Summers Looking For More Meydan Magic With Clapton

Clapton could give trainer Chad Summers more Meydan success on the Fashion Friday card | Coglianese Photography

by Alan Carasso & Heather Anderson

Trainer Chad Summers knows the nooks and crannies of Meydan, having saddled Mind Your Biscuits (Posse) to victories in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2017 and again in 2018. With Dubai World Cup just a couple of months down the road, the horseman is back in the Emirates for Friday's newly upgraded G1 Al Maktoum Challenge-R2 and is in with a big chance in the form of RRR Racing's Clapton (Brethren).

The Florida-bred 5-year-old was acquired privately by these connections last summer and earned a spot in the field for the GI Breeders' Cup Classic with an 8-1 upset in the GIII Lukas Classic S. at Churchill Downs, where he had next-out GII Clark S. hero Trademark (Upstart) a head back in second. The latter races in Saturday's GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. Ironically, Mind Your Biscuits was victorious in the Lukas Classic before finishing down the field in the Breeders' Cup, but Friday, Clapton will meet nothing of the quality of White Abarrio (Race Day) and Mind Your Biscuits's son Derma Sotogake (Jpn)–at least this time around. Antonio Fresu breezed Clapton in California prior to the Breeders' Cup and is in to ride Friday.

“We think that maybe he didn't like being on the inside,” Summers said, referring to the Classic. “He's such a big horse that we'd like him to really get into his rhythm and if we lose a little bit of ground, that's OK. We hope they'll go an honest-enough pace. We're adding blinkers for this, too.”

Kabirkhan (California Chrome) is very much the new kid on the block, and trainer Doug Watson wheels him back on two weeks' rest after the colt–eight for nine in Russia–was an extremely impressive winner of a 2000-metre handicap on Jan. 1.

“He was showing it at home, but he had to go over and prove it at the races, and I believe he did,” the conditioner said. “He's come out of that race in good shape. Ideally we wouldn't want to be running back in two weeks, but it's a million-dollar Group 1. I think he belongs in it, and whatever he does in it, we're looking forward to the third round and World Cup night.”

Atletico El Culano (Uru) (Alcorano {Brz}) was third to the G1 Saudi Cup-bound Isolate (Mark Valeski) at big odds in last year's G2 Godolphin Mile and prepped for this with a defeat of Military Law (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) in a course-and-distance handicap Dec. 22. Third in that heat was Walk of Stars (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), who can improve for that first experience on the dirt in this spot.

Mawj Aiming For Hat Trick Of Meydan Wins In Jebel Hatta

It is not every day a GI Breeders' Cup Mile runner-up surfaces in the G1 Jebel Hatta Presented by Longines over 1800 metres of pristine Meydan turf, but Godolphin's Mawj (Ire) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) will be doing just that in her 4-year-old bow. The diminutive filly, a winner of the G1 1000 Guineas and GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in England and the U.S., respectively, is trained by Saeed bin Suroor. She was the slimmest of noses behind fellow Godolphin runner Master Of The Seas (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the Mile at Santa Anita last November.

“Mawj arrived in Dubai after the Breeders' Cup and had a bit of an easy time,” said bin Suroor, who last won this race in 2019 with Dream Castle (GB) (Frankel {GB}), and trained Mawj to a pair of 2023 conditions race wins over the Meydan lawn. “She's doing well and I'm happy with her. After this the plan is the [G1] Dubai Turf [on Dubai World Cup night at the end of March] and then we will take her back to Europe.”

Last-out G2 Zabeel Mile hero San Donato (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), from the yard of Doug Watson, is trying for his first top-tier victory, as is Zabeel Mile third El Patriota (Uru) (Ecologo {Arg}).

Julio Olascoaga, who trains the latter said, “He earned the chance to run this race after his good result last time out. The opposition cannot be stronger but we're confident he will continue to run big.”

G2 Bahrain Trophy winner Spirit Dancer (GB) (Frankel {GB}), owned in part by Sir Alex Ferguson, is also part of the nine-strong field.

Trainer Richard Fahey said, “It's his first Group 1 and a tough race, a proper Group 1 and we're looking forward to seeing him run. Everything is going well and he's in great order.

“I'm afraid his owners can't make it this time which is a big shame because I know they were keen to come, but it's just fallen on the wrong day sadly. Sir Alex is used to winning, but he gets a good kick out of it, so let's hope he runs well again.”

An Eighth Al Fahidi Fort For Appleby?

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby is gunning for his eighth 1400-metre G2 Al Fahidi Fort, and will saddle both Grade I winner Mysterious Night (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) and dual winner Majestic Pride (GB) (Shamardal) in the 12-horse field. Successful in the Summer S. in Canada as a juvenile, the 4-year-old won for the first time since with a four-length drubbing of his foes in a local handicap over this distance on Jan. 19 and is returning just one week later.

Already a winner of the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest, King Gold (Fr) (Anodin {Ire}) ran fifth to Kelina (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) in the G1 Prix de la Foret at ParisLongchamp on Oct. 1 going the Fort trip and makes his first start back on Friday.

“He's settled in really well to Dubai again,” said Marine Henry, wife and assistant to trainer Nicholas Caullery. “He's worked a few times on the racetrack and worked well. This isn't a main objective for him–we're not expecting him to win–but we're hoping to run well.”

Shadwell's Danyah (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) stunned the G1 Al Quoz Sprint field at 33-1 last March, and he was a narrow second to the re-opposing Vafortino (Ire) (New Bay {GB}) in the Listed Business Bay Challenge warming up for this on Dec. 22.

House Eyeing Blue Point Sprint

Sailing into the 1000-metre G2 Blue Point Sprint Presented by Longines over the Meydan straight course on a two-race winning streak, Mehmas (Ire)'s Clarendon House (GB) will be attempting to negotiate the hike between handicap and stakes company.

“If he can transfer what he did on the all-weather to grass, then I think it will suit him very well,” said trainer Robert Cowell, who struck at the Carnival in 2012 with Monsieur Joe (Ire) (Choisir {Aus}). “I think the fast ground and plenty of pace will be ideal, it's whether he's good enough to bridge this gap between handicaps and stakes races.”

Of his rivals, one of the strongest is Equality (GB) (Equiano {Fr}), who will be attempting softer company after taking the G3 Coral Charge S. in June for trainer Charlie Hills, but failing to hit the mark against several of the best sprinters in Europe later in the year.

“On ratings, he should be right up there, but it is his first run after a break and he's probably fit enough to do himself justice but whether he'll be quite 100% is another matter,” said Sam Hoskins, syndicate manager for owner Kennet Valley.

The lightly raced listed winner Star Of Mystery (GB), second in the G2 Duchess Of Cambridge S. during her six-start career, defeated GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint third Starlust (GB) (Zoustar {Aus}) in a Meydan conditions race on Jan. 12. The Godolphin-owned daughter of Kodiac (GB) sneaks into the field carrying only 117 pounds and will leave from gate 11.

Like Father, Like Son In the Guineas?

Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa's Asiatic Boy (Arg) took out the 2007 G3 UAE 2000 Guineas in his second local appearance before going on to wallop his Northern Hemisphere counterparts in the G2 UAE Derby two starts later. Seventeen years on, his son Oasis Boy (Arg), a Group 2 winner at home when last spotted July 29 can make his presence felt in Friday's mile event at Meydan.

The other South American entrant is Quartier (Uru) (Matterhorn), who has the benefit of a spin around the racetrack on Jan. 5, when he ran on strongly after missing the kick to finish a good second to the well-regarded Ma Yetal (Flameaway), who sits this one out. Both South American-breds must give 10 pounds away to their less-mature rivals.

Killer Collect (Collected) makes his 3-year-old debut in the Guineas, having thrashed a field of maidens by 7 1/2 lengths over course and distance Dec. 8, while Military Artist (Munnings) races for the third time in four weeks, having most recently annexed a 1600-metre novice Jan. 12.

A Moat By Any Other Name

Friday's 1600-metre G3 Firebreak S. features 10 runners, and it is the progressive G3 Prix du Palais-Royal winner Fort Payne (Fr) (Rio De La Plata) who is one of the leading fancies. The Firebreak is not without its challenges, however, as it is his first start on dirt, and his first appearance at Meydan after a career in France.

“It's his first time on the dirt but he did well on the Polytrack at home,” said Marine Henry of the G3 Prix du Pin seventh, who is, like the aforementioned King Gold, trained by her husband Nicolas Caullery.

A veteran of the desert is Thegreatcollection (Saint Anddan), who secured a popular handicap victory at the ripe age of 10 over 1400 metres here on Jan. 12. Regular reinsman Adrie de Vries has the call, with the duo slotted midfield in gate six.

Al Shindagha River's For The Taking?

Bob Baffert has saddled Laurel River (Into Mischief) four times, with three wins to show from those Southern California efforts. However, the GII Pat O'Brien S. hero last graced a racecourse at Del Mar in August of 2022, and, despite joining the red-hot Bhupat Seemar barn in October, must overcome any ring-rustiness due to almost 17 months on the bench in Friday's G3 Al Shindagha Sprint.

“He is doing really well,” said Seemar of the Grade II winner. “This looks a good place to start him as he hasn't run for a while.”

The Juddmonte runner's task is not straightforward, with several rivals more battle-hardened in recent weeks. Chief among them is Colour Up (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}), who hails from the Doug Watson stable. The 2023 Listed Garhoud Sprint hero was an encouraging third in the G3 Dubawi S. on Jan. 5.

More Black-Type Glory For Siskany?

The evening's nightcap is the Listed Al Khail Trophy Presented by Longines over 2810 metres on grass, and Godolphin's trio is anchored by the well-traveled Siskany (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) for trainer Charlie Appleby. Second to Broome (Ire) (Australia {GB}) in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup at the end of March, the gelding claimed the GII Belmont Gold Cup S. in the U.S. two starts later in June, and could not quite catch India (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger}) when third in the G1 Preis von Europa in September. He ran fifth as the favourite after being outfooted in the GII Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance S. on the dirt at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 and is looking for redemption in Friday's contest.

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