Keen Ice, Mubtaahij Prep for Dubai World Cup in Super Saturday Al Maktoum Challenge Field

Keen Ice schools at Meydan
Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins

Keen Ice will become the latest US raider to prep for the March 26 Dubai World Cup when he sets his sights on the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Saturday afternoon.

The only three year old to beat US Triple Crown winner last year, Keen Ice’s prep takes place over the same course and distance as the Saturday March 26 Dubai World Cup.

Fellow US stars, Frosted and California Chrome, who also shipped early to Dubai, both won their prep races, with Frosted landing the middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge series while California Chrome claimed a 2000m handicap last week.

The official prep race for the $10m Dubai World Cup, the Al Maktoum Challenge has seen three previous winners go on to claim the world’s richest race, with Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006) all achieving the notable double for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor who does not saddle a runner this year.

Keen Ice is trained by Dale Romans, who won the 2005 Dubai World Cup with Roses In May. Four-year-old Keen Ice will be having his second start of 2016 on Saturday, having finished a closing fourth in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap four weeks ago.
That was over 1800m and it should be noted his defeat of African Pharoah was over 2000m and stamina appears his forte. He was staying on when third behind the same opponent in the 2400m Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the US Triple Crown.

“He was doing his best work at the end in the Donn,” said Romans. “The track seemed to favour the speed horses that day so it did not really suit him.

“He worked very well last Saturday and my assistant, Tammy Fox, rides him and says he feels in great form and seems to like the track.

“We decided to bring him over early to give him time to get to know the track and acclimatise.”

Another runner who will have acclimatised to the Dubai weather is the Mike De Kock-trained globetrotter and 2015 UAE Derby star, Mubtaahij.

When third in the Belmont Stakes, Keen Ice, who is a son of the 2008 Dubai World Cup winner, Curlin, was one place and a neck in front of Mubtaahij.

The pair also met in the Kentucky Derby, again behind American Pharoah, when Romans’ charge was seventh, once again one place ahead of Mubtaahij, who crossed the line three-parts of a length behind Keen Ice.

De Kock has a good record in this race, having claimed the Al Maktoum Challenge in both 2004 and 2009, with the Victory Moon and Asiatic Boy who both went on to finish runner-up in the Dubai World Cup in the same year respectively.

Mubtaahij made his return to local action in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes over 1600m, but failed to land a blow when fifth behind Confrontation. Yet the winner of the 1900m Al Bastakiya on this card last year, the son of Dubawi will relish the step up to 2000m here and it will be disappointing if he fails to bounce back to something like his best.

“We were far from disappointed with his return,” said De Kock, who also saddles Pylon and Golden Soul. “We knew he would need the run and the trip was too short for him.

“This is more his trip and he is far straighter having enjoyed a good preparation. He should be a big runner for us.
“Pylon needs to improve on what he has achieved in Dubai so far, while Golden Soul has some top dirt form and his owner was keen to try him back on the surface after his excellent turf run on his debut for us.”

The good dirt form to which the trainer alludes includes a second, behind Orb, in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

US-based trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin is having a successful season in Dubai. His six Dubai World Cup Carnival runners this year have mustered three winners, a statistic that becomes more impressive when viewed in light of the fact that sprinter Marking did not finish on his first start having stumbled out the gate and unshipped jockey, James Doyle. Given that, his Watershed merits serious consideration here.

He was more than two lengths ahead of Mubtaahij and closing rapidly when finishing third behind stable companion, Confrontation in the Firebreak Stakes.

“He had not run before August and has only had five starts,” said McLaughlin, who landed the 2007 Dubai World Cup with the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned Invasor. “The way he was finishing his race last time, along with his build and pedigree, suggest this 2000m trip will suit him.
“It is a tough race but we think he merits the step up in class and we will find out where we stand with him.

“He could be a Dubai World Cup horse but if not, we can drop back in class and trip for the Godolphin Mile.”

Doug Watson saddles two with Pat Dobbs electing to partner Faulkner, fourth in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge over 1600m and third in the 1900m middle round behind Frosted.

He won a 1900m handicap on his most recent outing and steps back up considerably in class.

“We had a few issues with him earlier in the season,” said Watson. “He is not the easiest horse to get fit so took a while to reach his peak. His three runs this year have all been good and he is fit and raring to go.

“Obviously it is a hot race but he is in good form and should run a good race.”

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