Selection and maintenance of the aim is the first task of any military commander, and in the context of the Super Saturday card at Meydan, it is easy for some trainers to be lured into the trap of winning the battle and not the war.
Courtesy of Emirates Airlines, there is $1.775 million (Dh6.52m) to play for across the seven races that culminate with the Group 1 double-header of the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge and the Jebel Hatta.
The purses on offer may be generous, but they are small fry compared to the eye-watering riches and prestige on offer on Dubai World Cup night in three weeks.
Since the concept of Super Saturday was set up in 2003, there have been 27 horses that have run at Saturday night’s fixture who have gone on to win on the richest night in world racing.
Only 10 horses doubled up, and it is no surprise that Saeed bin Suroor and Mike de Kock were responsible for seven of those.
De Kock has proved the master at using Super Saturday to ready his horses for the limelight of the biggest stage, and his gutsy and talented mare Ipi Tombe was the first horse to win at both meetings when she scooped the Dubai Turf, having won the 2003 Jebel Hatta.
De Kock has won the Al Maktoum Challenge, a traditional prep race over the same 2000-metre distance as the World Cup, twice with Victory Moon in 2004 and Asiatic Boy in 2009. Both of those horses finished in the places in the World Cup, not through lack of preparation, but because they were beaten by a better opponent.
De Kock saddles in the feature Mubtaahij, last season’s UAE Derby winner, who won the Al Bastikiya on this card 12 months ago.
From there, Mubtaahij went to America and duelled with Saturday night’s chief rival Keen Ice, who twice bested him. In the Kentucky Derby, Mubtaahij finished eighth, three-quarters of a length behind Keen Ice. A month later Mubtaahij narrowed the gap to a neck in the Belmont Stakes.
Running for places behind American Pharoah is one thing, but emerging from the shadow of last season’s dominant force is another, and without the Triple Crown winner involved, the dynamic of the race changes completely.
Neither Mubtaahij nor Keen Ice impressed on seasonal debut. Mubtaahij ran well over an inadequate distance of 1800 metres in the Firebreak Stakes last month to be fifth, two spots behind Godolphin’s Watershed, who reopposes.
Two days later in America, Keen Ice ran a similar race over the same distance when fourth in the Group 1 Donn Handicap behind Mshawish.
Both trainers were happy with the runs, however, and coming in to Saturday’s event, there is the suspicion that De Kock may well have his charge more forward than trainer Dale Romans will. Mubtaahij will be running at 90-95 per cent, the South African handler estimates.
It is the same situation across the card. Charlie Appleby’s Tryster takes on a phalanx of South African-trained runners led by De Kock’s Ertijaal in the Jebel Hatta.
Postponed, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, has his first outing of the season up against the talented French raider Dariyan and Al Asayl’s Balios in the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold.
Sole Power has never won the Meydan Sprint but will warm up for a defence of his Al Quoz Sprint title against King’s Stand Stakes winner Goldream, last year’s winner Sir Maximilian and the smart Godolphin pair of Jungle Cat and Toscanini.
Hong Kong challenger Rich Tapestry bids to reclaim his Mahab Al Shimaal crown he clinched on Tapeta in 2014 ahead of an attempt to win his first Dubai Golden Shaheen.
Balancing the needs of the present with an eye on the future is the Super Saturday game. Just do not lose sight of the prize.
The 10 horses who have won on Super Saturday and World Cup night:
2003 — Ipi Tombe: Jebel Hatta and Dubai Turf
2006 — Electrocutionist: Al Maktoum Challenge and Dubai World Cup
2007 — Asiatic Boy: Al Bastikiya and UAE Derby
2012 — Krypton Factor: Mahab Al Shimaal and Dubai Golden Shaheen
2012 — African Story Burj Nahaar and Godolphin Mile
2013 — Sajjhaa: Jebel Hatta and Dubai Turf
2013 — Reynaldothewizard: Mahab Al Shimaal and Dubai Golden Shaheen
2013 — Shea Shea: Meydan Sprint and Al Quoz Sprint
2015 — Mubtaahij: Al Bastikiya and UAE Derby
2015 — Tamarkuz: Burj Nahaar and Godolphin Mile
Geoffrey’s Super Saturday picks:
4pm: Blue Creek
4.35pm: Rich Tapestry
5.10pm: Jungle Cat
5.45pm: Top Clearance
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