MIKE de Kock’s stable is out in force in Dubai this weekend, with no fewer than 17 runners carded to race in various contests at the meetings scheduled for Meydan on Thursday, 27 February and Saturday, 1 March.
He has representatives in the three feature events on the Thursday programme, starting with promising Wednaan (Christophe Soumillon) and Jalotta (Jim Crowley) in the Listed Meydan Classic over 1400m on turf, worth USD125,000.
Wednaan caught the eye in third when star three-year-old Long John won the UAE 2000 Guineas from Emirates Flyer and with both absent from this race, his winning chance looks good. Jalotta was a few lengths behind Wednaan in the same contest but is bound to get closer and Mike said: “Ours here are big runners, they’re fit and moving well. Wednaan is the form choice, but don’t leave Jalotta out of calculations. He’s improved remarkably over the last two weeks. They’re both better suited to turf so they’re likely to gain some confidence in this race.”
Mensoora, up against Godolphin’s star, Ihtimal.
The stable’s three-year-old fillies Mensoora (Soumillon), Magrooma (Richard Hughes) and Magroora (Pat Cosgrave) are all likely to enjoy the 1900m on the all-weather for the UAE Oaks (Gr3), in which USD250,000 is at stake. As talented as they are, the trio will have their work cut out to reverse the form of the UAE 1000 Guineas with Godolphin’s Ihtimal, who posted an almost effortless win and with improvement of her own, at the same weights, looks a blinder on paper.
“Ihtimal has proven European Group form on top of what we saw from her last time and she does look extremely hard to oppose,” Mike said. “Mensoora is our best, she had no kind of prep before the 1000 Guineas and she’s improved since that run. This is a horse race and anything can happen, but we’ll be surprised if any of our fillies can turn the tables on the Godolphin filly.”
Comparative formlines in a small field suggest that the Gr2 Zabeel Mile (USD250,000) is a winnable race and Mike holds a strong hand with Mushreq (Paul Hanagan, headline photo by Andrew Watkins), Gale Force Ten (Cosgrave) and Anaerobio (Soumillon).
Mike agreed, saying, “They’re all well, in fighting shape. Mushreq and Gale Force Ten, especially, have good chances. I think Anaerobio may be just out of his depth here with a bit to do, but he has place prospects.”
Earlier in the evening, Merhee (Soumillon) and Lehaaf (Cosgrave) take on nine others in a handicap over 1200m on the all-weather.
“Merhee likes the course and distance, he was beaten only a length in a similar race in January and with a repeat will have a say in the finish. Lehaaf has not lived up to expectations so far, we’ll be looking for a better run. His best showing in Dubai was on the all-weather and maybe he puts it together back on this surface.”
Alexandra Palace: Expected to run well over 2200m. (Andrew Watkins).
Alexandra Palace (Soumillon) is the second-highest rated runner in an all-weather handicap over 2200m that closes the evening’s racing. While Mike suggested last week that his 106-rating may be a touch too high, the formbook indicates that Alexandra Palace has a good money chance if he sees out the trip. Mike opined: “He’s a big-striding horse and he’s comfortable on Tapeta so yes, I think he will stay. He took his run last week well, he’s come on, he has definite claims.
“Our other entry Vasily is a tough horse to steady, he took a hold and over-raced last time so you can draw a line through that run. He’s got a place chance if all goes well this time.”
Five-year-old Mickdaam is rated several points higher than his rivals in a handicap over 2000m on the all-weather that opens the Saturday meeting. He won a Listed race at this track at more or less the same time last year, but did have two pipe-openers before that win as opposed to only one this term.
Mike said: “Mickdaam is well, but we haven’t got him at his best yet, he needs this run to sharpen him up.” Mickdaam faces only five rivals, however, and despite having to give weight all round and being short of his peak, he’s beaten better and should be in the shake-up on his class alone.
Kavanagh (Soumillon) has been out of sorts recently, but he gets a chance to redeem himself in a sprint handicap over 1200m on turf, a race he won almost exactly a year ago to the day, a performance he hasn’t been able to match since.
“We’ll be fitting Kavanagh with cheek pieces and his return to this course and distance may do the trick, he has been working well,” Mike told.
Disa Leader (Soumillon) was fancied when he finished out of the frame last week, but he got caught between runners in a 16-horse field and has an easier task in an all-weather handicap over 1600m, in which only eight runners will go to post. “Perhaps things go his way this time, he deserves a bit of luck and he’s still in good shape.”
Star Empire (Soumillon) always gives of his best and he’s well in at the weights with his old rival Centerach in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy over 2810m on turf. Without having to fear their recent conqueror Excellent Result, some will expect this to be a boat race, but Mike cautioned: “I think this a competitive race with a few new rivals coming into the fray. Also, Star Empire needs a good pace. If we don’t get a decent clip, he’ll have a tough task out there.”
Sanshaawes (Soumillon), off the mark in his second Dubai start with an easy win over 2000m on the all-weather a fortnight ago, finds himself in better company over the same distance in the District One Phase III Handicap. He switches to turf and Mike commented: “I think Sanshaawes is better on turf and he could be up to it. He’ll be very competitive.”