US $2,500,000 The Longines Turf Handicap – 3000m
Cross Counter (GB) – It will be a rare feat to win the 2018 Melbourne Cup, 2019 Dubai Gold Cup and top it off with the inaugural Longines Turf Handicap in 2020, but that is exactly Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby trainee is attempting to do on Saturday. When last seen, the 5-year-old gelded son of Teofilo carried top weight when a gallant eighth in a defence attempt at Flemington, only beaten by a length and a half, and exits a strong 2019 campaign that ducked no big names in the world of stayers.
“He’s in great order,” Appleby said. “Obviously, his last run was there in the Melbourne Cup, where we felt he put up a good performance with a bit of traffic problems, so it was a good, solid run. He’s had a nice break since then and thrived as he always does in Dubai.
“His preparation bas been faultless,” Appleby continued. “If he turns up with his A-game, he’s surely one of those horses who’s going to be bang-there. It’s exciting to be part of it for ourselves, Godolphin and the UAE team and I’m looking forward to it.”
The accomplished galloper will break from the rail and went about his business on Thursday morning without a hitch, soaking in his new Saudi Arabian surroundings at 8am. William Buick will have the mount once again on Saturday.
“Most people wouldn’t like (the rail post), but I don’t dislike it because at the end of the day, it’s (3000m) and the whole race style will be different than the Melbourne Cup,” Appleby explained. “Last time, he was particularly slow to jump, which got him into traffic. I spoke to William and he’ll definitely get a chance to see plenty of the new turf course there, being drawn one (with Cross Counter) and 12 (with Glorious Journey in the stc 1351 Cup) with his two mounts.”
Dee Ex Bee (GB) – A notoriously relaxed horse at home, the 2018 Investec Derby runner-up has reportedly awakened in recent weeks, as the dark bay charge prepares for his second start for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer in the Longines Turf Handicap. The former Mark Johnston trainee exits an off-the-board effort as the heavy favourite in the 2800m Meydan Cup (Listed) at its namesake course and will carry more than just the co-top weight of 62kgs on Saturday in Saudi Arabia.
“We’re going to add blinkers on him,” Bin Ghadayer reported. “That will help him and I think he will be fine. He has a lot of speed and will have no problem (going to the front), but he also can track another horse just fine. We give him the one race at Sheikh Hamdan’s request and I must thank him so much for that, because the horse has come back from that race and we have seen a lot of improvement, day by day.
“I had a chat with Silvestre de Sousa, who has ridden him many times,” Bin Ghadayer continued. “He said to he can lead, but to sit behind one leader could be even better for him. This horse has a lot of choices and at the end of the day, there’s no Stradivarius in the race. The preparation is for Dubai World Cup night with him and I’m sure he will improve between this race and then.”
King’s Advice (GB) – Mark Johnston’s son and assistant Charlie arrived into Saudi Arabia last night and was on track at 7am to watch the 6-year-old, who was a rapid improver last year, have canter around the track.
“He did well for the yard last year and hopefully he can continue in the same way,” commented Johnston.
Prince Of Arran (GB) – The dual Melbourne Cup place-getter pleased trainer Charlie Fellowes ahead of his first outing of the year.
“He just did a normal canter and is in great nick,” said the Fellowes. “The surface is just lovely and I am very happy with where he is. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
True Self (IRE) – The well-travelled mare concluded her preparations by cantering a lap of the dirt track.
“True Self just had an easy morning after working yesterday,” trainer Willie Mullins said from Ireland. “Ideally we would have preferred to be drawn a bit closer to the inside but I spoke to Frankie (Dettori) about the track and he has ridden there plenty of times on the dirt and knows the ins and outs of the track very well so that is a plus.
“Everyone seems to be very happy with the turf surface and we’re very much looking forward to being a part of the day.”
Downdraft (IRE) and Twilight Payment (IRE) – Both horses covered 2000m under their regular work riders with Joseph O’Brien’s assistant trainer, Brendan Powell, overseeing proceedings.
“Twilight Payment led Downdraft and they’ve just done the same thing as yesterday, quickening up for two furlongs in their hands,” said Powell. “They look to be in good form and everything has gone smoothly in their preparations.”
Call The Wind (GB) – The 2018 Prix du Cadran winner has pleased trainer Freddy Head since landing in Saudi Arabia and he once again cantered 1400m on the dirt track this morning. “I’m happy with the horse again this morning,” Head said. “He quickened a little bit in the straight and had a nice spin around. I think the horse is in better shape this year compared to last year when he finished third in the Gold Cup in Dubai.”
Mekong (GB) – Remained on the training track for his last leg-stretch before raceday. “He’s fresh and well,” said trainer Jamie Osborne. “At the end of the day, his chance is pace dependent. If they go a good gallop, he has a chance to run in a relaxed manner, but if they don’t, he has a tendency to run with the choke out, it’ll turn into a bit of a sprint and he’ll be flat-footed. You can control lots of things, but unfortunately the pace isn’t one of them.”
US $1,900,000 The Obaiya Cup (Arabian Classic) – 2000m
Aoun (FR) – The Antoine de Watrigant trained runner did a slow canter on the dirt track on Friday morning and his trainer, who had just arrived, said: “He is the easiest horse to train. He really has a good temperament.
“I would be delighted if he was placed in this race. He has never run on this surface, but he will love it. I have been told that there is hardly any kick-back, which is great. In fact, he will prefer the dirt to the turf.”
Hajres (TUN) – Pleased his trainer Elisabeth Bernard when he came onto the dirt track on Friday morning, where he jogged and then did a slow canter. “I couldn’t be happier with him,” Elisabeth Bernard said. “He wasn’t ready for his prep race, but that was intentional, as this race was always the main target. He is ready now.”
US $1,500,000 The Saudia Sprint -1200m
Gladiator King (USA) – Entering as one of the logical players, Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s Dubai-based runner puts his unbeaten 2020 record on the line in the 1200m affair – the same distance at which he won both his starts this year in Meydan’s Dubawi and Al Shindagha Sprint.
“Lately he has been very good,” trainer Satish Seemar said. “He’s very unique for a sprinter because he can go to the front or sit and stalk, so I feel like I’m in a very good position with him. His fitness and blood reports are perfect and everything is going well and to plan. We will see how he handles the dirt course, though.”
Drafted (USA) – Misty Hollow Farm’s multiple Group 3 winner will look to return to the form that saw him rise as the top sprinter in Dubai last year. The Doug Watson trainee enters off a pair of lacklustre performances but enters a speed-heavy race as a closer overdue for improvement.
“He has had two runs this year and is coming up on 30 days off and that will be good,” Watson said. “He’s healthy and fresh, but his preparation was curtailed by foot issues.
“As far as the kickback, I think it’s more about how high it actually gets. At home, there’s very little water on the track and it gets high and in his face, because he is so far back from the horses. When you’re a stalker, it’s hitting you in the chest. When you’re a deep closer, he’s getting it in the face. Hopefully the kickback isn’t as high in Saudi Arabia and he can return to his form from last year.”
Matera Sky (USA) – Had an easy canter on the dirt track.
“I worked him for one and a half laps on the dirt track to stretch his legs this morning, as he galloped yesterday,” said assistant trainer Masaki Takano.
“He moved well and smoothly. I am very happy with him. The dirt here seems to need more power from the horse and whether he can handle the surface is my concern. I hope he can jump off the gate and take the lead, so he will have a big chance to compete.”
Captain Scotty (USA) – The 6-year-old gelded son of Quality Road jogged a 1800m on the dirt track and is ready to go according to assistant trainer Kenny Black.
Trainer Peter Miller, who is not traveling over from the United States for Saturday’s races, also indicated he was satisfied with his preparation.
Imperial Hint (USA) – As he has done all week, Imperial Hint was accompanied by a pony onto the dirt track before breaking off to jog once around the 1800m oval one day before the race. The 7-year-old son of Imperialism is known to “act like it’s race day,” if he travels the right way around the track according to his trainer Luis Carvajal Jnr.
US $1,000,000 The stc 1351 Cup – 1351m
Legends of War (USA) – Trainer Doug O’Neill arrived in Saudi Arabia late on Thursday night and was able to see final preparations for his charge. O’Neill was thrilled with what he saw from the 4-year-old Scat Daddy colt.
“He looks really well and I liked the way he went this morning,” O’Neill said. “My team has all the faith in the word in him and are beaming with confidence. His coat is so shiny that you can practically see yourself in it.
“As far as the race itself, I think the distance suits him well,” he continued. “I see us sitting in the first flight and if all goes well when the bell rings, he will be laying in the first three or four and I really think the pace works in our favour. Of course it’s a $1,000,000 race so the competition is going to be tough.
“I am grateful and honoured to be part of this,” he added. “The folks here have treated all the men and women who have been taking care of the horses so well. I’m impressed with the dorm facilities for staff.”
Ghoul (BRZ) – The Brazilian-bred son of Put It Back jogged a 1800m on the dirt track and is ready to go for Saturday’s race according to assistant trainer Kenny Black.
Trainer Peter Miller, who is not traveling over from the United States for Saturday’s races, also indicated he was satisfied with his preparation.
Speak In Colours (GB) – Covered 1400m on the dirt track under regular work rider MJ Doran under the watchful eye of Joseph O’Brien’s assistant trainer, Brendan Powell. “He just had a nice swinging canter over seven furlongs and he seems in good form,” Powell reported. “MJ was happy with the horse and Joseph arrives tonight but has been in touch regularly and we’re all happy.”
King Malpic (FR) – French trainer Thierry Lemer was at the track and was pleased to see that King Malpic was in good form when he did a slow canter on the dirt track.
“Everyone told me that the horse was doing well, that he worked well yesterday,” he said. “He is relaxed and travelled well. We have been to many places with him, so he is used to it. I like the look of the track. He hasn’t got the best draw, as he has to start on the outside. But it looks like the track rises a bit at the start and that should suit him.”
Royal Intervention (IRE) – Cantered for 800m on the training track. Trainer Ed Walker said: “She seems great and I think the trip should suit. We have been kind of thinking about the race ever since the news about it came out. It’s a solid-looking race and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be feeling optimistic of a good run.”
Momkin (IRE) – Cantered on the dirt for a circuit under pilot David Egan.
“It all went well,” trainer William Haggas said. “He came to us at the end of last season (in Europe) and is a lovely horse to have. Prince Faisal (owner) would have liked to have a runner here if the horse was ready and it looked a nice opportunity. I’d have preferred a better draw than 11 but I think the quick ground should suit.”
Graignes (FR) – British trainer George Baker made his first visit to the racecourse this morning and was delighted with the condition of his ex-French 7-year-old.
“He looks amazing and has thrived since he got here,” said Baker. “He looks good, is laid-back and has travelled well.
“They have done an amazing job with the turf track and he is neat little horse who will handle the track well. Stall one maybe isn’t the best thing for a horse who likes to be held up, so we will have to see about that, and he’s just had a spin on the dirt this morning.”
Suedois (FR) – The 9-year-old recent winner at Meydan arrived into Saudi Arabia from Dubai on Wednesday and again had light exercise on the training track at 7am.
Sir Dancealot (IRE) – David Elsworth’s 6-year-old has been off the track since running at ParisLongchamp in October and stretched his legs on the dirt a little after 7am.
“He has just done a steady canter and he felt great. He’s in brilliant nick,” said Elsworth’s travelling head lad Andrew Morris.
Glorious Journey (GB) and Mubtasim (IRE) – Charlie Appleby’s pair have their conditioner confidence for a good result on Saturday despite very different luck on the barrier draw. The former drew post 12, while the latter drew six. Glorious Journey had a hack around the dirt track at 8am on Friday, while Mubtasim remained on the training track.
“Mubtasim’s was a good draw in six because we know he goes forward,” Appleby said. “On a track like that, I don’t think with Glorious Journey that you’re ever going to have an ideal draw because he’s a hold-up horse and is never going to make life easy for himself. It might give William (Buick) the option, if he can get some cover, of coming around them a bit.”
Both charges exit the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort over 1400m at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, with Glorious Journey tenaciously defeating Mythical Magic, while Mubtasim set the tempo before finishing a begrudging third, beaten just a length and three-quarters.
“Glorious Journey was impressive winning the Al Fahidi and for me this is the perfect trip for him going just over six and a half furlongs on a turn,” Appleby said. “He comes in in great order and looks fantastic. Hopefully he has a little confidence from that last win of his.
“Mubtasim put up a good, solid performance and led them at a merry gallop and maintained it,” he continued. “He’s a horse who has definitely has come forward for that run. His run style is quite simple. He’ll go forward and we have two solid chances in the race. Hopefully we can pinch a winner.”
Dark Power (IRE) – Carrying the hopes of Bahrain, he hails from the yard of one of the country’s prominent trainers, Allan Smith. The son of Dark Angel carries a smart rating of 111 and is training forwardly for his connections. He breezed 400m on the dirt track as a final warm-up at 8am.
“He’s been training up well,” Smith said. “He shipped over quite well and the horse has seemed in good form. We’re hopeful and we know it’s a competitive race. We’ll let the horse speak for himself and we are confident in knowing that he gets the six furlongs very well and – to tell you the truth – I thought he would be a 1400m horse before, so I don’t think the (1351m) will be any problem.
“He likes to finish a race and he’s a pretty, fast and big horse who likes a speedy race,” Smith continued. “He wasn’t before when we got him, but he’s a beautiful mover now. We don’t expect him to win by six, but if we’re lucky, hopefully we’ll get a little piece.”
US $1,000,000 The Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup – 2100m
Deirdre (JPN) – Did a normal hack to stretch her legs in the trotting ring and cantered on the dirt track.
“She felt good and has been relaxed. She is in good condition. The draw (two) is a bit inside for her, but the field is small and she can handle it to show her run,” said regular work rider Yuta Komiyama.
For The Top (ARG) – The Argentine Grade 1 winner will look to give trainer Salem bin Ghadayer and owner Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi his first victory since 2018 when he steps up in Saturday’s race.
The son of Equal Stripes has travelled the world in the past two years, including a tenure with trainer Bob Baffert in California that resulted in an off-the-board finish in the Pacific Classic, but has now landed in Dubai with the Fazza Racing Stables of Bin Ghadayer and has raced respectably from two local starts, including a distant second to Benbatl in the Singspiel in January.
“He’s doing well and performed well for us when he was second behind Benbatl,” Bin Ghadayer said. “I think the distance will suit him and help him. There are good horses in the race, but he has shown me he is also a good horse and he will hopefully show that. I hope he doesn’t have any trouble in the race and he can improve again.”
Trais Fluors (GB) – Leading Irish jockey Billy Lee once again guided him around the dirt track for a steady canter of just over a circuit – “We just lobbed around and he felt super,” Lee said. “He is still nice and relaxed in himself and we’re all just looking forward to the race now.”
Intellogent (IRE) – Fabrice Chappet had arrived from France to watch him canter once around the dirt track.
He said: “He is always a bit tricky in the morning when he doesn’t know the place, but he is fine in the afternoon. He is in good form. He is keen, he is enthusiastic, and he is as ready as he can be.”
Mount Everest (IRE) – The Aidan O’Brien-trained runner led the Saudi Cup contender Magic Wand in a canter over 1400m. “Mount Everest just cantered ahead of Magic Wand and led her around the track,” O’Brien said. “He seems very comfortable in and around that mile and a quarter (2000m) trip and he takes his travelling and racing very well which is just what you want.”
US $800,000 The Samba Saudi Derby – 1600m
Down On Da Bayou (USA) – The breakout UAE Oaks winner must back up off only a nine-day rest and take on tougher company here.
“Don’t worry about her,” trainer Salem bin Ghadayer said. “She will run well and is just a very talented filly. She is a lighter filly, but from my experience, she can recover quickly and always does after her races. This has been the plan.”
At 43 years of age, Bin Ghadayer, a Dubai-based ex-Endurance rider, is the head Fazza Racing Stables, the world-class training centre of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. He starts an enviable five horses in four races
“I am very proud of our team,” Bin Ghadayer said. “I don’t have any pressure because the horses are in very good form. I have five horses, and all different types of horses who all deserve to be here and a filly like Down on Da Bayou who looks good and may be favourite.
“Down on Da Bayou is much better than I expected,” he added. “She is relaxed, which is important, and she did not lose anything from her win last week. She is in a good mood and had no traveling issue.”
A multiple Group 1-winning conditioner in just a handful of licensed years, Bin Ghadayer’s impressive feel for a horse takes on a whole new meaning, as he has a mere 10% of his sight. Still, it is the wealth of quality horseflesh, not the circumstances, which humble Bin Ghadayer and make him appreciate opportunities like this weekend.
“At the end of the day, this is our life and we love these horses,” he concluded. “It’s a big responsibility for me, but this is our world and it means a lot to our yard to do well. I just hope our horses run good races.”
Final Song (IRE) – Godolphin’s Royal Ascot-placed runner, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, has posted a series of strong performances in tough company on both surfaces.
“She’s come back well from her last race and the filly is in good form and working well,” Bin Suroor said. “I’m really happy with her and looking for a good run.
“We know she has ability, but it depends on how fast they go in the race. She finishes well and I’m happy with her, so I wanted to give her a chance. It’s a nice race for her and she deserves a chance against the colts. She ran good races in England and has class. We’ll see how she goes.”
Rowdy Yates (USA) – The 3-year-old son of Morning Line galloped 1600m according to assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who has been overseeing the Steve Asmussen trainee.
Full Flat (USA) – Cantered on the dirt track and practiced in the gate. “He travelled well to Saudi Arabia,” said assistant trainer Daishi Hidaka. “He is going to the race a fit horse. He is now ready for the race. He moved soundly this morning. We have a long distance from the gate until the first turn, so the widest draw will not be my concern. Hopefully he can load in the gate last and jumps well from the gate.”, said assistant trainer Daishi Hidaka.
Lake Causeway (USA) – While a maiden, he was fourth last out in the UAE 2000 Guineas after a pair of seconds to highly regarded stablemates and enters the race regarded as an outsider with a chance for a piece.
“He will improve,” trainer Satish Seemar said. “When he ran in a Group 3 last time, the track was fast and he ran a very good fourth. I was impressed with him. We think he’s going to run a very good race and I think he will be a good miler for us. These 3-year-olds sometimes surprise you later on. We’ll see. He like to come from the back, so I expect him to make a run.”
Mishriff (IRE) and Cherokee Trail (USA) – The British raiders again had light exercise on the dirt track this morning, doing an easy 1400 metres under the watchful eye of trainer John Gosden.