is obviously a better race.”
Al Raihe also saddles Haatheq, third in this race last year.

Second 12 months ago was Frankyfourfingers who subsequently won the Al Maktoum Challenge R2 beating subsequent Dubai World Cup winner Prince Bishop in the process.

Frankyfourfingers is one of two in this year’s field for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer and, not surprisingly, is the choice of the stable`s first jockey, Mickael Barzalona.

Royston Ffrench partners stable companion, Long River.
Saeed bin Suroor has saddled the winner of the race on eight occasions and this year relies solely on Free Wheeling, the mount of James Doyle.

A Group 2 winner in his native Australia, he was a 1400m winner at Meydan on the previous all-weather surface in 2014 and a close third in last year’s Godolphin Mile on the dirt.

“Free Wheeling produced an excellent effort when third in the Godolphin Mile and proved conditions suit him,” said Bin Suroor. “We have been very pleased with his preparation for this year and he looks much better physically than at this time last year.

“He has obviously been off since the end of March but he has been working well so I am hopeful of another good run.”
Doug Watson saddles two with stable jockey, Pat Dobbs electing to ride Layl while Sam Hitchcott will be aboard stablemate Faulkner.

“They both needed their first run,” said Watson who won the race with Barbecue Eddie in 2013. “They have improved a lot from it but this looks a strong race.”

Champion South African trainer, Mike De Kock, who took the race with Musir in 2012, saddles Prayer For Relief this year.

The Purebred Arabian equivalent carries Group 1 status with Bigg N Rich attempting to win the race for the second consecutive year.

Trained then by Eric Lemartinel, he is now in the care of Al Raihe and will be ridden by O’Shea. He needs to bounce back from a disappointing return to action though.

Lemartinel, in his new role as master of Al Asayl Stables, saddles RB Smokin Rich and Abhaar, with the latter, under Wayne Smith, seemingly holding stronger claims. Both are owned by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum has purchased AF Mathmoon, unbeaten in three career starts for Musabah Al Muhairi. This is by far his toughest test to date but he has to be feared under Paul Hanagan.

Nacer Samiri and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan are represented by no less than four of the dozen declared. Thakif, under Pat Dobbs and Sha’Red, under Mullen, look the best of the quartet.

General admission to Meydan Racecourse is free and there are hospitality packages to suit every budget.
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