Dubai Carnival: Secret Ambition leads the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge – Horse Racing News
Kimbear (center) wins the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 2020 against Secret Ambition (left) and North America
The 19th edition of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, the Dubai Racing Club’s annual flagship event, kicks off with an exciting seven-race card at Meydan Racecourse on Friday 14 January.
With a range of new incentives in place, the eight-week extravaganza, which will culminate in the $30.5million Dubai World Cup reunion on March 26, has the potential to be one of the best of its history.
The Carnival begins with the opening rounds of the 1600m (one mile) Al Maktoum Challenge Series (Dirt), for Thoroughbreds and Arabian Thoroughbreds and its main support race, the 1600m (Turf) Group 2 Cape Verde for fillies and mares.
The map also features the first edition of the Jumeirah Classic Trial; the first event in the thrilling four-race Jumeirah series dedicated to the Classic generation.
A full field of 14 thoroughbreds, many of whom aspire to big races, will take part in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, a race of major significance and potential implications for the Dubai World Cup.
Arguably one of the best renewals of a race that was first held in 1994, the Group 2 contest has attracted the likes of Secret Ambition, winner of the Godolphin Mile (G2) in 2021, Hypothetical fourth in the Dubai World Cup and Salute The Soldier, the Bahrain-owned gelding. who won rounds two and three of the series last season.
The full depth of the contest is brought home by the presence of two veteran Al Maktoum Challenge winners, Kimbear (Round 1 2020) and Capezzano (Round 3, 2019), and four-time dirt scorer Meydan Thegreatcollection.
The former Godolphin-formed Imperial Empire is unbeaten in two starts this season for in-form manager Bhupat Seemar and will benefit from the services of three-time Dubai World Cup winner Frankie Dettori, who will make his highly anticipated seasonal debut in the United Arab Emirates Friday. .
Seemar, who prepared for Carnival saddled five winners on last week’s card, is in the hands of the crowd with five suitors in Secret Ambition (Tadhg O’Shea), Imperial Empire, Kimbear (Antonio Fresu), Kafoo (William Buick) and Avant Garde (Richard Mullen).
Assessing his quintet’s chances, the coach said: “This is the best Al Maktoum Challenge we’ve had in years. All five are fit and ready to race. We have a good mix of old pros and new horses.
“Secret Ambition has a good draw (Stall 5), is fit, healthy and ready to go.
“Kafoo is drawn 10 but is undefeated this season. He does everything well. I just hope the inexperience doesn’t catch up with him because he definitely has the talent to be up there to compete against this class of horse,” he added.
“Imperial Empire is a Dubawi and is the half-brother of a Group 1 winner, so hopefully he should show up.
“Kimbear had a good run on his debut for us but unfortunately he shot on the outside a bit (Stall 11), while Avant Garde is doing very well. This is his minimum trip, he would prefer to do more than a mile and a quarter, but it is a good starting point.
O’Shea backs Secret Ambition
UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea has already ridden 30 winners this season, half of them at Meydan. the international favourite, Secret Ambition.
“His form speaks for itself and although he is racing after a long break, he should have a very good race,” said the driver. “Whatever he does, he will improve.”
UAE Champion Handler Doug Watson has taken Al Maktoum Challenge R1 2020 success with Kimbear and is expected to field three contenders – Midnight Sands, Golden Goal and Thegreatcollection.
He commented: “They are all well at home. We were a bit disappointed with Midnight Sands last time, but it was his first race after a long break. He has trained well since.
“Thegreatcollection and Golden Goal are both in great shape. They have both been running well recently after being off the track for eight to nine months. Looks like they’ve arrived, so we hope they’re all running well.
Emirati manager Ahmad bin Harmash sends Dubai Creek Mile runner-up and former Godolphin Eastern World runner.
“He had his first gravel start recently and he ran really well so he looks like he can handle the surface,” said Bin Harmash. “He’s a new horse we bought at the September sale, but he’s well bred and he’s a half-brother to Thunder Snow. I think he will run well.
Godolphin seeks to expand his dominance
The 1600m Cape Verdi (G2), a race named after the heroine of Godolphin’s 1000 Guineas in 1998, has been won by the team no less than nine times and Soft Whisper looks set to continue that trend on Friday.
Coach to Saeed Bin Suroor, who has won five Cape Verde trophies over the years, Soft Whisper was an impressive UAE 1000 Guineas winner last season before having two starts at Newmarket in the UK. She gained well over a mile but may not have stayed a long 2,000 meters on her next outing in October.
Eight-time Carnival training champion Bin Suroor is looking for his first victory of the year and thinks Soft Whisper (Frankie Dettori) can make him stand out by eliminating Cape Verde.
“She raced well last year, here in Dubai and also when we brought her back to England. She won Listed races on gravel and grass,” he said. good run to start her four-year campaign because she made us happy at home.”
Bin Suroor also saddles three-time British striker Stunning Beauty under young English rider Hector Crouch, who is seeking early success in the Pattern race for the Emirati manager.
“Stunning Beauty showed better form in the UK last season and is doing well at home so hopefully a great performance on a suitable trip,” Bin Suroor said.
Watson’s Mnasek a threat
The main threat to the Bin Suroor pair appears to be coach Doug Watson Mnasek, winner of the 2021 UAE Oaks (G3) on clay. She made her grass debut with stable jockey Pat Dobbs in the saddle.
The Cape Verdi’s last three renewals have been pulled off by two-time Epsom Derby winner Charlie Appleby, who relies on Wedding Dance (William Buick). She earned her last all-time start at Wolverhampton in November.
Appleby said: “Wedding Dance improved from their first to second run last season, winning well at Wolverhampton on the latter occasion.
“The plan was always to bring her to Dubai afterwards and we’ve been happy with the way she’s been training here. She will potentially show up for that, but we think she’s ready to race and that it should be competitive.
The Carnival kicks off at 6:00 p.m. (UAE time) with the eight riders in Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, presented by The Pointe. The line-up includes the last two winners, RB Money To Burn and Brraq, as well as exciting G2 winner Bani Yas, RB Rich Lyke Me.
Exciting series for the Classic generation
Elsewhere on the card, the Jumeirah Classic Trial, presented by Palm Jumeirah, attracted eight promising three-year-olds, led by hometown Bin Suroor (Frankie Dettori). He enters the race after a promising second place in a 1400m nursery at Goodwood last October.
Appleby is represented by Sovereign Prince, who also enjoyed success in the UK last season, winning at Epsom on his last start in September.
Another interesting contest is the Listed Dubai Racing Club Classic, presented by The View At The Palm, over 2,400 meters on grass.
Appleby’s Wilko, winner of the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom in April last year, and Bin Suroor’s Passion And Glory, third in the G1 Grosser Preis Von Baden in September, are among the 16 riders.
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