Ed Marnane: The 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival steps up a gear at Meydan today with pair of Group 2 races, the Al Rashidiya and Al Fahidi Fort. Mike de Kock has an excellent record in the Al Rashidiya, winning the event no less than eight times since the inaugural running in 2000.
The South African launches a two-pronged challenge, led by last year’s runner-up and beaten favourite Light The Lights, and exciting South African import Al Sahem, runner-up in the Durban July on his final outing in his native land for Sean Tarry before transferred to Dubai under the care of De Kock.
Christophe Soumillon, who teamed up with De Kock to win the Al Rashidiya for five successive years, starting in 2012, rides Light The Lights. The six-year-old arrives in good order, defeating Blair House and six others in handicap company two weeks ago, seven days after a posting an encouraging comeback in Group 3 company. He has sound claims and is fancied to put up a bold show.
Pat Cosgrave-ridden Al Sahem, impressive winner of the SA Derby has been off for almost seven months and as the son of Silvano has bigger targets ahead he is unlikely to be primed and fired up by De Kock.
Godolphin, as expected, provides the biggest threat with Saeed bin Suroor’s Benbatl leading their strong challenge. The four-year-old, a winner at Royal Ascot in June, opened his Meydan account when running out a comfortable winner of the Singspiel Stakes three weeks ago. Travelling powerfully, he ran on strongly to win with plenty in hand, pulling well clear of the useful Emotionless. He can follow up and give his trainer a fifth win in the race.
Last year’s Al Fahidi Fort winner, Championship, returns to defend his title in this year’s renewal, a race first run in 2000. Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, he has obvious fitness concerns after a lengthy break and makes limited appeal.
Last month D’Bai, trained by Suroor, made a big impact on the opening night of the DWCC, defying a troubled passage when picking up smartly in the closing stages to win a competitive handicap. He lowered the track record on that occasion and is expected to be hard to beat.
South African hopes rest with Noah From Goa and Janoobi, both trained by De Kock. Janoobi was well held behind Faatinah in a handicap on his local debut and needs to raise his game considerably stepping up to Group 2 level.
Noah From Goa, who has the assistance of Christophe Soumillon, has stronger claims after an encouraging comeback. He was conceding weight to D’Bai when they clashed last month, the five-year-old’s first outing after a 329-day break. On these terms he has sound claims of reversing the form and giving his trainer a record seventh victory,
Top-weight Kimbear, trained by Doug Watson, is hard to oppose in the mile dirt handicap, Race 4, The US import created a big impression on his Meydan debut last month, readily quickening clear of his eight rivals and looking an exciting prospect for his connections.
He’s fancied to give weight to his five rivals and cement his claims as a leading hope for the $1m Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup undercard next month, a race Watson won with Summer Break last season.
Godolphin holds a strong hand in the finale, a 2410m turf handicap. The unexposed Gold Star went into many notebooks on his Meydan debut last month in a similar event, just failing to catch the French stayer Golden Wood. He can defy a slight rise in the weights and see off the attentions of Eynhallow, an expensive recruit from Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in Training Sale, and the progressive Janszoon, winner on his last two visits to Meydan.