SEVEN-year-old Star Empire (Christophe Soumillon) is fancied to fight out the finish of Thursday night’s USD150,000 Nova Stakes over 2810m on turf at Meydan in Dubai.
Star Empire won this race last year and Mike reported on Wednesday that Mohammed Khaleel’s gelding has a good chance of following up.
“He’s had a good preparation, he’s very well and as we know he likes the trip. He has top weight but he’s game, he should go close,” said Mike.
Star Empire (red cap, right), winning at Meydan in 2013. Centerach (green silks), is a rival once more. (Andrew Watkins).
The stable is excited about Zahee, who has emerged as a high-stakes contender over the last few weeks. He’ll be lining up in the Gr2 Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 2), over 1900m on the all-weather, which tops the bill at this, the seventh Carnival meeting of 2014.
Zahee finished second at the course and distance in last season’s Al Bastikiya, but Mike said before his seasonal debut last week that he was stronger and better this year. Zahee confirmed that with an eye-catching win over 1400m under Soumillon, who will hold his reins again.
Zahee took his comeback run well and he’s bound to make a strong bid, although he is still a few lengths off his peak. Mike commented: “It’s not ideal for us to run him again so soon, but we have to enter our runners in the most suitable races at the Carnival. Zahee is a Group quality horse and he should run well again, but this is a stronger field than last week. He’s up against a horse like Dunaden, who’s a seasoned Gr1 performer. Sean Tarry’s Heavy Metal is also coming along the right way and bears watching.”
The yard’s other runners at this meeting are Journeyman (Meydan Classic Trial); Magroora, Magrooma and Mensoora (Listed UAE 1000 Guineas Trial) and Disa Leader, El Estruendoso and Al Hebayeb (Cepsa Mile).
Mike viewed their chances as follows:
“His Dubai debut was satisfactory, he needed the run badly and he’s come on. He’s coltish and hasn’t been easy to train, but his work on turf is good and he should be competitive.”
Magroora (Thierry Thulliez); Magrooma (Richard Hughes) and Mensoora (Soumillon)
“All three fillies have made marked improvement from their first runs here in Dubai, even Mensoora, who was green when stepping out last week and took the run very well considering the problems we had with her when she arrived. She’s Christophe’s pick of the three having raced against some of the best European Group fillies last week and taking a drop in class, but both Magroora and Magrooma are fillies with ability. Of the two I prefer Magrooma, but I reckon their won’t be much between the them and, for that matter, Mensoora. It’s an interesting contest for us.”
Disa Leader (Johnny G), needs a bit of luck in running. (Andrew Watkins)
Disa Leader (Johnny Geroudis); El Estruendosa (Soumillon) and Al Hebayeb (Pat Cosgrave)
“El Estruendoso seems to be near his best now, he has a fighting chance. Disa Leader is a honest old handicapper, what you see is what you get. He ran very well last week but he’ s drawn out wide and always seems to need a bit of luck in running. Al Habayeb has been disappointing so far, we’ll be looking for a better run but we’re not sure what to expect.”
His best of the night?
“All factors considered, I’d say Star Empire could be our best, but as noted there are a few others with chances.”
On Friday, Lehaaf will fly the flag for the stable in a 1200m contest on the dirt track at Jebel Ali Racecourse. Mike has raised Lehaaf’s well-being and improvement a few times this term and he noted: “Lehaaf was eliminated from a race at Meydan due to his low rating. He prefers further, but he has good pace and I think he’ll be right there at the finish, he has a winning chance.”
Headline photo: Mike in Meydan training paddock.