THERE is a double-header in store for racing enthusiasts at Meydan in Dubai onThursday, 17 February and Friday 18 February.
The De Kock stable will field a host of runners and with a few of the yard’s top individuals in action they will be expecting to continue their recent spate of winners.
Mike is hopeful of good runs from several entries, in particular Our Giant and Raihana (Thursday) and Here To Win, River Jetez and Golden Sword ( seen winning on headline photo: Andrew Watkins) on Friday.
Our Giant (Kevin Shea) and Raihana (Christophe Soumillon) will represent the team in the $US250 000 Al Fahidi Fort over 1600m on turf. This is one of the early features Mike won on his first visit to Dubai in 2003 with star filly Ipe Tombe (Shea) and twice again since with Yard-Arm (Weichong Marwing, 2005) and Archipenko (Shea, 2008).
Our Giant: Very well.
Soumillon would love to get his name on the board and Mike said that Raihana was “very fit and well and suited to the distance”. He did add, however. that the Belgian-born rider had found it hard to choose between his mount and Our Giant, on which Shea will grab the opportunity to bag his own record fifth win in the race.
Besides his feats on Ipi Tombe and Archipenko, Shea also scored back-to-back wins on Linngari for trainer Herman Brown (jr), in 2006 and 2007.
“Our Giant is very well and he is a Grade 1 winner over a mile on turf. The track here is firm, but he’s in good shape and should run a big race,” said Mike.
Brazilian jockey Tiego Pereira will partner Atlantic Sport in the first leg of the Meydan Masters Jockeys Challenge over 1600m on the All Weather. “We’ll be running Atlantic Sport in blinkers. He kicked on late over 1400m last time and he’s very well. Pereira was the jockey who beat our Lizard’s Desire in the Dubai World Cup on Gloria De Campeo last year.”
Star Empire stayed on well to win a 2485m on turf a few weeks ago, his first attempt beyond 1900m. He’ll be going for the double in a 2810m handicap on turf (Race 4), but it won’t be easy. Mike commented: “The extra 335m makes a definite difference, it’s not a given that he will see it out and he takes on a stronger field. But of course there is a chance that he’s an out-and-out stayer and that he will excel over the extra. We’ll see how he goes.”
Warsaw: In form.
Mr Crazy Boy (Olivier Peslier) gets another chance to put his act together in a 2200m handicap on the All-Weather. Barring one promising recent run over 1800m he’s been disappointing and Mike said: “We can only hope for improvement, he hasn’t delivered here in Dubai.”
Warsaw (Shea) and Mahubo (Pat Cosgrave) go to post in a 1400m contest on turf and Warsaw should in the shake-up with a repeat of his good last run.
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Pereira gets another ride on a De Kock runner, Absolute Heretic, in Race 3 on Friday, a 2504m handicap on turf. The sparingly raced son of Galileo was under three lengths off on his Dubai debut over 2000m and Mike said: “He’s a horse that shows us little in work, but on the strength of his only run here I fancy he can make the frame, he could be one of those horses that reserves their best for the race track.”
Here To Win makes her third desert appearance – in a 1600m race on the All Weather this time – and a good run is likely. “She was disappointing when we fancied her on turf last time, but her work on the All Weather is very good and she can make amends here.”
Solid Choice: Expect better!
Frosty Secret (Bernard Fayd’Herbe, “improvement expected) and Solid Choice (Soumillon, “a bit jarred up last time, working very well”) are both expected to be involved at the business end of a 1400m handicap on the All Weather.
A highlight for the stable this week is a top run expected from the formidable race mare River Jetez, whose part-owner Marsh Shirtliff will be jetting out to the UAE to rub off his customary luck.
The seven-year-old was considered unlucky not to have won her Dubai debut, 1 600m race on 20 January, and Mike reckons she’ll take a power of beating in the $200,000 Balanchine over 1800m.
“River Jetez has enjoyed a great preparation and we’re very confident about her chances,” he enthused on Wednesday.
Reem (Shea), will come under starter’s orders in the same event and Mike believes she can earn her third stake cheque from as many runs at Meydan. “Reem has beaten and run second to Mahbooba, who is a top filly, and she gets her weight-for-age allowance. It will be interesting to see how a three-year-old shapes against the older runners.”
Golden Sword (Soumillon) and Mr Brock (Shea), will go to battle in a 2000m race on the All Weather, a handicap that will end the evening’s proceedings, by the sound of it on a high note too,
Mike told: “Golden Sword is still improving, we’re getting really excited about him and we’d like to qualify him for the World Cup. He took his last race well, that was a super win, but he needs to win again to get his rating up and have a chance of getting into the big race.
“Mr Brock ran a good race in second to Bronze Cannon last time, he looks as game as ever and he’ll be giving of his best again.”