Watchful eyes on Meydan as Meydan Masters International Jockeys Challenge opens Dubai World Cup Carnival

Longines, the official timekeeper at Meydan, is the generous sponsor of both Meydan meetings this weekend, with Thursday evening`s seven race card the first of the 2012 Dubai World Cup Carnival.

The official feature is the Al Rashidiya Trial Presented By Longines over 1800m, run over the same course and distance as the Group Two Al Rashidiya, the trial has attracted a competitive field of 10, including Derbaas, winner of last year`s Group Two Al Fahidi Fort for last season ‘s Champion Trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

Owned by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Derbaas won four of his five Meydan starts last season and will be ridden by the owner`s retained jockey Richard Hills who said: "He was a revelation last season and improved throughout. I have not sat on him so far this season but the trainer tells me the horse is in very good form and expects a big run. I am sure he will come on for the outing but we have to be hopeful. The bottom one looks the big danger."

Hills is referring to Mahbooba, winner of last year`s Listed UAE 1,000 Guineas for South African trainer Mike de Kock, by far the most successful international handler in the history of the Carnival.

She has since won in the UK and De Kock said: "She did well at the Carnival last year on [the all-weather] and then really pleased us over the summer on turf. She has been going well in her work and is ready for a race so this looked the ideal starting point."

Godolphin trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni saddles both Sea Lord and Laajooj with Frankie Dettori riding the former and Mickael Barzalona on his stable companion.

The Emirati said: "Sea Lord was a bit disappointing at last year`s Carnival so we gave him the summer off. He seems in really good form now and we think he has a good chance, as does Laajooj. He won two in England but has been freshened up since June. He has pleased us in his work and it is nice to have two big hopes in the race."

The first turf race of the season is the ultra-competitive 1000m Longines Column Wheel Chronograph 1000m in which Al Raihe saddles both course specialist Happy Dubai and Green Beret with the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Russian Rock and Satish Seemar`s Spin Cycle other locally trained live contenders.

However, they face a serious challenge from no less than seven runners trained in Europe, with three from the UK and four from Ireland. Dettori rides Humidor for George Baker, while Monsieur Joe ran well in defeat at the Carnival last year, including twice behind Green Beret. He has joined Robert Cowell who saddled Prohibit to win over course and distance last year.

Ireland`s Michael Halford trains Invincible Ash who was also placed at the Carnival last year, including in races won by Green Beret and Happy Dubai.

Nocturnal Affair is another likely to go well for Ireland and is trained by David Marnane who won a 1400m turf handicap with Dandy Boy last year for leading local owner Malih Al Basti. They will be hoping to repeat that success but it will not be easy with 15 rivals to beat. Marnane said: "He worked well at the weekend and is in good form. He should run well."

As well as kicking off the Carnival, the two meetings also include the four races comprising the 2012 Meydan Masters International Jockeys Challenge.

Combined, the Meydan Masters jockeys have won a staggering 61 Group One races around the world during 2011 and include the winning riders of the Dubai World Cup, Caulfield Cup, W.S. Cox Plate, Melbourne Cup, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

There are also seven that won Classics in 2011 which included the Derby, St Leger, 2000 Guineas, 1000 Guineas, Hong Kong Derby, Japanese Derby and Irish Derby.

The 12 confirmed riders are; Mickael Barzalona, Maxime Guyon and Christophe Lemaire from France; William Buick, Ryan Moore, Colm O`Donoghue and Tom Queally from Great Britain and Ireland; Italy’s Mirco Demuro and Frankie Dettori; Kenichi Ikezoe from Japan; Andrasch Starke from Germany and Australia’s Craig Williams.

Points are accumulated based on the riders’ finishes in the race, and the winner is determined by the highest point total secured in those races. Great Britain’s Richard Hills won the inaugural event in 2010 and Calvin Borel of the USA was champion in 2011.