Exiting a pleasing victory in the second running of The Saudi Cup's 1351 Turf Sprint, he seeks his second consecutive $1 million race in the region and appears squarely the one to beat, despite his lone Meydan effort resulting in a seventh of 16 in the 2020 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3) over this turf course and 1200m distance. The compact chestnut has reeled off five consecutive wins since, including his first G1 in Deauville's Prix Maurice de Gheest last August.
"That was one of his disappointing starts and was his first start at Meydan last year, but to be honest, you can put a line through that," Appleby explained. "He was fresh and probably slightly under-trained going into it because we were potentially using that as a prep, but it was obviously too bad a run to contemplate going on to the Al Quoz last year.
"This year, he's a different horse," he continued. "He's stronger and got a bit quicker. As we've seen in has last few starts, he travels for fun."
Believed by his connections to be Group 1 level-effective up to one mile, he has raced often over his sweet spot of seven furlongs in half his 16 starts. Saturday's drop back to a straight six furlongs appears remains a question for the talented charge, but Appleby is confident in such.
"Dropping back to the straight six doesn't worry me," Appleby said. "I think there'll be plenty of pace on. As respects to the ground, I agree that we thought he would be more comfortable with ease in the ground, but when he won at Deauville, it was like a road and it was quick enough ground in Saudi in his last start.
"Pace-wise, he could be potentially vulnerable with some proper speedballs, but for me, he's got stronger, quicker and is the big favourite for the night. I'm looking forward to seeing him get another Group 1 tag under his belt."
If he is not up to par on the day, Appleby has reserves declared in G3 Prix de Ris-Orangis winner Royal Crusade (Mickael Barzalona) and Listed Dubai Sprint winner Man Of Promise (Richard Mullen). William Buick will be aboard Space Blues .
In addition to Appleby's Al Quoz sprinters, he has strong chances to win in the UAE Derby (G2) with UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Rebel's Romance, Dubai Gold Cup (G2) with Secret Advisor and Dubai Turf (G1) with Al Suhail.
Secret Advisor returns to a turf course he relishes and is fresh off a strong third in The Saudi Cup's $2.5 million Red Sea Turf Handicap over 3000m. Two-for-two at Meydan, he won the Meydan Cup (Listed) and Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) over 2800m. The Dubai Gold Cup is over 3200m (two miles) and appears within his wheelhouse.
"It's going to be an exciting night's racing," Appleby said. "Secret Advisor is in good order. If he reproduces that run from Saudi, he's going to be very competitive and he is a potential international favourite for the Gold Cup at the moment. Another live contender, there."
Al Suhail has long been considered a break-out star waiting to happen, but failed to shine when bested by Group 1 warrior Lord Glitters in Super Saturday's Jebel Hatta (G1) last out. Hope remains, especially in the market, as the G3-placed Listed winner is currently third choice behind Lord North and Lord Glitters .
"He's definitely come forward for the run," Appleby explained. "I was delighted with that. It was very much a prep run into the Dubai Turf. People question mark the nine over the eight furlongs, but all it was is that he got tired there and the petrol ran out in the last 100 yards. He went there to go and win his race and just got tired.
"He's visually come out of it well and any bit of improvement is going to make him very competitive in what looks a good race with Lord North and Lord Glitters."
Appleby's final runners of the evening will be a pair of course record setters in the $5 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, Star Safari and Walton Street . The former set the standard for 10 furlongs last year and this year won the G3 Dubai Millennium in fine style over the same distance. He also had a 12-furlong victory in between. The latter took down the 12-furlong (2410m) track mark in January and returned to easily win the course and distance prep for the Sheema, the G2 Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday.
"Star Safari got the later invitation, but is a horse who's done nothing wrong," Appleby said. "He broke the track record there over the 10 last year. He came out this year and needed that first run, came forward from that run and got the job done over a mile and a half and then we dropped him back to the 10 for the Dubai Millennium and he put up another sensible performance. He's not going to look out of place. I think he's going to run a very respectable race in the Sheema.
"Walton Street has come out of his race well and you can't fault what he's done," he added. "He broke the track record on his first start and subsequently equaled it on his second start. We have all the respect for Mishriff, Mogul and the Japanese horses, but he ticks the boxes and he's got home advantage. He knows that track blindfolded."
Buick will ride Secret Advisor, Al Suhail and Walton Street, while Mickael Barzalona carries the Godolphin blue on Star Safari. Appleby and Buick have teamed up to win the past two Sheemas with Hawkbill, the former owner of the 12-furlong standard, and Old Persian. Godolphin has won it the past three years, including John Gosden-trained and Buick-piloted Jack Hobbs in 2017.
After going 0-for-17 on Dubai World Cup night since his first runners in 2014, Appleby won two races in 2018 and three in 2019.
He has only started two horses, the aforementioned, in the Sheema and both were victorious. He has twice won the Al Quoz (Jungle Cat, Blue Point) and once the Dubai Gold Cup (Cross Counter).
A victory by Al Suhail would give him his first Dubai Turf in his fourth try, with his best result thus far a third from Tryster in 2016.
A UAE Derby win would be his first in a dirt race on Dubai World Cup night and end an 0-for-6 record (best finish, Gold Town, fourth in 2018). From four runners in the marathon Dubai Gold Cup, he has never finished worse than fourth.
Appleby has won with five of his previous 13 starters on Dubai World Cup night and placed twice between 2018 and 2019. His overall mark is 27-5-3-3.
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