DUBAI // Even after three international horses have been flown in to run at Super Saturday, the Dubai Racing Club is taking the long view on how to attract more high-quality competition to the second-best night in the UAE calendar.
Postponed, Lani and Decorated Knight will headline the $1.8 million (Dh6.6m) card at Meydan Racecourse.
Postponed defends his crown in the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold in preparation for an attempt to become the first horse to win the Dubai Sheema Classic twice on World Cup night.
Japan’s Lani is on a fact-finding mission in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Last season’s UAE Derby winner has been in and out of form in America and Japan since his heroics at Dubai 12 months ago, and connections hope that either an invitation to the World Cup, or the Godolphin Mile, will be forthcoming after Saturday’s effort.
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Decorated Knight is yet to win a Classic — or a Group 1 contest — but lines up as the favourite for the Group 1 Jebel Hatta, having graduated through the ranks in England under Roger Charlton’s guidance.
They are all good horses, but Postponed apart, they are a far cry from the quality that is primed to fly in over the next three weeks ahead of the World Cup meeting that will be headed by Arrogate, the world’s best horse.
The Al Maktoum Challenge was upgraded to a Group 1 race alongside the Jebel Hatta in time for the 2012 World Cup Carnival and the prize money for the showpiece dirt and turf events are $400,000 and $300,000, respectively.
That sort of prize money is not to be sniffed at, and since the Super Saturday concept was launched in 2003 it has proved to be a solid springboard to the richest night in racing. Twelve horses have completed the Super Saturday and World Cup double, and a further 17 World Cup night winners stepped up from Super Saturday.
“Our intention is to get more international runners to use this night as a prep,” Dubai Racing Club’s executive director Frank Gabriel said.
“Of course the methods of preparation vary from trainer to trainer, particularly across jurisdictions, and we have to respect their decisions.
“The Jebel Hatta on turf is the one race we are looking at particularly.”
If the racing club is struggling to get the best international talent for Super Saturday, it has helped create an environment whereby the three-year-old dirt population is thriving.
When Meydan chose to replace the Tapeta surface with dirt for the 2014/15 season, only six turned up in the Al Bastikiya, the traditional prep for the UAE Derby.
Last season, Market Rally beat only three others, whereas this season a field of 12 runners is the biggest for five years.
This has been made possible by the programme for young dirt horses being implemented.
It is no surprise that the three favourites, Mike de Kock’s Fawree, Godolphin’s Capezzano and Doug Watson’s Cosmo Charlie — in addition to Satish Seemar’s Dawwass — all took advantage of the first programme before the Carnival began in December.
“It has taken time for the horsemen to adjust, to buy the right horses for the surface and hopefully we are beginning to see the fruit of their work,” Gabriel said.
“There has been an influx of two-year-olds here. We started out with a few two-year-old races and then just kept adding to the programme.
“You are continually adding to your pool of horses and building your horse population.
“But if you don’t have that horse population competing against international Group 1 horses you have nothing to measure them against.”
For now you will just have to appreciate what the likes of Postponed, Lani and Decorated Knight bring to the table.
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