IN SUMMARY: One day Aidan O’Brien will really crack the dirt surface but until then it may be best to stick with GOLD TOWN here after he made all the running for a very easy win over the mile to take the UAE 2000 Guineas and if he can repeat that over this increased trip then he should take all the beating.
1 RAYYA – A winner last time out here when taking the Group Three UAE Oaks over course and distance on the first of the month for Doug Watson but steps in against the colts now and won’t find this as easy even in receipt of her fillies’ allowance. Admittedly, she was pretty impressive last time when quickening up very nicely and could well threaten the places but at this stage of the season it is a big ask for the daughter of Tiz Wonderful.
2 RUGGERO – Two wins from five starts for the son of Kinshasa No Kiseki and a good third last time out to Sumahama in a stakes race at Tokyo when beaten four lengths over a mile. Upped in trip here but needs to do better than we have seen so far, though Japanese form on dirt can never be easily ignored.
3 RERIDE – Steven Asmussen’s American challenger looks more interesting than most here after two wins already as a three-year-old at Delta Downs over seven furlongs and then at Sunland Park over a mile and half a furlong when quickening away to score by two and a half lengths at the line. The form has been franked since but it is still relatively low grade in comparison to that brought to the table by some of the others though if it rides on the really fast side he could surprise and even challenge for the places.
4 MENDELSSOHN – The first Aidan O’Brien challenger on the card with Ryan Moore in the saddle and surely a big player here. A maiden win at The Curragh was topped with a victory in the Breeders Cup Juvenile on the turf at Del Mar in early November (so we know he travels well), and he also showed his wellbeing with a win this season at Dundalk in Listed class on his prep run for this bigger and more valuable event. Whether he does or doesn’t handle the dirt is the biggest of big questions but the Ballydoyle yard will crack it one day and when they so (and 2018 could be the year), then races like this will also fall their way on a regular basis.
5 GOLD TOWN – The one and only Godolphin entry with word from the morning gallops suggesting they do not feel they need to arrive mob handed with the son of Street Cry seen as more than good enough to bring home the prize. He is stepping up in trip and class but did take the breath away here in the UAE 2000 Guineas when making all for a ten and a half-length success, and if he can repeat that effort here then he ought to take some catching in a small field and from a perfectly acceptable draw.
6 SEAHENGE – Who would have thought a race in Dubai could have one Godolphin runner – but two from Aidan O’Brien but that is the case here as the son of Scat Daddy makes his dirt debut. Last time out he only managed a four and a half-length third to stable companion Mendelssohn at Dundalk and on that form, he cannot win here but he may well go off in front to hassle Gold Town and give his better fancied compatriot more of a chance in the finish.
7 YULONG WARRIOR – Satish Seemar’s colt is looking for his hat trick after a runaway win in Listed class here earlier in the month, making most of the running to win by eleven and a half lengths at the line with plenty left to call upon if needed. That was over course and distance which has to be a big positive here but whether he can get an easy lead in this contest seems far less likely.
8 TAIKI FERVEUR – He has won a couple of minor events at home in Japan with a maiden at Niigata and a Conditions race at Nakayama before a reasonable if not overly inspiring second to Sumahama in Listed class at Tokyo last month. That form does not look exceptional by Japanese standards and he has plenty to find here though the return to this sort of trip ought to be far more to his liking.
9 THREEANDFOURPENCE – The third Aidan O’Brien runner but the third who is yet to even try the dirt in public which has to be an issue. He did win his maiden at Fairyhouse in September and followed that with a decent enough fourth to US Navy Flag at Newmarket in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes when behind both Mendelssohn and Stonehenge and thus he has a lot to find to get involved and may well be used as a pacemaker if needed.