A firm public and media favourite in Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Mubtaahij (IRE) is being referred to as “The Mighty Mubtaahij” following his worldwide exploits last season. The now four-year-old colt will make his return to the track in Thursday’s Gr3 Firebreak Stakes (Race 6) over 1600m on dirt at Meydan, sponsored with $USD200,000 by Emirates Global Aluminium (“EGA”).
Mike de Kock will want nothing more than for Mubtaahij to complete this season doing justice to his popularity by winning the 2016 Dubai World Cup. He sees this race as a the first “stepping stone” for the colt and his partner Christophe Soumillon – the start of a campaign that will culminate in the world’s richest race on 26 March.
Mubtaahij (Christophe Soumillon), on the work track, Monday morning. (Photo by Laura King).
“We’d like to have Mubtaahij very fit come Super Saturday and going into World Cup Night. He’s probably around 80 or 85% fit for the Firebreak Stakes and while we’re expecting a good run this is a competitive race full of hard knockers. He likes the course and distance and he’s fresh, but this is by no means a formality. It could be a case of class versus fitness again.”
The Firebreak Stakes was initially contested on the old all-weather track at Meydan. The stable racked up places with the likes of Bold Silvano, Musir and Imbongi before preparing Variety Club with Joey Ramsden to win the 2014 renewal – all illustrious names showing the traditional quality of the event that was switched to the sand track last season.
Another historically competitive race is Race 3, the Gr2 Cape Verdi over 1600m on turf Mike has won only once before with star filly Sun Classique in 2008. Al Mashooqa (AUS) (Paul Hanagan), the stable’s 2016 entry, was beaten a distance on her dirt debut here a fortnight ago but Mike reckons much better can be expected. “There are no fillies of Sun Classique’s class in this race, it doesn’t look like a vintage renewal so we’re not writing Al Mashooqa off at all. She reverts to turf and has been working well on it recently. She didn’t act on dirt last time but may also have needed her comeback run more than we’d anticipated, so this is a nice test which will show if she’s up to the task.”
Here are Mike’s other runners comments for this meeting:
Race 4, Gr2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2, 1900m on dirt:
Prayer For Relief (USA) (Soumillon)
“Prayer For Relief has been impressive in work this season and he ran a big race last time after his rest. He’s had a great prep and we’re very happy with him, but Frosted looks a tough nut to crack.”
Race 5, Handicap over 2810m on turf:
Star Empire (Soumillon)
“The old horse will race off his highest career rating and it will be hard to give weight and start to his rivals over this distance. He has won over track and trip before, however, he’s in a really good space and he should give his usual game account.”
Race 7, Handicap over 2000m on turf:
Sanshaawes (Sam Hitchcott), Tellina (Wayne Smith) and Tannaaf (Soumillon)
“Sanshaawes is fit and well, but up at the weights and looks held by some of the other runners. Tellina has improved a ton after his debut run here recently. He looks better in blinkers and we’ll be looking for a big run, I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t make the frame. Tannaaf made up plenty of ground off a slow pace last time and we’re dropping in him trip expecting a faster clip. He’s very well and should run a good race.”