'Golden' Start To Dubai World Cup Carnival For Watson?

Golden Goal at Meydan | Racingfotos.com

by Heather Anderson and J.N. Campbell

With New Year's celebrations firmly in the rearview, racing eyes turn to Dubai, as the $7.5-million Dubai World Cup Carnival kicks off at Meydan Racecourse. The DWCC culminates on Super Saturday, Mar. 4, the warmup for the $30.5-million Dubai World Cup card slated for Mar. 26. Of the seven races carded, five are black-type level and there are a quartet of stakes contests set to be decided in the desert on Friday.

Anchoring the action is the $250,000 G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 Presented by Zabeel Feed, where Golden Goal (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), one of five in the race for American ex-pat trainer Doug Watson, attempts to become the second owner of consecutive victories in the 1,600-metre affair after Le Bernardin (Bernardini) in 2016/17.

Also rated 105 is Watson's Everfast (Take Charge Indy), who was third in both the 2022 G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and G1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3. G3 Burj Nahaar hero Midnight Sands (Speightstown), rated 107, will take part as is Thegreatcollection (Saint Anddan), who won a listed and two other events in Dubai over the years.

Watson, who is aiming for his fourth victory in the race, said, “We have a cast of characters for the mile races. We're still hopeful with Midnight Sands and Golden Goal ran a great race last time. He only got beaten by four lengths and he always needs his first run for us. He's having a really nice season training and he'll be tough on the night.”

Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's Prince Eiji (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) is another entry who appears poised for a big year for Watson, and he ran out a 1 1/4-length victor in the Listed Dubai Creek Mile over track and trip on December 1.

“What we liked about it most was that he was vying for the lead with Danyah, took back a little bit and then really grabbed the bit,” said Watson of Prince Eiji. “So we know he can come from off the pace and we learned a lot that night, plus he's strengthened up a lot this year.”

The quintet will not have an easy time of it, however, with Bhupat Seemar sending out Secret Ambition (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) to build on his 2021 G2 Godolphin Mile heroics among others.

Sire Dubawi On Global Stakes Cusp In Al Fahidi Fort

The internationally successful Charlie Appleby comes into the Dubai World Cup Carnival looking to win his fifth Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort S. in six years. He enters Godolphin's Noble Truth (Fr) (Kingman {GB}) and Al Suhail (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), a well-bred four-year-old and six-year-old, respectively.

Both members of the home team are coming off of lay-offs with the former last seen winning impressively at Royal Ascot in the G3 Jersey S., while the latter ended up seventh at Ascot in the G3 Bengough S. in October. Darley's Dubawi, also represented in this race by Dubai Mirage (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), is one shy of 250 individual global stakes winners.

Not to be outdone, Shadwell looks to make its presence known with six-year-old Alfareeq (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}). This experienced turf specialist knows Meydan well, especially since he won last year's G1 Jebel Hatta S. in fine style. He prepped for this spot with a second place finish in Abu Dhabi in a listed race December 4.

Other notable runners include French trainer Yann Barberot's Bouttemont (GB) (Acclamation {GB}) and Fast Raaj (Ire) (Iffraaj {GB}). The latter will be making the surface switch from the Polytrack to the turf after he won his second consecutive race in Deauville on December 10, after being gelded earlier in the month.

Classy Switzerland Begins Shaheen Title Defense

Taking to the dirt for the G3 Dubawi S., the prep that offers automatic entry into the G1 Golden Shaheen on World Cup night, we find nine-year-old stalwart sprinter Switzerland (Speightstown) poised to turn back time in his search for more Dubai World Cup night glory as the defending champion. “Hopefully he's still got the spark; I think I can see it on the track in the mornings,” said his trainer Bhupat Seemar. “We got to know him better last season, we'd had him for a year by then, so we got to know his habits and his quirks which really helped.”

Ready to face him are a number of worthy challengers which includes Shadwell Stable's Mubakker (Speightstown), who has not been seen since last year's G2 Godolphin Mile, a race in which he finished fifth. His dam, Ready To Act, produced Prouver in 2020, a filly that sold for $310,000 as a Keeneland September yearling one year later; and a filly by Omaha Beach that brought $250,000 at the same sale in 2022.

A couple of local runners have been drawn in for this Group 3 opportunity, among them Mouheeb (Flatter), who won the Listed Al Garhoud Sprint on December 9 and he returns for Michael Costa. “He's quite a strong, robust horse and he showed he was quite sharp in his trackwork,” the trainer said about the five-year-old, who won G3 UAE 2000 Guineas in 2021. “It was so good to see him at Meydan; he really put his ears back and was determined to win.”

Listed Races Dot Carnival Card on Friday

The 2,410-metre Dubai Racing Club Classic, a turf handicap with $100,000 on the line, includes a trio of Charlie Appleby runners, namely, the group-placed Walk Of Stars (GB), who is another striving to give his sire Dubawi (Ire) 250 individual black-type winners.

Rounding out the Friday card is the 1,000-metre Listed Ertijaal Dubai Dash on the turf, that brings together a strong group of sprinters, including Godolphin's Man Of Promise (Into Mischief), who was third behind A Case Of You (Ire) (Hot Streak {Ire}) in last year's G1 Al Quoz Sprint.

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