We’re back at Meydan this Thursday for another meeting from the Dubai Carnival. A number of competitive handicaps on both the turf and the dirt run alongside a seven furlong Group Two.
We came close to landing two of three selections last week. The well-backed Simsir only just failed to collar the 33/1 Certain Lad. Stablemate Surrounding ran no sort of race in the feature, but we signed off with a winner with the Doug Watson-trained Midnight Sands doing the business in a dirt handicap.
The racing back home is more than a match for the action from the Middle East. The Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park sees star mares Apple’s Jade and Benie Des Dieux clash and Joe Eccles has identified some big priced outsiders in the Thyestes Handicap Chase.
We’re looking forward to Trials’ Day at Cheltenham on Saturday, where Santini is attempting to break the Cotswold Chase favourites curse. Be sure to check out all our tips and analysis as we lead to the weekend.
2.30 P & O Marinas (Handicap) 1m4f
Our first selection this week comes in the opener, a twelve furlong turf handicap. With five of the sixteen runners coming for Godolphin who have won both previous renewals, they have strong claims of landing the treble. The most appealing option in the royal blue is the Saeed bin Suroor-trained GIFTS OF GOLD.
Bin Suroor and Christophe Soumillion teamed up for glory in 2018 with Gold Star and the similarly named son of Invincible Spirit makes plenty of appeal today. He landed back to back events in the summer of 2019 before going down by a neck to one now rated ten pounds higher. The aforementioned Certain Lad, who scored off a mark of 100 last week, was back in fourth.
The form is rock solid and the gelding ran a big race over course and distance on his return from a four month break. He finished third three weeks ago, ahead of six of re-opposing rivals. With that run under his belt, the unexposed five-year-old is more than capable of going close.
Stable mate Dubai Future should pose the biggest threat. The son of Dubawi has won both starts since a debut second, including when beating a subsequent winner last time. He’s feasibly treated from a mark of 92 on his handicap debut. Jockey bookings suggest our selection is just preferred though.
Selection: GIFTS OF GOLD @ 7/2
4.50 Al Fahidi Fort (Group 2) 7f
The feature looks sure to go to a British-based trainer, with four runners represented by Appleby or bin Suroor. The former’s Glorious Journey was a winner at this level in August at Newbury, his third Group success to date. He was a rather disappointing ninth in the Prix de la Foret to sign off last term though. That came on his favoured soft ground, today’s quicker surface of slight concern for him, as well as the three-pound penalty.
Stablemate Mubtasim enjoyed a sound surface when scoring over course and distance on his stable debut last February. He returned to the UK in April with a taking success from the front from a mark of 105. This is his first start in Group company since 2017 but he looks capable of making an impact and the absence is of little concern given his previous form when fresh.
A chance is taken on bin Suroor’s ROYAL MEETING. He landed the Group One Criterium International on his second start back in 2018, beating subsequent dual Guineas winner Hermosa. The colt was unable to score in two starts last year, but he was a creditable third after a slow start in an Australian Group Three before a combination of a mile and soft ground proved beyond him at Flemington in November. These conditions are far better suited, and if operating at his best, he could prove a class above today’s rivals.
Selection: ROYAL MEETING @ 4/1
5.25 Jebel Ali Port (Handicap) 1m2f
On the dirt for the finale, the vote again goes to one in the Godolphin blue, ridden by Soumillion for Saeed bin Suroor. Inventive the selection is not, but there was plenty to like about the way DUBAI ICON shaped on his dirt debut three weeks ago. A winner of three previous starts after a midfield sixth on debut, he was a creditable one-length fifth.
He did that despite losing several lengths at the start and lacking racing room at the top of the straight. The selection meets Grand Argentier and Above Normal, the first and second respectively, on four and three pound better terms. Now partnered by Soumillion, provided he leaves the gates in good time, he could prove hard to beat.
The ex-Roger Varian Edaraat is one for the shortlist. Beaten just a neck on Polytrack when last seen in September, he could go well for his new stable as he races on dirt for the first time.
Selection: DUBAI ICON @ 7/2