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Homeracing

Chance of ‘Snow’ in Dubai Saturday

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

February 11th, 2017

Meydan stages a rare Saturday Carnival card, highlighted by the first colts’ classic of the season, the $250,000 U.A.E. 2000 Guineas (G3).

On paper, the race boils down to a simple question: will Godolphin’s Thunder Snow transfer his game to the dirt? The Saeed bin Suroor pupil is the one to beat based on his high standard of form, hence his 4-5 morning-line odds. But his resume is built entirely on turf. Second in the Vintage (G2) and Champagne (G2), and fourth to the all-conquering Churchill in the Dewhurst (G1), Thunder Snow was last seen romping in the Criterium International (G1).

Thunder Snow’s pedigree, although turf-oriented, is open to creative interpretations that leave some hope. More significant is his tactical speed. The biggest barriers to many turf horses trying Meydan’s dirt are the kickback, and their own closing style. Thunder Snow should be in the front rank throughout, giving him a realistic chance of running his race. Bin Suroor notes he’s “85 percent ready to go,” and if he enjoys the dirt, that’s good enough.

The best value in the Guineas could be the 15-1 Capezzano, who hails from the Godolphin division of Charlie Appleby. By Bernardini and out of an Unbridled’s Song half-sister to Speightstown, Capezzano comes off a smart maiden score over Mike de Kock’s next-out winner Fawree. While this is a different order of magnitude, he’s going the right way.

Appleby’s apparent first-stringer, Fly at Dawn, was a much-improved winner of the local trial. Yet the Discreet Colt projects a tough trip from the far outside post 11. Bin Suroor is also double-handed with Autumn (G3) victor and Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1) runner-up Best Solution. While fourth behind Fly at Dawn in the trial at about seven furlongs, he’s entitled to prefer the step up to a metric mile here, and picks up the red-hot Adrie De Vries.

Reigning U.A.E. champion trainer Doug Watson is an alternative to the Godolphin juggernaut. The speedy Cosmo Charlie beat Capezzano in a local maiden before finishing second to Fly at Dawn in the trial. The maiden Bee Jersey, placed to both Capezzano and Fawree, is Triple Crown-nominated.

A newcomer to Dubai is Triple Crown nominee Han Sense, now with Musabbeh al Mheiri. Previously trained by Mike Maker, the Hansen colt captured the Iowa Cradle on debut, and finished second in both the Grey (G3) and Nashua (G2), before being well beaten in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Mucho Macho Man.

Newmarket trainer Marco Botti dispatches Qatar Man, who defeated a couple of next-out winners when breaking his maiden on the Kempton Polytrack. By Archarcharch and out of a Bernardini mare, Qatar Man has a pedigree suited to dirt. I just wonder whether he’s not on something of a reconnaissance mission for Triple Crown-nominated stablemate Zumurudee (expected here on Super Saturday for the Al Bastakiya). Still, Qatar Man has longshot potential at 30-1, especially since he adds blinkers.

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Also on Saturday, Godolphin’s Confrontation seeks to retain his title in the Firebreak (G3). Victorious first off the bench here a year ago for Kiaran McLaughlin, he’ll try a similar feat this time for bin Suroor.

The Firebreak is a course-and-distance stepping stone to the Godolphin Mile (G2) on World Cup night. But Confrontation didn’t use it that way. Instead, he shortened up for the about six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), where he was a non-threatening sixth, and subsequently headed to the sidelines. The seven-year-old gelding is returning from a lengthier absence in Saturday’s renewal of the Firebreak, and meeting a few proper rivals who won’t make it easy to repeat.

North America is a perfect three-for-three at this track and trip for Satish Seemar, who also has the eight-year-old warrior Surfer launching a comeback; Watson’s Desert Force could regain his upward trajectory stretching back out, and de Kock’s Lindo Amor would go close if performing up to his third in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2).

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The undercard handicaps are not lacking in World Cup night implications either.

Hong Kong has two Golden Shaheen hopefuls auditioning in the 2ND race – speed merchant Fabulous One, who threatens to put on an exhibition in his second start off the layoff, and Dundonnell, who needs to break well and not find himself too far back early. Further Far East interest is provided by Main Stay, who exits an historic first UAE win for South Korea. Godolphin’s Comicas figures to improve off his comeback third, while fellow colorbearer Acolyte has a little more to prove on the class hike (and switch to dirt). Shaishee has the back class to factor at his best.

A turf sprint handicap, carded as the 4TH, could have a bearing on the Al Quoz (G1) picture. Godolphin’s Log Out Island debuts for Appleby, and makes his first start as a gelding. The Happy Prince, second to Ertijaal on the turf two back, could flatter him if handling his top weight. Final Venture, Steady Pace, and Fityaan all enter in good Carnival form as well.

The 6TH, contested at a metric mile on turf, shapes up as a contentious affair with the old stager Belgian Bill, Godolphin’s fresh-faced Bravo Zolo, and veteran Group performers Epsom Icon and Tupi. But I’m most curious to see whether perennial underachiever General Macarthur takes a step forward second time out for David Simcock. The blueblood son of War Front and Imagine achieved little for Aidan O’Brien, and recently finished with mild, and belated, interest in his Meydan debut.

The 7TH and nightcap pits Botti’s Italian champion Dylan Mouth, a fine second in his local premiere, against Godolphin’s reformed Prize Money and new recruit Viren’s Army (last seen landing the Dee S. at Chester in May), and Watson’s Basateen. Not to be discounted is Majeed, fourth in last year’s Northern Dancer Turf (G1), who gets in with only 121 pounds. Simcock could have him primed to take advantage of that weight in his third start of the Carnival.

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