Classy field to go to post for Round II of Al Maktoum Challenge

Etisalat sponsors Thursday`s fourth meeting of the 2011 Dubai International Racing Carnival displaying the best night`s racing of the season so far. With four feature races, all on the All-Weather and highlighted by the middle rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge, it is a great start to four consecutive days of racing in the UAE.

Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor has won the Group Three Thoroughbred Maktoum Challenge Round II on seven occasions, including the inaugural 1900m All-Weather running last year with Allybar. However, this is surely one of the best renewals ever with five Group One winners among the nine declared and bin Suroor`s hope Spring of Fame steps up from handicap company after an impressive course and distance win a fortnight ago.

The trainer said: "We have done well in this race in the past and Spring Of Fame has improved from that run and is training well. He deserves this step up in class as did Allybar last year but this looks a hot race this year."

His opponents include Al Shemali, winner of last year`s Group One Dubai Duty Free on the Meydan Turf on Dubai World Cup night. Trained by UAE Champion Trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, he is to be aimed at the world`s richest race, the US$10million Dubai World Cup, this year and is making his seasonal return.

Al Raihe explained: "He has won on the [All-Weather] but not at this level. He will improve for the outing but we would love a go at the Dubai World Cup itself this year and this is the obvious place to start."

South African Mike de Kock has high hopes for Bold Silvano, winner of the Group One Durban July when last seen in racecourse action. He too is being targeted at the Dubai World Cup and De Kock explained: "He is not 100% fit certainly but definitely ready for a race. He is working well in the mornings on [the All-Weather] and we are very hopeful he can transfer his Turf form to the new surface. It should be a true test with such a high-class field."

Crowded House, runner-up to Allybar in this last year, Gitano Hernado, beaten only two lengths in the 2010 World Cup and Interaction, trained by last year`s Dubai World Cup winning trainer Pascal Bary, complete the quintet to have scored at Group One level.

The Group One Purebred Arabian equivalent is over 2200m and, as always, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum has a very strong hand with his retained jockey Richard Hills choosing to ride Kandar Du Falgas from the owner`s four runners. His trainer, Doug Watson, has won four of the last five renewals of this contest.

Gill Duffield introduces Periander to local action in the same race in which her second runner, Adjinn D`Aroco, is one of those rejected by Hills but certainly cannot be discounted.

The UAE 1000 Guineas, over 1600m, is the first Classic of 2011 and it is another race for which Saeed bin Suroor has a great record in with seven wins. However, Mike De Kock`s Mahbooba looks certain to be the Pick 7 favourite after chasing home stable companion Reem in the trial with bin Surroor`s hopeful back in the third Marhooba is much better off at the weights on this occasion.

De Kock also appears to hold a major chance in the 1200m Group Three Al Shindagha Sprint, a race he won in 2008 with subsequent Dubai World Cup runner-up Asiatic Boy. He saddles Our Giant who won over course and distance on the opening night of the 2011 Carnival and De Kock said: "He is in great form. We want to try him over further at some stage on the [All-Weather] but this looks the right option for now."

The rearranged Listed Jebel Ali Mile follows on Friday, with a Meydan Spring Meeting on Saturday and Abu Dhabi hosting the AED1million HH The President`s Cup on Sunday as the racing action in the UAE really steps up a gear.