Said triad is led by CTR Stable and O'Neill's Fight On , who tops the weights in Thursday's fourth race at Meydan, the $175,000 Mina Hamriya Handicap over 1600m on dirt.
A stakes winner over 1700m in April, the son of reigning champion USA sire Into Mischief carries 60kgs, giving away between 2.5-7kgs to his rivals, including improving local miler Golden Goal, Macau star Fasuba and Godolphin's possible market favourite Dubai Legacy. Pat Cosgrave will ride from post seven of 10 runners.
"I don't think the weight work against him too much," said Leandro Mora, O'Neill's long-time assistant trainer. "I like that it's a bigger jockey in Pat riding him and that he gallops with a guy who's about 140lbs—it's different when it's saddle weight, rather than jockey weight. He's a horse who does not like the rail, so hopefully he can be outside in the clear without being too wide. Last time, he ran a good race against (Grade 1 winner) Gift Box in the (Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 28) and finished fourth. He had a layoff and one race before that, so that gives us confidence that he will run well."
In the day's co-featured $200,000 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3), Team O'Neill will start longshot Truck Salesman for owner Alejandro Mercado. A swift type, he will have to flash his American speed if he is to beat the likes of Swedish star sprinter and 2019 DWC Carnival winner I Kirk to the front, while also holding off last-out Dubawi Stakes (G3) winner Gladiator King and defending champ Drafted .
"He's got only one style and I'm praying for him to break on top and never look back," Mora said. "He gets courageous up there and he's fast enough, so we just have to pray that he runs his race. I stood him at the gate (Tuesday morning) without a handler and he was focused and perfect. I think he'll be okay without a handler on Thursday and I love the seven hole. Outside is always better for American horses."
Thursday's $135,000 Mina Rashid Handicap (Race 5) over 1600m on turf will be a daunting task for Abbondanza Racing et al.'s Ocean Fury , but the son of Stormy Atlantic has been looking an absolute picture during morning training and going through his exercises impressively. Exiting a seventh astern G1 winner Mo Forza in G2 company, the three-time winner from 11 starts has proven a difficult horse to ride. He will take on the likes of Mick Halford-conditioned G3-winning mare Surrounding, Godolphin's promising Land of Legends and hard-knocking David O'Meara-trained handicapper Firmament.
"He's a horse who you have to work on because he's a little lazy," Mora explained. "He doesn't care where he is in the race, he just needs a rider to keep after him. At one point at Del Mar, he was our favourite 3-year-old, so we think highly of the horse. I know it's going to be a tough race because it's on grass here and trainers like Saeed bin Suroor and Doug Watson will bring their best horses."