Safety Check Bids for Consecutive Group 2 Zabeel Mile Wins in Dubai World Cup Carnival

Photo: Andrew Watkins

Dubai World Cup Hope California Chrome has Handicap Prep Run

The Group 2 Zabeel Mile turf race is the official feature of Thursday’s eighth Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting and Godolphin’s Safety Check attempts to become the first horse to win it twice.

Sharing the spotlight on the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group card will be 2015 Dubai World Cup runner-up, California Chrome as he prepares for his second tilt at the world’s richest race in the 2000m Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy. Interestingly this is the same race that Curlin used to prep for his 2008 Dubai World Cup success, although this was on the dirt of the old Nad Al Sheba Racecourse.

In the evening’s feature race, the Charlie Appleby-trained Safety Check will attempt a defense of his Zabeel Mile title under a penalty for winning the 1400m Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort in January. A three-time winner at the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival, Safety Check’s connections are seeking five consecutive victories for the horse at Meydan, having raced twice without joy in the UK over the summer.

Regular jockey, William Buick, is again in the saddle, and bids for a fourth win on Appleby’s charge.

“We said we thought Safety Check was a better horse this year and he won the Al Fahidi Fort well,” said trainer, Appleby. “He has pleased us since that win and seems in great form.

“The 1600m is as far as he wants to go but the trip is not a problem around Meydan as he showed winning the Zabeel Mile last year. The style of racing really suits him at Meydan and he looks to have a major chance.

“Hopefully he is the one the rest have to beat.”
When winning this year’s Al Fahidi Fort, Safety Check was chased home by Harry’s Son, representing South Africa and trainer Paul Lafferty.

A 1600m Grade 1 winner as a juvenile in South Africa, the extra 200m here looks certain to suit and, better off the weights this time, he looks capable of at least getting closer to the Godolphin runner.

“We were very pleased with that effort [in the Al Fahidi Fort],” said Lafferty. “It was his first start since March and he has certainly benefitted from it.

“He stays 1600m well and we are hoping for a big run.”
Fellow South African, Mike de Kock is the most successful trainer in the race, which was first staged in 2007, with three previous winners.

He saddles two this time with Johann Strauss, who was fourth last year and the choice of jockey, Christophe Soumillon, joined in the field by Zahee, the mount of Wayne Smith.

Johan Strauss is making his seasonal debut whereas Zahee was second on his most recent start, in Abu Dhabi’s HH The President’s Cup, just as Johann Strauss was last year before contesting this.

“It looks a good renewal but both ours are fit and well,” said De Kock. “Zahee was much better last time having disappointed on his return, whereas Johann Strauss is very talented but has not been straightforward to train.

“He is ready for a run but will improve from it.”

Zahee just failed to catch Ghaamer in Abu Dhabi, having finished last behind the same rival on his seasonal return.
Trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ghaamer was well beaten by Safety Check in the Al Fahidi Fort.

Three runners from the UK add extra intrigue with Fanciful Angel, trained by Marco Botti, seeking a second course and distance victory having won a Meydan handicap four weeks ago, perhaps the best of the trio.

California Chrome’s legion of fans will have to wait until the sixth race to see their star take to the track.

Winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2014, connections opted to bring him to Dubai for his final prep race this year, after the now five year old won his seasonal debut at Santa Anita almost seven weeks ago.

That was his first outing since chasing home Prince Bishop in last year’s Dubai World Cup having been injured in England while being prepared for Royal Ascot.

“He is a bigger and stronger horse this year,” said assistant, Alan who is son of trainer, Art Sherman. “He has done everything we have asked of him and are very pleased with his preparations.

“We decided to run this week rather than on Super Saturday to give him a month between races before the World Cup.

“We could not be happier with him and are really excited about having another crack at the Dubai World Cup.”

Unsurprisingly California Chrome heads the weights, carrying 7kg more than his seven opponents with the handicapper giving him 60kg – the same weight that Curlin carried in this race eight years ago.

Regular jockey Victor Espinoza flew in to Dubai to partner the horse in his prep race.

“He is carrying a lot of weight,” said Espinoza at Meydan on Wednesday morning after California Chrome schooled in the Parade Ring. “He is carrying 15-20lbs more than any other horse in the race but other than that he is in good shape.”

Godolphin’s Good Contact, the Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Hunting Ground and Storm Belt, to be saddled by Doug Watson, appear the three most likely to trouble him among his seven opponents.

The second race of the evening, the 1200m Al Naboodah National Plant Trophy handicap sees another US raider take to the track in Kiaran McLaughlin’s Godolphin-owned Dubai Golden Shaheen hopeful, Marking.

Hot favourite for the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint on his UAE debut a fortnight ago, he stumbled leaving the stalls, parting company with jockey, James Doyle.

Doyle, who is recovering from recent appendicitis surgery, is replaced in the saddle by William Buick.

“It was just unfortunate the last time,” said McLaughlin. “Hopefully all goes smoothly this week. If he runs well, we are hoping to go straight to the big night.”

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