THERE is a Carnival Double-Bill at Meydan this weekend and Mike de Kock has a number of useful entries at both meetings.
We’ll look at Thursday first and start with two runners who have been flying below the radar. The first is five-year-old entire Flying The Flag, shown in the photo below winning a Gr3 race over 2000m at the Curragh on 28 June 2013, racing for Aiden O’Brien, his second of two career victories.
Flying The Flag (Johnny Geroudis up) was seen out only three times since, racing for Mike de Kock and a new partnership of owners and just missing the money over 1800m, 2400m and 1600m respectively. Three pounds below his highest-ever rating, the chestnut gets a chance to show what he is capable of in a 2000m contest on turf – he’s rated near halfway down the handicap off 106 and what looks like a handy enough 58,5kg.
“Flying The Flag is improving all the while and he’s catching the eye in his exercise gallops. He ran on well after a rest last time and I fancy he’ll be very competitive here,” said Mike on Wednesday morning.
Lightly-raced four-year-old colt Johann Strauss (GB, Pat Dobbs) lines up in the Gr2 Zabeel Mile on turf after being touched off in a Listed race in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago, his first UAE appearance and indeed his first for the stable.
“Johann Strauss is rated 102 in a quality race against the likes of Dark Emerald and Safety Check and on paper looks to have a battle on his hands, but he’s a horse with scope and potential and I think he’s better than he’s rating, so he’s not out of it, he can spring a surprise,” Mike assessed.
Best at the Saturday meeting could be the highly regarded Zahee, set to contend the Nova Stakes over 1200m on turf with Christophe Soumillon at the helm. Zahee drops way back in distance after running on for second in an 1800m handicap last time but this, said Mike, should be of no concern to his supporters.
“It may seem crazy to drop him so far back in distance, but Zahee has a massive amount of pace and he won’t be disgraced against the these sprinters, he won over 1100m and 1200m in Australia as a young horse and he’s very well. He could be a good value Place bet.”
Mastermind: Plan needed for wide draw. (Andrew Watkins)
Other runner comments
Race 3: Gr3 UAE Oaks, 1900m on turf
Shahrasal (Paul Hanagan)
“Shahrasal is well exposed, she stayed on in the UAE Oaks Trial and she’ll get the trip, we’ll be looking for a first-three placing.”
Race 4: Listed Meydan Classic, 1400m on turf
Tannaaf (Oisin Murphy); Toscanelli (Wayne Smith); Mastermind (Dane O’Neill)
“We’re preparing Tannaaf for a race in the UK in April, he will need it being short of peak fitness and this is too short for him. Mastermind won an excellent race over the course and distance last time with Toscanelli two lengths behind him. It won’t be easy for Mastermind to repeat that feat as we have to contend with a wide draw this time and Paul Hanagan will be jumping on a horse for David Hayes in preference, so we’re not too sure what to expect. He’s well, however and so is Toscanelli who has come on steadily in the last few weeks after not showing too much when he joined us.”
Race 6: Gr2 Zabeel Mile on turf
Anaerobio (Geroudis); Johann Strauss (Dobbs); Darwin (Soumillon)
“Anaerobio keeps earning his way, conceivably he has a place chance again. Darwin should put up a better showing this time. He’s a much fitter horse and he’s better on turf. “ (Johann Strauss discussed above).
Race 7: Handicap over 2000m on turf
Mushreq (Hanagan); Flying The Flag (Geroudis)
“Mushreq was disappointing last time, but he had too much exposure during the running of the race. He’s a horse that likes to race almost buried behind others, to put up a strong effort and run on late. We’ll look for cover and a better performance. “ (Flying The Flag discussed above).
Race 1: Handicap over 1600m on dirt
El Estruendoso (Soumillon)
“His rating has dropped a bit now, but probably not enough and this is the last roll of the dice for El Estruendoso, we’ll be fitting him with blinkers and a tongue-tie.”
Race 3: Handicap over 1400m on dirt
Royal Ridge (Hanagan) showed pace last week over a mile, he had to race wide however and faded out over the last 300m. At the shorter he must have place prospects.
Race 4: Nova Stakes over 1200m on turf
Zahee (Soumillon); Fountain Of Youth) (O’Neill)
“Fountain Of Youth was slow into stride last week and then got trapped behind others in the straight and had to switch. With some luck he may have finished in the money. He’s doing nicely and should run well.” (Zahee discussed above).
Race 6: Gr 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy, 2810m on turf
Almoonqith (Hanagan) and Star Empire (Soumillon)
“Almoonqith has been in good form this term up to 2000m and we’re putting him over ground now, trying the 2810m. On pedigree he should see it out, he’s by Dynaformer and I believe he will enjoy the journey and make the frame; has a first-four chance. Star Empire hasn’t been running to the level of previous carnivals, his age is starting to show.”
Race 7: Handicap over 2000m on turf
Mujaarib (O’Neill) and Atomic Rush (Soumillon)
“We’ve got Mujaaribn as fit as we can have him for this race, he is well and has improved with every run this season. Atomic Rush is a horse I really like. He hasn’t had the best of preps for this race, we’ve had one or two problems with him and not enough training time, but he shows ability and should run a good race, we’re looking forward to see him in action.”