IRISH FLAME, South Africa’s Horse Of The Year in 2010, will make his keenly awaited Dubai debut in the Group 3 Al Rashidiya over 1800m on turf at Meydan on Thursday. His regular partner Kevin Shea gets the ride.
Mike has won the race three times with Right Approach (2004), Wolf Whistle (2005) and Silver Mist (2007). Irish Flame class alone puts him in contention to record a fourth success for the stable – he won a Listed race over 1800m as a three-year-old, but Mike said on Tuesday that the Dynasty colt definitely needs further now and that he cannot give horseplayers winning confidence.
“Irish Flame is very well, his work has impressed us, but he is being aimed at the Dubai City Of Gold (3 March) going into the Sheema Classic (26 March), both over 2410m. That’s the game plan and with this race he gets out of the starting blocks. With his Group 1 penalty he carries top weight in the Al Rashidiya which doesn’t make things easier. We want to get him going, he will run well but we’re not expecting him to win.”
Clearly Silver (GNB Sprint, 1200m, Turf), is one who should find the course and distance to his liking. He won twice over 1000m and twice over 1100m and finished third in the Listed Umgeni Sprint in his last South African start, when Grade 1 Computaform Sprint winner Noble Heir, subsequent Grade 3 winner Blue Voyager and subsequent Listed winner Bush Pirate were among those behind him.
Clearly Silver stayed on nicely for third on his Dubai debut over 1400m recently and while he hasn’t won over six furlongs in four attempts, Thursday’s handicap looks ideal for him now.
“Christophe Soumillon suggested we drop Clearly Silver to a shorter trip. We’ll be fitting him with blinkers too. His form is good enough to go close,” said Mike.
In the evening’s opener, the Friday Handicap over 1600m on the All-Weather, the stable will be looking for competitive runs from both Atlantic Sport (Shea) and Golden Sword (Soumillon).
“Atlantic Sport ran an excellent race behind Our Giant over 1200m here last time and he should enjoy the mile, he could go close. Golden Sword is one we’ll be watching with a lot of interest because his work is much better than it was last year and it looks like he’s putting his act together. He has the potential for a good Carnival.”
Mike feels that the grey Happy Valley is not at his peak yet but that the switch from Meydan’s turf to the all-weather will benefit him in the Aquarius Trophy over 2200m. “He wants he cut out of the ground,” he said about Soumillon’s mount.
Shea partners King Of Rome in the same race – they won a similar contest at more or less the same time last year – and Mike assessed the six-year-old as “the fittest he’s been”, and “going the right way”.
Mr Crazy Boy made welcome improvement in a turf race over 1800m a fortnight ago and will be tried over 2810m in the Wheels Trophy. More improvement is expected because this out-and-out staying trip may well be what the son of versatile sire Numerous (USA), needs to show his best, and Shea holds his reins again.
Mr Brock (Shea), beaten only 3.75 lengths by Mendip when needing a 1600m start recently, should maintain his progress in the Inside Out Trophy over 2000m on the All-Weather. He’s another who showed top form at almost exactly the same time last year and while not yet wound up should produce another game run.
Smart filly Raihana, who won twice at last year’s Carnival, makes her return to Meydan in the Xppress Trophy over 1600m on turf. She switches from the All Weather and Mike commented: “We’re hoping she will enjoy the turf so we can aim her at the Dubai Duty Free. She’s well, she excites us!”
Photo: Irish Flame in a training gallop at Greyville, July 2010.