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Super Saturday, the dress rehearsal for Dubai World Cup night three weeks later and generously sponsored by Emirates Airline, promises to live up to its billing with a cracking eight race card highlighted by the Group 1 third and concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Contested over the same 2000m all-weather course and distance as the world’s richest horse race, the US$10million Dubai World Cup, also sponsored by Emirates Airline, it has attracted a quality field of 13. These include Monterosso, winner of last year’s Dubai World Cup for Godolphin trainer, Mahmoud Al Zarooni. The six-year-old ran once in Europe after his big race win, when well beaten in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and his trainer explained: “Ever since he won the Dubai World Cup last year it has been the plan to run here on Super Saturday, as he has in each of the last two seasons, before defending his crown in the Dubai World Cup.
“He did not fire in the Eclipse so we have freshened him up and we are pleased with him at home but it is likely he will need this run.”
Fourth in this race last year, having won the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold on turf on this card the previous year, he clearly goes well fresh. He is ridden by Mickael Barzalona following the withdrawal of that jockey's original ride, Saint Baudolino.
The 1900m second round of the Al Maktoum challenge was won by Hunter’s Light, trained by Godolphin’s other handler, Saeed bin Suroor. He will again be ridden by Silvestre De Sousa who said: “He is a real favourite horse of mine as he supplied my first Group 1 winner in Europe as well as that big win here last time. The step up in trip is ideal and he should go very close in this better race.”
Bin Suroor, who won this race with subsequent Dubai World Cup winners Dubai Millennium, Street Cry and Electrocutionist in the past, also saddles Prince Bishop, Mendip and the highly progressive Kassiano, a plum spare ride for William Buick.
It truly is a quality renewal of this race and Kieren Fallon partners Little Mike, a rare UAE runner for American handler, Dale Romans whose previous two runners locally include 2005 Dubai World Cup runner Roses In May.
South African Mike De Kock has won the race twice and has both 2012 UAE Derby winner Daddy Long Legs and 2011 Irish Derby victor Treasure Beach among the 13 declared, which also include the Satish Seemar-trained Surfer, runner-up behind Hunter’s Light last time and seemingly still improving.
The meeting concludes with a second Group 1 Thoroughbred contest, the Jebel Hatta over the same 1800m on turf as the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free. The race was won last year by the De Kock-trained Master Of Hounds and the South African, whose three previous winners in this race include subsequent Dubai Duty Free heroine Ipi Tombe in 2003, has three in this year’s renewal with last year’s winner appearing ‘the weakest link’. He will be ridden by Pat Cosgrave with Christophe Soumillon aboard The Apache, winner of the Group 2 Al Rashidiya, over the same course and distance on his local debut. However, it is the booking of Anthony Delpech for the yard’s third runner, Igugu, that appears most significant with the jockey replacing Soumillon on the five-year-old mare who was third to Sajjhaa in the Balanchine Stakes on her first start locally.
Delpech and Igugu, South African Horse Of The Year last season, won both the Group 1 Durban July and J & B Met during that campaign and the jockey said: “It is brilliant to be back aboard – I was hoping to get the call and it is great that I have. I know just how good she is and hopefully she can prove that on this world stage. It is very exciting.”
Silvestre De Sousa partners Sharestan, while fellow Godolphin team member, Al Zarooni relies on City Style, runner-up in this last year behind Master Of Hounds.