David does not often slay Goliath at the Dubai World Cup Carnival but there is a fair chance that the little guys may prevail at Meydan Thursday.
On the opening night of the inaugural Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan in 2010, the new racecourse was blessed with the ultimate fairy tale when former homeless trainer Carl O’Callaghan struck in the US$2 million (Dh7.3m) Dubai Golden Shaheen with Kinsale King.
Since then there have been precious few results that have rewarded persistence from those in adversity.
Last season was a landmark one, however, as Beat Baby made the breakthrough for Norwegian trainer Niels Petersen. He was soon followed in to the winners’ enclosure by Sweden’s Jessica Long and Volatile, who won the Meydan Classic.
And it is Scandinavia who may cause an upset again Thursday when Sweden’s Bodil Halencreutz saddles the talented Let’sgoforit in what looks an Al Shindagha Sprint for the ages.
“I think he will run a big race as last time it was his first run since October,” she said. “We will see how he goes and if he runs well we will think about putting him in the Golden Shaheen.”
A month ago Let’sgoforit spread panic in the parade ring at Meydan when the eight-year-old grey reared on his hind legs and promptly tried to jump the hedge in front of the grandstand.
Having got stuck on it momentarily, he then demolished a plastic rail and a sponsor’s hoarding. Once passed by the vet as fit to race, Sweden’s Horse of the Year finished third to Thursday’s favourite Reynaldothewizard and Cool Cowboy.
Reynaldothewizard reopposes and will break from Gate 8, flanked by Hong Kong raider Rich Tapestry on his outside, and Muarrab, who suffered a laceration to his right-hind coronet last time, on his inner.
They are the three highest-rated horses in the 10-runner Group 3 contest, but are likely to be challenged by Godolphin’s Marking from Gate 2.
Hallencreutz has only 21 boxes at her base near Jagersro Racecourse outside Malmo to the south west of Sweden but is unfazed at taking on the big boys, provided her charge stays calm.
“I have taken many steps to take care that it does not happen again,” Hallencreutz said. “I will saddle him in the international barn before he comes to the parade ring, and he will go around there only once.
“He doesn’t like the tunnel but we have to go through there so I have decided to take off the blinkers so he can see.”
Godolphin only hit top gear last week at the Carnival as they won four times last week.
And in the UAE 2,000 Guineas they hold the colt’s Classic in an iron grip with Saeed bin Suroor’s Steady Pace and Charlie Appleby’s Rouleau primed to share the spoils.
Waiting in the wings to pounce, however, is Simon Dow, a small-time trainer from Epsom in England who hopes Hombre Rojo has the mojo to down his more celebrated rivals, with front-running tactics in his past three races having brought three victories.
Dow has just three Group 3 wins to his name during a career spanning nearly 30 years, so a victory Thursday with his first runner in Dubai would be a momentous occasion.
“His style of running would suit the dirt perfectly as he breaks from the gates so quickly,” Dow said.
“If he were to run very well or even win he could well stay out there until the UAE Derby on World Cup night.”
At least Meydan offers the opportunity to dream.
Trainer Doug Watson confident of Polar River’s prospects
Polar River could continue her career in America if she is successful in the UAE 1,000 Guineas at Meydan Thursday.
The filly scorched the dirt when she ran out an easy winner of the UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial last month. Her time was 1.29 seconds faster than UAE 2,000 Guineas favourite Steady Pace in his prep on the same night over the same course and distance.
It was the first time she had faced kickback, and she clearly still has a lot to learn but once she was extricated from her pocket behind horses by jockey Pat Dobbs the race was over in a matter of strides.
That was only her second run and such is her reputation at Doug Watson’s Red Stables that the US-bred filly has scared off almost all of the opposition in the US$250,000 (Dh918,200) fillies’ Classic.
Godolphin’s Promising Run, Kabaw and Dolly Dagger were all left trailing in her wake last time, and the only newcomer is the twice-raced Dubai Fashion, trained at Al Quoz by Saeed bin Suroor.
“I would hope we win the Guineas, but I am taking it step by step,” Watson said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“I am sure she will take the mile in the Guineas in her stride and should handle the step up to 1,900 metres for the UAE Oaks.
“I would love her to race in America, but we will see what the owners think after she runs in the Guineas.”
Polar River is not currently entered for the Kentucky Oaks on May 6, but there is an early payment deadline at the end of the month.
Entry to the Churchill Downs Classic is based on a points system, with the UAE Oaks carrying 50 points to the winner.
Jerry Hollendorfer’s unbeaten Songbird has pole position in the Kentucky Oaks at this stage, having torn apart the Grade 2 Lad Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita last week, her sixth victory in succession that includes the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
“Hopefully she is up to racing in America, but whether I want to run her in the Kentucky Oaks against Songbird I don’t know. She looked great the other day,” Watson added.
“I would hate to see Polar River stop at the end of the UAE season in March, her career should really go on.”
Five to look out for at Meydan
The Italian remains the leading jockey of all time at the Dubai World Cup with 19 wins from his time at Godolphin, and warmed up for Meydan by winning the Crown Prince Cup, Bahrain’s big race, aboard Bartack last week. Dettori has four rides Thursday, his first of the season, starting with Greatest Hits in the dirt handicap over a mile.
8.10pm, Conditions, 1,400m Charlie Appleby still awaits his first winner on dirt at the Carnival but surely Comicas is it in the Meydan Classic Trial. Comicas secured his only career success when he won his maiden on his third start in July. Doncaster's turf course has all-weather properties and as a son of US sire Distorted Humour the mount of William Buick is likely to relish the surface.
8.45pm, Group 3, 1,200m Rich Tapestry's name was initially left off this race due to a clerical error. Frenchman Gerald Mosse must have wondered what was going on as he is booked to ride the Hong Kong raider for all three runs in Dubai to include the Golden Shaheen. Rich Tapestry will be Mosse's first ride on the Meydan dirt and his first at the course since he was sixth in the World Cup on Red Cadeaux in 2014.
9.55pm, Group 3, 1,600m Steady Pace and Rouleau almost crossed the line in unison when first and second in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial last month. Neither looked great dirt performers, however, and they could be vulnerable. Step forward unbeaten Qurbaan.
10.30pm, Handicap, 1,800m Internationally renown trainer Dermot Weld does not have runners at Meydan for fun. The Irish handler has run just one horse at Meydan, and that was Princess Taylor in 2010. Tandem has a sharp turn of foot and is an interesting runner.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport