The Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 promises to be an intriguing clash of many top class horses, with it hard to rule out any possible outcome. See our betting tips and the full race preview below as we look to pick apart the action from Meydan.
IN SUMMARY: Although this is clearly a high class bunch, many of these have lots of questions to answer and preference is for LE BERNARDIN. Reported to be in good form by jockey Tadhg O’Shea, he is versatile in terms of how the race is run and also is the winner from last season, so should take all the beating today with his seasonal reappearance now out of the way. His main danger is likely to be the promising Polar River who is surely better than what he showed on his first run back this season.
1 LE BERNARDIN – The 2016 winner who has apparently improved for his recent 4th here over C&D last month and should take all the beating if building upon that seasonal reappearance. Ridden by Tadhg O’Shea who reports him to be in good form, he can either lead or track the leader and he seems the one to beat today with all signs pointing to a big run as he attempts to defend his crown.
2 MUNAASER – Previous winner on this surface and smart at his best but is tricky to catch right and was somewhat disappointing when 6th and very keen at Abu Dhabi in a Listed race last month (1m, Good). Needs to step up his game and doesn’t look the likeliest type today.
3 LINDO AMOR – Has a record of 3-6 on the dirt in Argentina, with those wins gained in minor races ranging from 7f to 1m 1f in distance. He was however 2nd in a Group 1 in Palmero (1m 2f, Slow) but its hard to know what that form is worth, and with his latest poor 8th over the same C&D, he is probably best left alone today.
4 COOL COWBOY – C&D winner in a Grade 3 back in March but well beaten by Fitzgerald over the same C&D in a listed race in December, needing to find 6 lengths with that rival. Doug Watson’s yard are going well at present and Sam Hitchcott is a good jockey booking but he doesn’t look to have any more than place claims.
5 GOLD CITY – 3-28 and very difficult to win with, although smart when he does get his day in the sun, the latest of which came in February 2014 over 7f here in a competitive handicap. He hasn’t however done enough in recent times to suggest he’ll be in the thick of things today and others have far less to prove.
6 LONG RIVER – Won four times when trained in the US by Kiaran McLaughlin but hasn’t shown much since being switched to the UAE, with his latest 4th of 8 over C&D in a Group 3 his best effort by some margin. He has a chance if building upon that effort and could be a good Each Way angle today with the benefit of the nearby Al Qoz training compound to help overcome his lengthy absence.
7 POLAR RIVER – Showed huge amounts of potential last season, winning the UAE 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, and wasn’t disgraced when finishing a close 2nd in the UAE Derby. She’ll strip much fitter now having finished 4th over C&D on her seasonal reappearance back in November when well backed and he demands a lot of respect for Doug Watson and Pat Dobbs.
8 FITZGERALD – Starting to really pick up form, winning twice here, the latest of which over C&D in a Listed race with relative ease. Antonio Fresu rides again and he has progressed impressively as a 5 year old, with his mark moving from 83 to 108 since being sold by Godolphin. Still more needed on balance and now faces tougher competition but solid Each Way claims.
9 FRANKFOURFINGERS – Runner up in the race on his UAE debut back in 2015, making amends a race later when winning a Group 2 over 1m 1f. He has however lost his way since and finished 10th of 12 here over C&D beaten 21 lengths behind many of these, and doesn’t make much appeal today.
10 EMOTIONLESS – Won his first two starts including the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in 2015 (7f, Good), but his three starts since have yielded no form of note which is worrying. He has a very nice looking dirt pedigree which gives some hope for this race, but his recent performances are the real concern. Likely to be strong in the market given connections and the booking of William Buick but no real value.