In what was her third start after a 721-day layoff that nixed her entire 3-year-old season and most of her 4-year-old campaign, the daughter of champion New Approach out of English Oaks (G1) winner Dancing Rain closed resolutely, showing the same promise that inspired her connections to start her in G1 company in just her second career run at two, finishing a commendable third to six-time G1 winner Laurens in Newmarket's Fillies' Mile.
On Thursday, the chestnut mare will make just her sixth career start and seek her third victory as the expected favourite in the $250,000 Balanchine (G2). The race will provide her a much-needed furlong more of real estate, as she tries the 1800m trip over the Dubai oval.
"Magic Lily has come forward for that run," Appleby said. "Obviously a step up in trip will hopefully see a bit more improvement again there. She has the (1.5kgs) penalty this time around and we'll take that into account when taking on (Nisreen), who she just got in front of last out."
Her toughest foe may come in the form of stablemate Divine Image , who makes her first start of the year. A 4-year-old daughter of the late Scat Daddy, she was an impressive winner on the dirt last year in the UAE Oaks (G3) before manhandling the boys in the Al Bastakiya (Listed). A disappointing 13th as the favourite in the rich UAE Derby (G2) three weeks later, she was last seen finishing unplaced in French G2 company over the summer, but has reportedly enjoyed being back in the UAE.
"Her homework has been good and we're pleased with how she looks," Appleby said. "She's fit and ready. All of her starts, apart from her run on the soft ground at Deauville, have been on the Meydan dirt or the one start on the synthetic in the UK. She has action in her homework where she's travelled well on the turf, so there's no reason we can think that she won't handle it. You have to put a line through her run on soft ground, but if she brings that form back from last year at Meydan, she's going to be a player.
"Two nice fillies and both should be very competitive."
In an eight-horse field that also includes Cape Verdi runner-up Nisreen and multiple Turkish G1 winner Peri Lina, fourth in the same 1600m contest, Magic Lily and Divine Image drew posts two and five, respectively. William Buick will ride Magic Lily, while James Doyle will be aboard Divine Image.