DWCC Heating Up in Firebreak

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Capezzano | DRC/Erika Rasmussen

2019’s breakout 9 1/2-length G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 victor Capezzano (Bernardini) makes his first appearance of 2020 for Sultan Ali and trainer Salem bin Ghadayer in the 1600-metre G3 Firebreak S. at Meydan. One of three in the event for bin Ghadayer on Thursday, the 6-year-old gelding ran a puzzling 12th when favoured in the G1 Dubai World Cup at the end of March and aims to bounce back in this warm up for the inaugural Feb. 29 $20-million Saudi Cup, before a possible start in the $12-million G1 Dubai World Cup at the end of March.

“I delayed this horse and didn’t use him at all in training until the end of September,” Bin Ghadayer said. “He’s a Bernardini, is always keen and I made a program for him that is just February and March to keep his big performances saved for the big nights. At the end of the day, he was invited to the Saudi Cup and it’s only two weeks until that race, but he will need the race and I think the two weeks is enough time for recover.

“I think he can be 100% for Saudi and then Dubai World Cup, but this race will not be an easy race. We will go and try to win this race, but we must be very careful with him and his mentality. We have tried to keep him happy and relaxed, which is not easy, but he has trained and galloped well and he’s healthy and sound.”

2018 victor Heavy Metal (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) and listed winner Matterhorn (Ire) (Raven’s Pass) also line up for bin Ghadayer and owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum.

American ex-pat Quip (Distorted Humor), who entertained Classic aspirations after a win in the GII Tampa Bay Derby and a runner-up performance in the GI Arkansas Derby in 2018, makes his Meydan bow carrying the silks of Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi for the first time. Also a winner of the GII Oaklawn H. and placed twice more at graded level as a 4-year-old, the Doug Watson trainee enters on the back of an unplaced run in the GIII Lukas Classic S. at Churchill Downs last September and leaves from the widest stall in 10.

“Obviously, he has the form in the States, other than those last two starts, when he went a little wrong,” Watson said, who also saddles 2019 Firebreak winner Muntazah (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), fourth in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 on Jan. 9 and the SP Thegreatcollection (Saint Anddan). “He’s had a break and his work since coming back has been fantastic. I took him over to Meydan a couple times to breeze and he looks like he will run well fresh. He is pretty athletic and breaks well. I think everything is going for him. Whether he needs the run, I don’t know, but I think he stacks up well in this race. He came in pretty fit and it didn’t take him long to adjust. He looks great in his coat and there are a lot of positives about him, so we will just see how he goes.

“If he runs a nice race, we’d like to go on to the Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge after this,” he continued. “North America (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Benbatl (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) might be in Saudi and I think he can stretch [to 2000m]. He has won over 1700m and 1800m in the States, so I think he can maybe do it. He can get into the Godolphin Mile with his rating, so there are options if it doesn’t work out.”

G2 Cape Verdi one-two Magic Lily (GB) (New Approach {Ire}) and Nisreen (Ire) (Raven’s Pass) square off again in the $250,000 G2 Balanchine for Godolphin and Team Valor International, respectively, earlier on the card. Seven of the eight fillies and mares already faced each other in that contest, and the distance gets longer here, as the octet must cover 1800 metres of Meydan turf. Ridden by James Doyle in the Cape Verdi, Magic Lily instead will have the services of William Buick in the irons, with Doyle set to ride Charlie Appleby stablemate and 2019 G3 UAE Oaks heroine Divine Image (Scat Daddy).

“Magic Lily has come forward for that run,” Appleby said. “Obviously a step up in trip will hopefully see a bit more improvement again there. She has the [1.5kgs] penalty this time around and we’ll take that into account when taking on [Nisreen], who she just got in front of last out.”

On Divine Image, he added, “Her homework has been good and we’re pleased with how she looks. She’s fit and ready. All of her starts, apart from her run on the soft ground at Deauville, have been on the Meydan dirt or the one start on the synthetic in the UK. She has action in her homework where she’s travelled well on the turf, so there’s no reason we can think that she won’t handle it. You have to put a line through her run on soft ground, but if she brings that form back from last year at Meydan, she’s going to be a player. Two nice fillies and both should be very competitive.”

A bit unlucky in the Cape Verdi, French listed heroine Nisreen receives the services of Pierre-Charles Boudot, who flies in for the race for trainer Hiroo Shimizu.

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