Get ready for the 2021 Dubai World Cup Carnival

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January 18th, 2021

Beginning Thursday at Meydan, the Dubai World Cup Carnival will offer a stakes-heavy slate of programming in the build-up to the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on Mar. 27. And with the $20 million Saudi Cup coming up on Feb. 20, the Carnival’s early fixtures can serve as a bridge to Riyadh too.

Thursday’s opener features four Group events and a pair of listed handicaps on a seven-race card. Pending Tuesday’s final declarations, here’s how the highlights are shaping up.

Thursday's highlights

The $228,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2), a metric mile affair on dirt, begins the series of preps for the World Cup as well as for the Godolphin Mile (G2). Early entrants of note in Round 1 include Capezzano, Salute the Soldier, and reigning winner Kimbear.

Godolphin’s Military March, not seen since his fourth in last year’s 2000 Guineas (G1), could return in the $163,000 Singspiel Stakes (G2). Interestingly, trainer Saeed bin Suroor has cross-entered him to Round 1 on dirt, but the grassy Singspiel is the more logical option. Other high-profile performers eligible for the about 9-furlong test are stablemate Dream Castle, the 2019 winner; Zakouski from the yard of Godolphin colleague Charlie Appleby; and British shippers Lord Glitters and Kinross.

Appleby is prominent in the $163,000 Al Fahidi Fort (G2). He’s engaged the past two winners of the about 7-furlong turf contest – Glorious Journey (2020) and D’bai (2019), who’s also the course record-holder.

The $130,000 Dubawi Stakes (G3) is contested over the same about 6-furlong trip as the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on World Cup night. Defending champ Gladiator King tops the possible cast.

Turf sprinters get their chance in the about 5-furlong Dubai Dash. The $88,000 listed handicap could pit Appleby’s well-regarded Lazuli against defending champion Equilateral and Ekhtiyaar, all joint highweights at 132 pounds.

The other listed handicap, the $88,000 Dubai Racing Club Classic at about 1 1/2 miles on turf, has attracted several Godolphin candidates. Appleby’s Ispolini and Walton Street could take on bin Suroor’s Desert Fire, while Salem bin Ghadayer’s Communique ranks as the 132-pound highweight.

The next five Thursdays at Meydan are likewise stakes-oriented.

Subsequent Carnival Thursdays

Jan. 28: Sophomores will be in the spotlight with the UAE 1000 Guineas and Al Bastakiya Trial. Also on tap are the Cape Verdi (G2) for turf distaffers, Zabeel Turf, and for the Purebred Arabians, Round 2 of their Al Maktoum Challenge.

Feb. 4: The road to the UAE Derby (G2) heats up in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3), and turf 3-year-olds will square off in the Meydan Classic Trial. The Firebreak (G3), Meydan Cup for stayers, and Dubai Sprint on turf round out the stakes action.

Feb. 11: The Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) and Al Rashidiya (G2) are the Thoroughbred highlights. Also watch out for the about 1 3/16-mile Meydan Trophy, a spot for turf sophomores wanting more distance.

Feb. 18: The UAE Oaks (G3) offers points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four. A trio of Group 2s on turf – the Balanchine (G2) for distaffers, Zabeel Mile (G2), and Meydan Sprint (G2) – are joined by the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) and the Curlin, over the World Cup trip, on dirt.

Feb. 25: The Thoroughbred action is all on turf, encompassing the Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3) for stayers, Dubai Millennium (G3), Meydan Classic for 3-year-olds, and Meydan Challenge. Purebred Arabians have the dirt to themselves in Round 3 of their Al Maktoum Challenge.

Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup

Three weeks out from World Cup night, Meydan stages “Super Saturday” on Mar. 6. Seven course-and-distance preps will serve up clues for the main events.

The about 1 1/4-mile Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) is the stepping stone to the World Cup, and the about 1 3/16-mile Al Bastakiya will yield contenders for the UAE Derby (which is worth a 170-point bonanza toward the Kentucky Derby [G1]). The other dirt preps are the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) (for the Golden Shaheen) and the Burj Nahaar (G3) (for the Godolphin Mile).

The Jebel Hatta (G1) informs the Dubai Turf (G1) over the same about 9-furlong course on World Cup night, while the Dubai City of Gold (G2) performs that function for the about 1 1/2-mile Sheema Classic (G1). The Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3) sifts hopefuls for the Al Quoz Sprint (G1).

Enjoy Carnival time, Dubai-style!