by Steven Molyneux, the Dubai Racing Channel presenter who used to handicap Dubai horseracing for Timeform
Barely has the dirt settled after California Chrome’s win in last season’s Dubai World Cup in March and we are back kicking off another three months of quality action.
Some may snigger at the quality adjective, and there will be certainly more attractive cards over the next ten weeks or so than the opening night on Thursday, but in terms of diversity, the Carnival will once again bring all corners of the globe together – where else would you get horses from 18 countries competing?
The equine raiders have been arriving in fits and starts, but it’s perhaps the return of a certain jockey this week that has grabbed most attention. Pat Cosgrave has been on the forfeit list ever since refusing to pay costs incurred when failing to overturn an improper riding ban picked up aboard Anaerobio in March 2014.
Cosgrave is now free to ride and will get the leg up on three mounts, and I wonder how tempted the occasionally mischievous Mike de Kock was to reunite Anaerobio and Cosgrave in the finale at 1pm (ET).
The first round of the Maktoum Challenge has thrown up a Dubai World Cup winner in years gone by, Gloria de Campeao in 2010, and Godolphin will be out for an early boost on Thursday with Emotionless, who is one of ten to line up in the Group Two contest that highlights the opening night.
This time last year Emotionless was a live Classic prospect but now he is aiming to reinvent himself as the dirt performer that all parts of his pedigree suggest he should be. Charlie Appleby has been bullish about his homework, and, with the benefit of hindsight, is now not at all surprised that Emotionless failed to make into a Guineas performer given his physique. It could just be his time to shine, but with some hardened dirt performers in opposition, I would prefer to see him do it first before getting too heavily involved.
Similar comments apply to Polar River as she was undoubtedly disappointing on her return. Nine winners at the last two Meydan meetings for Doug Watson confirm the yard form but what has Polar River actually beaten? Not much is the answer, and bearing in mind she isn’t the biggest, I am not convinced there is a massive amount of scope for her to train on. I will be happy to be proved wrong on that score, though!
The one I like is Fitzgerald, who had several of these in behind when landing the Dubai Creek Mile last time. A couple will be fitter this time around, but I have a feeling the market will overreact to that fact and there was no fluke about his victory. He is simply progressing quickly, very fit and will be right at home just sitting off what is likely to be a solid tempo.
Saeed bin Suroor will continue his UK policy of using the best jockey available and Colm O’Donoghue will hopefully be the first to benefit in the opening thoroughbred race on the card, due off at 3.05pm. He rides Emirates Flyer, who chased home subsequent Godolphin Mile winner One Man Band on this card 12 months ago. The switch to turf is an interesting angle as he has only once finished out of the first two on the green stuff, and that was in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. Whilst handling dirt, he is not exactly a natural on it and there is enough stamina in his pedigree to suggest he will stay the longer trip.
Finally, I expect Jim Crowley to kick off his UAE association with Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid with victory aboard Ertijaal, the sprinter that goes in the sprint at 11:15am (ET) and not the Ertijaal who lines up in the Listed Singspiel Stakes at 12.25pm (ET), although he might well win that as well. The sprinting version is simply a cut above his Thursday rivals and whilst shouldering top weight, he only actually carries half a kilo more than he did when pulverising his field in this race 12 months ago.