Meydan Offers Morning Card

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Ted Black

March 5th, 2016

Thoroughbred racing fans will have to rise at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning to catch the Super Saturday card at Meydan Race Course in Dubai.

Saturday's seven-race card, designed as a prep for the ultra-lucrative Dubai World Cup card, will start at 7 am on the East Coast and will conclude before noon. Most of the races look largely unplayable due to the short fields and the fact that many of the runners are using the morning simply as preps for the big card.

In fact, Saturday's opener is the $250,000 Al Bastakiya at the Preakness Stakes distance of one mile and theee-sixteenths. Market Rally looms as the heavy favorite courtesy of his six-length win in the Grade III UAE 2000 Guineas. Lazzam was second in that event and Hombre Rojo was third, beaten 13 lengths. But all involved are using this event as a prep for the $2 million UAE Derby on March 26.

One race later in the Grade III, $200,000 Mallab Al Shimaal, the last local prep for the Grade I, $2 million Golden Shaheen on World Cup night, Rich Tapestry and Muaraab, the one-two finishers in the Al Shindaga, will renew their rivalry. But be leery of Kifaah, who rebounded from a sixth-place finish behind the top two to run second to Marking nine days ago.

Then one race later in the Grade III, $175,000 Meydan Sprint at five furlongs on the turf, the last local prep for the $1 million Al Quoz on World Cup night, both Sole Power and Goldream bear watching based on their serious back class. Sole Power won the Al Quoz last year and Goldream competed in Group I races in France and England last summer.

Three races later in the Grade I, $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge, the final local prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup, four-year-olds Mubtaahij and Keen Ice will look to rebound from dull efforts in their respective seasonal debuts. Mubtaahij offered little over the course last month, while Keen Ice was sixth in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Neither justifies backing at a short price here and both would have to improve considerably to merit respect in next week's World Cup.

One year ago Mubtaahij was the dominant three-year-old in Dubai, winning a pair of Meydan stakes in such emphatic fashion that he ventured to the U.S. for the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes where he ran respectably despite running without Lasix.

Keen Ice won only once in nine starts last year, but his lone victory occurred in the Grade I Travers where he chased down Triple Crown winner and eventual horse of the year American Pharoah. But like Mubtaahij, Keen Ice showed little in his four-year-old debut and now ventures to Dubai where he cannot run on Lasix. Neither appears worthy of backing here, but if either runs well he could be a major player in the World Cup.

Then in the Saturday finale at Meydan, another $250,000 Grade III event on the turf, Trystar looks like the one to beat. Trystar was very impressive in his seasonal debut over the course and he appears headed for a nice payday on World Cup night.

But as good as Trystar was in his seasonal debut here, it seems difficult to back him in this spot at 2-5. He as so good last out, however, that it also might prove foolish to play against him.

Heading into the World Cup card, Trystar is one of a handful of horses that have delivered exceptional performances during the Dubai Carnival. Frosted also looked superb in his prep for the World Cup and fellow Kiaran McLaughlin trainees Marking and Confrontation both delivered very good efforts in preps for other lucrative stakes on the undercard.

Polar River delivered the best performance by any three-year-old filly two starts back, but her triumphant effort on Thursday gives some cause for cover as she prepares to face boys in the $2 million UAE Derby.

Polar River hopped at the start and sat just Argentinian invader Vale Dori through the first three calls and then surged to command turning for home. Initially it looked as though Polar River was going to draw off from Vale Dori in the lane, but jockey Pat Dobbs eased off the throttle late and Vale Dori closed willingly to get within a length of the winner at the wire.

While Polar River remained perfect in four starts over the strip and will get considerable support against male foes in the UAE Derby, Vale Dori should improve off her seasonal debut and looms a serious threat to Polar River and the boys in three weeks.

Likewise on Thursday, Very Special lived up to her name by notching her second straight sharp score over the grass course. But runner-up Euro Charlie should improve off of her seasonal debut and will be a major player in one of the Grade I, $5 million turf races on the World Cup card.