The son of Bernardini was a one-sided winner of a pair of 1600m handicaps last DWC Carnival—by a combined 16¼ lengths—before dismissing Thunder Snow by 9½ lengths in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) over 2000m. Last seen finishing last of 12 in the aforementioned Dubai World Cup astern said foe, Thursday's comeback test will be a stiff one meant to toughen him up for lucrative prizes down the road.
"I delayed this horse and didn't use him at all in training until the end of September," Bin Ghadayer said. "He's a Bernardini, is always keen and I made a program for him that is just February and March to keep his big performances saved for the big nights. At the end of the day, he was invited to (the Group 1 $20 million) Saudi Cup and it's only two weeks until that race, but he will need the race and I think the two weeks is enough time for recover.
"I think he can be 100% for Saudi and then Dubai World Cup, but this race will not be an easy race," Bin Ghadayer continued. "We will go and try to win this race, but we must be very careful with him and his mentality. We have tried to keep him happy and relaxed, which is not easy, but he has trained and galloped well and he's healthy and sound. Last year, he ran in a mile handicap and won just two weeks before he won Round 3."
It will be an off-the-bench baptism by fire for the emblazoned bay gelding, but Bin Ghadayer will have reserves in the HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum-owned duo of 2018 winner Heavy Metal and the consistent Matterhorn , a Listed winner looking to transfer his solid all-weather form to the sandier Meydan dirt course on UAE debut. Ten-year-old Heavy Metal, the 2018 Godolphin Mile (G2) winner, looks to improve upon two lacklustre last-place performances this season in stakes company, while also looking to win his eighth race over this course and distance.
All must go through course record-owning defending champ Muntazah, as well as a diverse cast of swift foes, including multiple G2 winner Quip, multiple G3 winner Secret Ambition and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) alumnus Ambassadorial.
"He doesn't need the lead and does not have any problem (rating), but it's the kickback he does not like," Bin Ghadayer explained. "He'll be around the front and we won't change anything about him. He has a good draw. If he jumps and takes the lead, he will be very tough, but this is not an easy race with Muntazah and Ambassadorial in there.
"Heavy Metal will be fast," he continued. "For me, if he shows his form, he will be fine. I won't give up him yet and at the end of the day, he's doing well. I know he didn't show it in the last two races, but it's normal and I hope he comes back up (to form) again. Maybe that will happen in the Firebreak. If I saw him fall away from his form at home, I wouldn't run him. He has given me a lot of things and deserves special care. I believe in his ability."
Matterhorn will try dirt in a race for the first time, but has given his connections confidence with his training.
"He trains well and deals very well with the dirt," Bin Ghadayer said. "For me, he did well over a mile and 10 furlongs in England and his program is (focused on) Super Saturday (March 7) and will follow that. I think he will make a big name for himself. He has a lot of quality and class."