SHEA Shea (Christophe Soumillon, headline photo) makes his keenly awaited return to racing in the Gr3 Meydan Sprint over on Saturday during the penultimate meeting of the 2014 Dubai International Carnival.
The popular SA-bred sprinter hasn’t raced since taking second place in the Gr1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York last August, following places in both the Gr1 Darley July Cup (Newmarket) and the Gr 1 King’s Stand Stakes (Ascot) earlier in the 2013 British flat season.
Shea Shea won the Meydan Sprint after having one prep run at the Carnival last year and comes into this year’s event without the benefit of a pipe-opener, but Mike was confident of a good run when he discussed his runners on Thursday evening. He said: “Shea Shea had a long layoff before the start of his campaign last year, buy he’s had a good, long prep this year and he’s looking well. He’ll need it, but we have him as fit as we can have him without a run under the belt. He’ll lack natural race fitness coming back, but he’s been showing us good work and we’re expecting a good run. We’ll be aiming him at the Gr1 Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night, like last year.”
Soft Falling Rain, a wide draw to contend with. (Andrew Watkins).
Also on the comeback trail is Soft Falling Rain (Paul Hanagan), who will be going for a second win in the Godolphin Mile and will be going there via the Mahab Al Shimaal over 1200m on the all-weather. He, too, has been coming along the right way. “I’ll be happy to see him settle off the quick runners and then to run on from there, but his drawn widest of all and may have to commit. He’ll need this sprint after his rest, but we’re very happy with his progress. He’s on target and doing well.”
Gale Force Ten (Soumillon), with good sprint form earlier in his career, is in the same line-up and Mike said: “He’s been so disappointing. We couldn’t have him looking or working better but he hasn’t picked it up. We’ll try different tactics with him this time.”
The Gr1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on turf tops the bill and the stable is well represented with all of the unbeaten Vercingetorix (Soumillon), Mushreq (Hanagan), Anaerobio (Pat Cosgrave) and Mars (Richard Hughes) going to post in a competitive race.
“This is a good test for Vercingetorix, his biggest yet,” Mike assessed. “He never gives anything away in his work, but he looks exceptionally well and we’re hoping he’ll rise to the task again. Mushreq was perhaps slightly below his best when he was well beaten last time, but we’ve kept him really fresh this week and he’s ready, he looks well. Anaerobio missed his run last week but he’s in good shape too, though this may be just too stiff a task for him. Mars will be –reuniting with Richard Hughes, who rode him in the Derby last year and knows the horse. We’ll be fitting him with blinkers and we’re expecting a nice run.”
Zahee (Soumillon) takes on Variety Club in the Gr 3 Burj Nahaar over a mile on the all-weather and while Mike doesn’t expect to beat Joey Ramsden’s star, he said: “Zahee is impressive in his work, he is really well and I think he’ll be in the first four.”
Ramsden said about Variety Club: “What can I say, all has gone well with him. We have a wide draw but he’s had a good prep and I’m happy. He’s done everything required of him.”
The recently impressive Sanshaawes (Soumillon) and consistent Alexandra Palace (Cosgrave) will have a tilt at the Gr1 Al Maktoum Challenge over 2000m on the all-weather. “Both are very fit, but both take a big jump in class,” Mike commented.
Impressive Sanshaawes, back on the all-weather. (Andrew Watkins).
Mujaarib (Hanagan) has a Gr2 win and a Listed place to his name from two runs at the Carnival and he could earn again in the Dubai City Of Gold over 2410m on turf. Mike noted, however, that there is a “big question mark” about the trip, as Mujaarib hasn’t ventured beyond 2000m before. “He seems to run the way he wants to run, only the race will show whether he sees out the distance.”
The other De Kock runner on the night is Full Combat (Hanagan), who has a shout in the Al Bastakiya over 1900m on the all-weather if he reproduces his best form. Mike said: “Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to race him in blinkers last time, he was disappointing when we fancied him to run very well. If we forgive that run, he has a fighting chance.”