DUBAI // Meydan Racecourse hosts Super Thursday tonight, the second-biggest night on the UAE racing calendar. The eight-race card, which features one Group 1, three Group 2 and two Group 3 contests is the dress rehearsal for the US$26.25m (Dh96.4m) Dubai World Cup day races.
The main event is the third of this season's Al Maktoum Challenge series of outings, run over the World Cup distance and considered the final big prep race for the March 26 showpiece
Yet the field in that Group 2 contest, which features four from Godolphin as well as Musir, Mike de Kock's exciting 2010 UAE Derby winner, does not tell the full story of the World Cup candidates.
The US contenders are yet to run in the UAE, while Bold Silvano, de Kock's World Cup favourite, misses out with a foot injury.
Meanwhile, Mendip, a 2010 UAE Derby third for Godolphin, has avoided another clash with Musir, with connections instead opting to contest the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over a mile.
The lightly raced winner of the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge runs this season in the green of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed and is the choice of Frankie Dettori, the Godolphin jockey.
"He's doing all right," Dettori said of the four-year-old colt, who displayed blistering pace when winning the 1,600m first round by two-and-a-quarter lengths in January. "He's a young horse and you would expect him to improve."
Although Mendip has won four of his five starts, question marks have been raised over his temperament in the past and that factor, as well as his youth, may have persuaded Saeed bin Suroor, his trainer, to continue his policy of spacing out the colt's races.
"The team decided that because he's such a young horse, we would give him more time before racing him again instead of racing him in the Al Maktoum Challenge round two," Dettori said.
"He's only run five times and he's maturing all the time and is an improving type and I would really expect him to improve again."
The decision to run Mendip over the mile instead of the World Cup distance may indicate a willingness to consider a shot at the World Cup day Godolphin Mile and Dettori warned that Mendip would need to prove himself before he could be considered World Cup calibre.
"He still has to go that step higher," said Dettori, who rode World Cup winners for Godolphin in 2000, 2003 and 2006. "Right now I would say he's not got quite enough about him to win a World Cup but then you think, he's only run five times and then maybe he can improve further. But only after his next race will we know because potentially he could be good but he needs to step up a bit more."
Stable companion Sangaree, who finished behind Doug Watson's long-shot winner Famous Warrior last time, also lines up, as does the Watson horse. Our Giant, a conditions winner over 1,200m this season, represents de Kock.
Presvis, an almost five-length winner at the end of January, is back in action in the closing Group 2 Jebel Hatta.
The evening's proceedings start with a renewal of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge for purebred Arabians. Paris Gagner, (Watson) No Risk al Maury and Periander (both Gillian Duffield) are all considered serious contenders. Another runner, Erwan Charpy's Santhal, the elder statesman of UAE Arabian racing, has already captured the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge this season, while No Risk al Maury was the winner of the first round on the Carnival's opening day.