Super Saturday, the second biggest meeting of the UAE season and the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup takes placeon Saturday and the eight-race card is sponsored by Meydan’s valued partners Emirates Airline.
It is a landmark occasion with Group 1 Thoroughbred racing to be staged at a meeting other than the Dubai World Cup for the first time with both the concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge for Thoroughbreds and the Jebel Hatta being elevated to Group 1 status this year.
The official feature is the Al Maktoum Challenge over the same 2,000m all-weather course and distance as the world's richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup.
Only three horses have won both races with all three, Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006) trained by Godolphin's Saeed bin Suroor who saddles three of the 14 runners this year.
Frankie Dettori rides Prince Bishop, with Kieren Fallon on Mendip who won the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd I in 2010 and the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd II this year. John Murtagh has been booked to handle Spring Of Fame
Bin Suroor said: "All three are nice horses and deserve their chance; Mendip won well last time and he came out of that race in great form. This looks a better race than the second round but he is in good form at the moment and I am hopeful that he can run another nice race. Prince Bishop has been working very well and really impressed us when winning on his seasonal return. We are hoping he can run well but again this is a good race. Spring Of Fame is a tough horse who always tries his hardest. We need to give him a chance in a big race like this and see how he gets on.”
Fellow Godolphin trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni is doubly represented with the fast improving Capponi and Monterosso, a winner on this night last year in the Dubai City Of Gold (,2410m turf Group 2) before finishing third in the Dubai World Cup.
Mickael Barzalona rides Monterosso and Al Zarooni said: "Monterosso's target has always been the Dubai World Cup and this is the obvious prep for him. He will almost certainly need the run as we want him spot on in three weeks-time for the big race. Capponi has shown that he is an improving horse this year and there are no other options for him. I wanted to take a chance with him in a Group race and see how he gets on."
Capponi will be the mount of Emirati Ahmed Ajtebi.
South African Mike de Kock has saddled the winner of this race twice before and has both Irish Flame and Bold Silvano in the field this year. The trainer said: "Irish Flame just does not seem to act on the Meydan turf so we are trying him on [the all-weather]. Bold Silvano we have always considered a [Dubai] World Cup horse and that has been his target all along.”
Al Shemali was sixth in this race in 2010 before winning the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on the big night for local Champion Trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, while Musabah Al Muhairi saddles Treble Jig who won both the Listed Jebel Ali Stakes and Jebel Ali Mile earlier this season.
Fly Down, trained in Saudi Arabia, Green Destiny on his first start for Herman Brown and Silver Pond complete the quality field.
Silver Pond will be having his first start for Doug Watson who then saddles Albaasil in the concluding Group 1 Jebel Hatta, over the same 1800m turf course and distance as the Dubai Duty Free, one of the four turf features on the Dubai World Cup programme.
He has finished second on both his local starts and Watson said: "I am really looking forward to running both Silver Pond and Alsaabil. We are taking a bit of a risk regarding the surface with Silver Pond who has only run on turf until now but he seems to work nicely on [the all-weather]. Albaasil ran a great race last time and is a lovely horse. I really think this pair are the best two horses I have been lucky enough to train."
The past two Jebel Hatta winners are also in the field with Presvis, first in 2010 and third last year to Wigmore Hall, set to have his second start of the season.
Well beaten on his lastest start in January, he has been pleasing trainer Luca Cumani who said: "That first run was a slowly run race which was never going to suit him. He is in good form and this should put him spot on for the Duty Free."
Michael Bell is also pleased with Wigmore Hall and said: "He is very relaxed and seems in great form having had virtually the identical preparation as last year."
The UK challenge is completed by the Richard Hannon-trained Dubawi Gold and the trainer's son and assistant Richard Hannon Jnr said: "He is drawn high but we were always going to hold him up as he has never tried 1800m before and he has been working nicely."
The Godolphin trainers are again well represented with Al Zarooni's City Style joined by Pisco Sour (Silvestre de Sousa), Rio De La Plata (Frankie Dettori) and Secrecy (Kieren Fallon) for bin Suroor.
Of City Style, Al Zarooni said: "Mickael Barzalona rides again and gets on very well with his horse who seems to be improving and worked very well the other day."
Bin Suroor said: "All three were a bit disappointing last time but Rio De La Plata would have needed his run badly and this trip will suit him as he gets older."
De Kock is also triple handed with Christophe Soumillon riding Mutahadee who is seeking a third course and distance win of the year having already won two handicaps.
He is joined by Master Of Hounds, the mount of Kevin Shea, second in last year's UAE Derby (then trained by Aidan O'Brien) and River Jetez who will be steered by Pat Cosgrave and was second in the lastest edition of the Dubai Duty Free itself – splitting Presvis and a luckless Wigmore Hall.
Saturday's third Group 1 is the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd III for the Purebred Arabians, featuring a fascinating clash between last year's winner Nieshan and Seraphin Du Paon who beat him in the 2011 Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night.
Nieshan gained revenge in last month's HH The President's Cup at Abu Dhabi when ridden by Gerald Avranche who is once again in the saddle, and Sahib Du Clos is seeking to win all three rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge this year after impressive wins in Rounds One and Two. He will be ridden by Roysten Ffrench.
It is a cracking eight race card and should supply plenty of clues for Dubai World Cup night.