ERSTWHILE South African race caller Peter Duffield often loudly exclaimed, “It’s Race Time!” and we’d like to announce, with similar enthusiasm… “It’s Dubai International Carnival Time”!
Meydan’s Pillar Partner and Official Timekeeper, Longines, presents the opening US$920,000 Dubai World Cup Carnival card of 2016 on Thursday. The meeting is highlighted by the first rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge races for Purebred Arabians and Thoroughbreds.
Mike de Kock fields nine runners at this opening meeting and he jokingly described them as his ‘Squad Of Pensioners’. The average age of the stable’s first runners is six-and-a-half years which would’ve been close to seven if not for the presence of four-year-old Banaadeer, who will leading the Band Of Old Boys from Blue Stables to the racetrack.
Headline photo boy: Star Empire is fresh as a daisy. (Charl Pretorius)
Meydan’s officials won’t be handing out any carrot vouchers and they won’t allow the likes of nine-year-old Star Empire and eight-year-old Anaerobio any head-start but chances are the old stalwarts won’t need any favours.
“I suspect my average horse at Meydan’s first carnival meeting is older than the average horse in Sean Tarry’s yard and that tells you the story,” Mike quipped in reference to his friend, the reigning South African Champion Trainer.
He added: “These older horses become more and more unpredictable with age, but they are still so impressive, they love their work and they’re fresh with all indications that they will see out another season just loving it. The carnival lends itself to horses like these who don’t race a lot elsewhere.”
Mike supplied his individual runner notes:
Race 2: Handicap over 1200m on Dirt
Royal Ridge (Wayne Smith)
“Our horse here is seven-year-old Royal Ridge, who ended his Carnival last year with a good run over 1400m on dirt. He has a good inside gate, he’s well and has a Place chance.
Race 3: Handicap over 1000m on Turf
Banaadeer (AUS) (Dane O’Neill)
“I said last year that Banaadeer will be a better horse this year and I will stick to that, he looks the part. He’s in what I believe is a really tough comeback race so this won’t be easy. He’s fresh and well but will improve for the outing.”
Race 4: Gr2 Al Maktoum Challenge (Race 1), 1600m on Dirt
Prayer For Relief (USA) (Christophe Soumillon)
“Here’s an interesting horse called Prayer For Relief, he is eight years old. He came to us just before World Cup night last year and we had only two weeks to prepare him so that was far from ideal. Despite that he ran a fair race about eight lengths off in the Gr2 Godolphin Mile. He’s had a very good preparation this time, he is sound and moving well. The drawbacks are that this comeback run is on dirt, that’s never easy, and also he’s in a really competitive field. It’s a strong renewal of the Maktoum Round 1 that includes plenty of Godolphin Mile runners from last year. Five of them were ahead of him on the day. We’ll see how he goes, he has some good scope for the carnival.”
Sanshaawes (blue and yellow silks), second in the Abu Dhabi Championship (Gr3) last season.
(Abu Dhabi Racing).
Race 5: Handicap over 2000m on Turf
Star Empire (Sam Hitchcott), Sanshaawes (Christophe Soumillon) and Atomic Rush (Wayne Smith)
“The old guy Star Empire is fresh as a daisy, he and Sanshaawes are quite fit and while I cannot predict with any confidence how they will go, we’re expecting decent runs from both. Atomic Rush had a fetlock injury and hence a disappointing carnival last year, but he’s over that and he’s well, he is not 100% fit and will benefit from this run. Also he looks like he needs 2400m plus. He’s a nice horse, he is one for the carnival shortlist and we look forward to his campaign this term.”
Race 7: Handicap over 1400m on Turf
Zahee (Christophe Soumillon) Anaerobio (Wayne Smith) and Whistle Stop (Dane O’Neill)
“Zahee and Anaerobio are both in fine shape, they are as fit as they can be and again, while these older horses can let you down, their work is good enough to make them runners with chances. Whistle Stop was unsettled last year but he’s had a good rest and he’s doing well at home, he’s a different kettle of fish. He needs further and will improve with the run behind him.