The Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 is the highlight of the Dubai World Cup Carnival Week 4 but conspicuous in their absence will be the familiar royal blue silks of Godolphin.
Heading the 10-runner field in the race is the John Gosden-trained British raider Dubai Warrior. A winner of six of his 10 starts in the all-weather in England is making his dirt debut at Meydan on Thursday.
Frankie Dettori, the most successful jockey with five wins in the history of a race that started in 1994, will be on board. The Italian is also the leading rider in this year’s Carnival with five winners so far.
“He has been pleasing in his work and works nicely enough on the dirt,” Gosden said of the five-year-old son of Dansili. “Obviously a race is a different matter, so we will find out if he handles it Thursday.”
The Uruguayan runner Ajuste Fiscal, who has six career victories, will be looking to build on his promising fifth in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 over the 1,600m trip.
His handler Antonio Cintra Pereira said: “We were very pleased with that first run and the longer trip will suit. We still hope he is a Dubai World Cup horse.”
Bahraini Fawzi Nass sends out Salute The Soldier, third in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1.
“He has run well both times this season when in need of the run,” his regular rider Adrie de Vies said of the Sepoy gelding. “It is the first time we have tried him over further than 1,600m, but the trip should not be an issue.”
Doug Watson’s Thegreatcollection, runner-up in the Round-1 and previously a winner over the track and trip course in January.
“We have been keen to step him up from 1,600m, so this is the ideal opportunity,” Watson said. “It is a good race to stretch him out. I think it will suit him, but it is a strong race.”
Salem bin Ghadayer has three entered, led by Capezzano, the choice of Mickael Barzalona.
He is joined by Blown By Wind, winner of the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile on his second and most recent local outing, and Firnas, victorious in December's Listed The Entisar over 2,000m on the Meydan dirt.
“Blown By Wind delighted us at Jebel Ali and has been working well since,” Bin Ghadayer said.
“Capezzano is also going nicely at home, we just need him to transfer that back to the course. Firnas too is in good shape. He is tough and consistent.”
Godolphin doesn’t have any runners in the Maktoum Challenge but they are well represented in the remaining four races for the thoroughbreds, including the Group 2 Rashidiya.
The Al Rashidiya is the main support race and consists of a potentially mouth-watering re-match between another British raider Lord Glitters and Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby’s Zakouski and Saeed bin Suroor’s Dream Castle.
David O'Meara's Lord Glitters was an impressive winner from the Godolphin pair in the Group 2 Singspiel Stakes. However, he now carries a 1.5kg penalty for that win.
“That was brilliant in the Singspiel; to travel an eight-year-old and win a big prize was just great. The penalty does not help, but he has remained in great form,” O’Meara said.
Zakouski, with William Buick on board, was successful on both his previous Meydan appearances in 2020, including when flying home to take the Group 2 Zabeel Mile.
“We were obviously pleased with Zakouski’s first outing of the year in the Singspiel Stakes, when he produced a good effort,” Appleby said.
“He has come on for that run and a slightly improved performance should put him bang there.”
Bin Suroor added: “Dream Castle ran very well last time and came out of the race in great form. The 1,800m at Meydan is ideal for him and we expect another big run.”