Angus McNae’s Meydan Overview & Selections – Week 1:
The Dubai International Carnival is back. Over the next few months, we will be treated to top-class international racing on the dirt and turf. The Carnival this year is slightly reduced in terms of the number of meetings but it will not be short on quality as we work our way towards Dubai World Cup night in late March.
The beauty of the Carnival is that we get to see a pool of horses regularly trying to stake their claim for a post position on World Cup night and we become familiar, not just with the horses, but with their handlers and the stories therein.
It is an amazing Carnival and it all gets under way on Thursday with the ever popular Al Maktoum Challenge taking centre stage.
9:30am ET Meydan: Rio Angie
The first race of this year’s Carnival provides us with a competitive handicap on the dirt over seven furlongs. Early pace on the surface is crucial at Meydan and Rio Angie has it in spades. She easily landed a handicap here in November at a domestic meeting, recording a fast time in the process. She breaks from stall 9, which is wide enough, but her blistering early pace should see her lead on the rail after a furlong or so and thereafter she could take some pegging back. On the face of it, she looks to be the second string from the Doug Watson yard with stable jockey Pat Dobbs riding Golden Goal. However, Sam Hitchcott rode her to success in November and it is probably just a case of keeping the partnership intact.
10:40am ET Meydan: Gladiator King
Gladiator King took well to racing at Meydan last year, winning both of his starts before running really well when third in Saudi Arabia in the Saudi Sprint. He has solid form claims, plus a good draw in stall 3. His trainer, Satish Seemar, has a sure touch with sprinters, as he showed with the legend that is Reynaldothewizard, and Gladiator King looks classy enough to end up running on World Cup night. His stable companion, Bochart, is a danger, but he is a need-to-lead type and finding that from stall 9 over this trip will not be easy. Gladiator King will be able to adopt a good stalking position and can take this before going on to better things.
11:50am ET Meydan: Cappezano
If this horse had a better draw I would be very keen on him. Stall 10 makes things a little trickier but I think he may still be able to dominate this field and win round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge. He has a tremendous record at Meydan and was very impressive when winning the Firebreak Stakes here last season. He is reunited with Michael Barzalona, who rides the dirt at Meydan as well as anybody, and the jockey will have one plan in his mind: break quickly and get across quickly to lead on the rail. If that’s what happens he will be hard to beat. He is worth a play in a race where clearly has the best form.
12:25pm ET Meydan: Glorious Journey
I think this horse can take the Al Fahidi Fort for the second successive year. He impressed with how he travelled last year in beating the useful Mythical Magic. He has not been seen since finishing third in the Group Two Challenge Stakes at Newmarket last season, but he shaped really well on that occasion. On a day when being close to the far rail was important, he raced wide and was ridden patiently in a race that suited those ridden prominently. That run showed that he retains all of his ability and back at Meydan, from a good draw in stall 3 under William Buick, he can retain is crown.
13:00 ET Meydan: Equilateral
Frankie Dettori is back at Meydan with some fancied rides and I think this horse will provide him with a winner. The key to Equilateral is that he needs to be fresh and he has had a nice break since finishing third at Newbury last September. The five furlongs at Meydan also suits him ideally. He was most impressive when he won this race last year under James Doyle, when he was cruising throughout and beat the useful Waady. A repetition of that effort will see him win again and welcome Dettori back to Meydan with a bang.