Two of the main contenders for the 2016 Dubai World Cup will be in action at Meydan Racecourse Thursday for the best Dubai World Cup Carnival action of the year so far.
The fifth meeting of the flagship Meydan Racecourse season is sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminum and features the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2, the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes and the Group 2 Cape Verdi for fillies and mares.
The official feature, worth $250,000, is the middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge series and has attracted a quality field of nine, including Godolphin’s Frosted.
Trained in the USA by Kiaran McLaughlin, Frosted has spent most of his career in the highest of company. Winner of last year’s Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct in April, he then ran in two legs of the American Triple Crown.
Fourth in the Kentucky Derby, he was then second in the Belmont Stakes, with both races won by the legendary American Pharoah.
Frosted ran nine times last year, registering a second victory of 2015 in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby before finishing the year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
It was then announced he would be aimed at the Dubai World Cup and, under the care of McLaughlin, has been based at Charlie Appleby’s Al Marmoon Stables in Dubai.
McLaughlin, a former multiple UAE Champion Trainer, knows what it takes to win a Dubai World Cup, having done so for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum with Invasor in 2007.
“Frosted has settled in really well and is training great,” said McLaughlin. “He has been off the track for a while but looks fit and ready to go. We think he is ready for a big effort in what could be the first of three Meydan outings.
“We will seriously consider Super Saturday and the concluding round of the Maktoum Challenge but wait and see how he gets on Thursday and how he comes out of the race.”
Godolphin jockey, William Buick takes the ride.
Former assistant to McLaughlin and now a well-established UAE-based trainer in his own right, Doug Watson saddles both Layl and Faulkner. His pair were a close second and fourth respectively in the 1,600m first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge at the opening meeting of the Dubai World Cup Carnival on January 7, 2016.
“Both are in really good form,” said Watson. “Frosted is a serious horse obviously but our two should run well.”
Paul Hanagan rides Munaaser, winner of his only UAE start, a 2,000m dirt handicap at Meydan. “We were pretty hopeful that day,” said the rider. “Obviously this is a better race but he is in great nick and should be competitive.”
Third in the opening round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, was the Mike de Kock-trained Prayer For Relief who looks certain to appreciate this extra 300m and appears a big danger to all.
The Al Maktoum Challenge has produced a Dubai World Cup winner, in 2003 victor, Moon Ballad, while, in the last two years, both African Story and Prince Bishop were second in this race before winning the world’s richest horse race.
De Kock also unveils his main Dubai World Cup hope, Mubtaahij, in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes, over 1,600m on the dirt.
Last year’s UAE Derby winner, he was subsequently campaigned in the USA, finishing behind Frosted in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
Freshened up in England, before returning to the UAE, he certainly appears a genuine Dubai World Cup contender, given his affinity for the Meydan dirt surface.
“He has been working nicely and this was always the plan for his comeback,” said De Kock. “He has thrived for his break and we are really looking forward to getting him back on the track.
“Hopefully, he is our Dubai World Cup horse this year.”
Mubtaahij faces stiff opposition though, including Al Maktoum Challenge R1 winner, Le Bernardin, as well as the McLaughlin-trained duo Confrontation and Watershed.
However, the main danger could be the Watson-trained One Man Band, winner of his three most recent starts this season, including twice over this course and distance.
The Cape Verdi sees a small, select field of fillies and mares line up and among them is the Niels Petersen-trained Icecapada, bidding for a third consecutive win after arriving in Dubai on the back of two Listed victories in Sweden.
Opposing her is Si Luna, trained by William Mongil, who renews her partnership with Christophe Soumillon following two victories in France, including the Group 3 Prix de Flore in November last year. Soumillon is bidding for a fourth Cape Verdi victory.