At least there is likely to be a new name on the roll of honour.
Doug Watson’s Polar River is the star attraction at Meydan Thursday night and the unbeaten filly is primed and ready to turn the UAE Oaks into a procession.
Saeed Bin Suroor has held an iron grip on the Group 3 race since he won the inaugural event in 2001 with Laoub, and has won 10 of the 15 runnings of the 1,900-metre contest.
The master of Al Quoz has nothing for the race Thursday, however, and it is left to Mike de Kock’s exciting Argentinean Grade 1 winner Vale Dori to put up some sort of challenge on her first start since May.
Dolly Dagger, the only other runner, has been left trailing in the wake of Polar River and was 17 lengths adrift of the overwhelming favourite in the UAE 1,000 Guineas last month. She was 13 lengths behind in the trial in January.
Last month Polar River’s time was a wildly impressive 0.99 seconds quicker than the colts in the UAE 2,000 Guineas and regular jockey Pat Dobbs was only cruising in the final 400m.
Watson has finally grabbed the bit and on Tuesday the three-year-old daughter of 2005 San Pasqual Stakes winner Congrats was included in the list of 112 fillies entered for May’s Kentucky Oaks alongside current favourite and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Songbird.
Watson is looking forward to the day Polar River can be finally stretched to showcase her outrageous talent.
“I’m not saying she can beat Songbird and the American fillies, but to compete over there would be fantastic and owners would really enjoy it, too,” Watson said.
“She travels well and has a big turn of foot and does everything right at home. She has the right disposition.”
Polar River bids to become the fifth filly to add the UAE Oaks to a win in the UAE 1000 Guineas after Satin Kiss, Folk, Cocoa Beach and Local Time.
If she wins Thursday night on her first attempt around two turns at Meydan, Watson intends to run her in the UAE Derby against the colts on World Cup night on March 26, much as Bin Suroor’s Khawlah did when she won both Classics on Tapeta in 2011.
There may be little to trouble her.
Doug O’Neill’s Frank Conversation, last month’s El Camino Derby winner at Golden Gate Fields, has been warming up for the UAE Derby at Santa Anita. There are sure to be others from America, and a few from Japan but her times stand up to the closest scrutiny, despite the lack of serious opposition.
“It is a small pool of horses here,” Watson added. “She will get a couple of kilos from the boys in the Derby. We know she likes the track. It will be good for her to be in a bigger field and we see how she copes with that.”
Given that there is a purse of US$250,000 (Dh918,237) on Thursday the Dubai Racing Club can feel aggrieved that so few fillies have turned up to take on Polar River.
Small fields in the UAE Oaks are hardly new, however. Imperial Gesture beat four rivals at Nad Al Sheba in 2002 and Local Time brushed aside a quartet of fillies only last year.
Whether field sizes on the dirt of Meydan, which replaced the Tapeta surface ahead of last season, is an issue it is too early to tell.
There have been 56 races so far in this Dubai World Cup Carnival and there have been nine races that have had fewer than eight runners.
It is a similar story in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes on turf.
Euro Charline, ridden by Ryan Moore, will face only six rivals in the 1,800m contest including Godolphin’s Cape Verdi winner Very Special, who will be ridden by James Doyle. It will be Doyle’s first ride since he contracted appendicitis last month.
Euro Charlene and Very Special clash in Group 2 Balanchine Stakes
There are Dubai World Cup night clues aplenty over the next few days with Meydan’s double-header taking centre stage.
There is a US$2.8 million (Dh10.2m) in prize-money on offer at the UAE’s flagship racecourse with 10 Group races set to be run across Thursday’s seven-race card and on Super Saturday.
Euro Charline and Very Special clash in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes as a precursor to a tilt at the $6 million Dubai Turf on March 26, but beforehand in France reining champion Solow warms up for a defence of his title in Chantilly.
The six-year-old son of World Cup winner Singspiel lines up in the Prix Montjeu, a conditions race over 1,600 metres on Polytrack that he used last season ahead of his stunning success at Meydan.
It is a route that trainer Freddy Head and jockey Maxime Guyon are very comfortable with.
“It worked well last year running him in this so we thought we’d do it again,” Head said.
“This race suits him, he doesn’t have to give that much weight away.
“He’s a year older but he’s still the same, he hasn’t changed physically.
“I’m very happy with him, of course he won’t be 100 per cent as it is early March, but he’s not far off.”
Solow faces five rivals and must give German Group 2 winner Vadamos and rider Vincent Cheminaud 1kg. Solow will be aided by a pace maker in stable companion Green Sweet, who will be ridden by Thierry Jarnet.
Solow is on a winning sequence of nine wins, which last season included five victories at the highest level.
Five things to look out for at Meydan on Thursday
The British jockey has an enviable book of rides across Meydan’s double-header and partners the top-rated Euro Charline in tonight’s Group 2 Balanchine. Moore also gets the leg-up aboard Simon Crisford’s First Selection in the Meydan Classic and rides for Mike de Kock aboard Tellina in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy.
Crisford has yet to have a winner in Dubai as a trainer, but the wily former Godolphin racing manager has a potential top-notcher in First Selection. It is the colt’s first run since October however, and Charlie Appleby’s Meydan Classic Trial winner could give him a real fight.
Vale Dori is a Group 1 winner in Argentina but she faces a tough task against Polar River. She has to give the unbeaten filly weight due to being foaled in the southern hemisphere and had a setback due to injury earlier in the Carnival. Trainer De Kock is sure to find out a lot more tonight.
8.45pm, Meydan Euro Charline was not at her best when she was fourth in last season's Dubai Turf and connections have decided to give her a prep run tonight in the Balanchine. Very Special looked an improver last time in the Cape Verdi and would provide a welcome return for rider James Doyle.
9.55pm, Meydan De Kock could have a few winners on the night and none would be cheered more than Star Empire in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy. The wonderfully named Sheikhzayedroad is a tough international campaigner, however, and may well just best him.
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