It is highlighted by the Group 3 $200,000 Firebreak Stakes, which could feasibly produce starters for the $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) and the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G2), as well as the Group 2 $250,000 Balanchine for turf fillies—a last stop in restricted company before a possible tilt against the boys in the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1). A stakes-worthy 1200m dirt handicap that could produce starters for Gulf News-sponsored $2.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) tops an undercard flush with Dubai World Cup night implications. The evening features runners from eight countries and has a first race post time of 6:30 p.m.
Race 1 (6:30 p.m.)—Group 2-PA $55,000 Mazrat Al Ruwayah (1600m)
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Thursday's card of racing kicks off with Purebred Arabian Group 2 action in the Mazrat Al Ruwayah, which is contested over 1600m on dirt and was won last year by AF Al Sajanjle. The 7-year-old returns this season for trainer Ernst Oertel and owner-breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and will again be partnered by leading jockey Tadhg O'Shea. If victorious again, the grey charge must improve upon three losses this season, but had entered last year's event in similar form before proving a tough customer to pass for his rivals.
Runner-up in the course and distance Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 on his penultimate start, Cheik Roque appears primed for a top effort for EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) and Erwan Charpy. The late-running grey was seventh last out over 1900m, so a cut back in trip may suit his style. Still, he must make up the 9½ lengths by which AF Al Sajanjle routed him last year, when second.
Al Maktoum Challenge R1 of 2019 winner Wadeeaa must be respected as the top-rated (116) in this spot for Al Wathba Racing. Meanwhile, RB Lam Tara, winner of half her eight career starts for Eric Lemartinel and Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan, makes her dirt debut after winning the Group 3 Al Ruwais Stakes at Abu Dhabi on Jan. 26.
Race 2 (7:05 p.m.)—$100,000 Meydan Trophy (1900mT, 3YOs)
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Sophomores clash in the first turf race for 3-year-olds over a significant distance of ground in the Meydan Trophy over 1900m, with a 900m run into the first and only turn. Twice a dirt disappointment this season, Godolphin's First View switches back to the sod for Saeed bin Suroor and appears one of the obvious players here, but he must contend with eye-catching local turf maiden winner Al Mukhtar Star, a well-related son of Lemon Drop Kid who should adore the uptick in trip for in-form trainer Fawzi Nass.
One to watch in here in his Godolphin's Ya Hayati, who picks up William Buick for Charlie Appleby. The son of Dubawi and multiple G1 winner Wedding Toast was a sharp winner at Kempton in October when last seen and could possibly be UAE Derby (G2) material after this run, especially with his dirt-heavy pedigree. Sweden's Timo Nurmos will appreciate going back to the turf for trainer Caroline Malmborg, being a son of Le Havre, and has shown plenty of talent in his first two starts on the surface prior to a seventh in the Al Bastakiya Trial.
Top-rated in the field is American I Will Not, who wheels back on just one week's rest after a fourth in the 1400m Meydan Classic Trial over this surface. Bred for speed, a stretch out casts doubt, but his connections have been potent thus far, he ran with credit one week ago and Pat Cosgrave picks up the ride.
Race 3 (7:40 p.m.)—$135,000 Tabloid Handicap 90-108 (1200m)
Truck Salesman looks to wheel back off a two-week rest in the Tabloid Handicap over 1200m on the dirt for trainer Doug O'Neill and must tote an additional 3kgs, thanks to finishing just a length off the talented Gladiator King last out in the Group 3 $200,000 Al Shindagha Sprint. However, the USA runner is not the only one coming off an enormous effort and hoping to capitalise on Thursday. Satish Seemar-trained Bochart ran clear of his competition in the Al Furjan Handicap on Jan. 16, coming within .06 of Mind Your Biscuits' course record, but he will have to prove his class against a salty field. Seemar will also start another front-runner, Lavaspin, who now has the benefit of a race under his belt this season and won this very event last year.
Multiple G3 winner Switzerland has yet to capture his American form in Dubai and may be up against it in this race, making his first start in nearly 11 months and initial foray for trainer Doug Watson. The six-time champion trainer will also start 2018 Al Shindagha Sprint winner My Catch, who also seems to prefer a forward position, but must overcome his far outside draw in post 10. NOTES: Watson discusses Switzerland's training this season.
Reigning DWC Carnival champion jockey William Buick will be aboard the other O'Neill trainee, Prodigal Son—carrying the same purple and white he took to the winner's enclosure with Reddam Racing's Fore Left last week in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3)—who will need to step up from his UAE debut a few weeks ago, when slightly dwelt at the start in the Dubai Dash (Listed) on Jan. 23.
The local duo of Semoum and Eqtiraan, as well as improving UK-based Desert Doctor and Swedish sprinter Trickbag complete the field.
Race 4 (8:15 p.m.)—Group 2 $250,000 Balanchine (1800mT)
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The second of two Group 2 turf races restricted to fillies and mares during the DWC Carnival, the 1800m Balanchine has attracted a field of eight, seven of whom contested the 1600m Group 2 Cape Verdi four weeks ago. Chief among those is Godolphin's Charlie Appleby-trained Magic Lily, who won in dramatic style over Team Valor International's French invader Nisreen in the last jump.
Ridden by James Doyle on that occasion, the blue-blooded homebred 5-year-old New Approach mare will be the choice of William Buick this time and should appreciate the increase in trip, being that her dam Dancing Rain won the Investec Oaks (G1), Preis der Diana/German Oaks (G1) and British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) all over 2400m.
Doyle, on the other hand, picks up the mount on stablemate Divine Image, winner of last year's UAE Oaks (G3) and Al Bastakiya (Listed)—the latter over males—both at 1900m on dirt. Only once tested on turf, she has given her connections confidence that she will handle it well on Thursday. NOTES: Appleby speaks on the form of Magic Lily and Divine Image.
Nisreen must not be dismissed, as the Hiroo Shimizu trainee rarely runs a bad race, finishing top three in nine of 11 tries and considered quite unlucky by many last time. It is worth noting that Pierre-Charles Boudot has once again travelled in from France for the ride.
Also for Godolphin, Saeed bin Suroor saddles Dubai Blue, the mount of Christophe Soumillon but a long way behind Magic Lily when failing to beat any of seven rivals in the Cape Verdi. Homebred, the 4-year-old More Than Ready filly has won both starts on the all-weather track at Lingfield, but has not tasted success in three turf outings.
"She is not a filly who shows a lot at home in the mornings, but has been working ok," Bin Suroor said. "It looks a tough race, but we decided to give her another go because she is a filly we have always liked."
Others of note are Group 3 winner Surrounding, multiple Turkish G1 winner Peri Lina—third in this last year—and Simon Crisford-trained Maamora, who should improve from her fifth in the Cape Verdi in what will be her second race off a layoff. Hateya, who must improve to factor here, completes the line-up.
Race 5 (8:50 p.m.)—$135,000 Reach Handicap (1000mT)
A 12-horse field will assemble in Thursday's fifth race, which is over 1000 meters down the straight Meydan turf chute. Simon Crisford-trained Roulston Scar has not finished out of the money in his two starts of the year, both at Meydan, including a third last week in the $175,000 Dubai Sprint (Listed) over 1200 meters, but must wheel back quickly for his connections. In his first start this year, he won the Riviera 2 Handicap over the same trip in a swift time of 1:08.80 and a return to that form makes him a deserving highweight here.
Doug Watson-trained Waady cut back to 1000m and returned to the grass for the first time this season in his last start, finishing second in the $175,000 Dubai Dash (Listed) to well-regarded favourite Equilateral. Another effort of that level makes him tough to beat here.
Also in said field was 11-year-old veteran Caspian Prince, a UK-based G2 winner trained by Mick Appleby and to be ridden by Alistair Rawlinson. Swift out of the stalls and surely one to make the early running, he should have a say throughout.
Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Neverland Rock piques interest, as he has earned the call of stable jockey Mickael Barzalona over stablemates Pocket Dynamo (Royston Ffrench) and High on Life (Xavier Ziani). The second listed carries the same 100 rating of Waady, while Neverland Rock's 93 allows him a significant break in the weights.
Jamie Osborne-trained Dream Today makes his fourth start of the 2020 DWC Carnival in seven weeks and cuts back to 1000m for the first time in his career. Consistent and obviously one who loves this course, he may appreciate the quicker tempo of 1000m and is surely a threat if his busy schedule does not catch up to him.
Plenty of intrigue will circulate around U.S. invader Torosay, an 1100m course record-setter at Santa Anita last fall, who has attracted the services of William Buick for last week's UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Doug O'Neill. Others of note are Spanish speedster Blueberry and last-out local winner Speedy Move, who checks in light of the scales for leading trainer Satish Seemar after earning his first DWC Carnival-worthy rating (91) on Feb. 1 over 1200m.
Race 6 (9:25 p.m.)—Group 3 $200,000 Firebreak Stakes (1600m)
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Ten will face the starter in the dirt feature, the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes, which appears a 'triple threat' tag team match between two power-yards of the UAE, Red Stables of Doug Watson and Fazza Stables of Salem bin Ghadayer. Watson will unleash HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's defending champion and 1600m track record holder Muntazah, who exits a nine-length fourth last out in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) over this trip. Said effort was eerily similar to last year's third by 10 lengths in the same race, which was then followed by a 4½-length gallop in this race over Satish Seemar-trained Secret Ambition, who also returns in this spot off a head loss in Round 1.
Watson also unveils multiple Grade 2 winner Quip in what will be his UAE bow and first start for new owner Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi. From 11 starts, he owns four victories, including wins in the 1700m Tampa Bay Derby (G2) of 2018 and 1800m Oaklawn Handicap (G2) of 2019, but exits a pair of poor efforts against top American company last fall. Pat Dobbs picks up the ride from the outside post 10, as Sheikh Hamdan's contract rider Jim Crowley once again pilots Muntazah (post six).
Rounding out the Watson trio is hard-charging longshot Thegreatcollection, who must improve to factor here under Sam Hitchcott, but drew a ground-saving rail post. NOTES: Watson discusses all three of his Firebreak horses.
Bin Ghadayer brings the top-rated horse to run all card in 2019 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) winner Capezzano (117), who makes his first start since flopping as the favourite in the Dubai World Cup. A five-time winner from 15 starts, he twice won at this trip last year—in dominant fashion each time—and has lofty goals this season if successful Thursday evening. He will not have to go far to see his presumed toughest rival in Muntazah, as he is drawn immediately outside him in post six.
Bin Ghadayer also starts the HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum-owned duo of Heavy Metal and Matterhorn—the former a 10-year-old who appears past his prime, but was very much spoken of in the same fashion last year before finishing a fine second in the Godolphin Mile (G2). A winner of this race two years ago, it would not be a huge shock to see him figure. Matterhorn has reportedly been training well on the dirt for what will be his first try on the surface. He has shown ample class on all-weather and turf back in Europe for previous conditioner Mark Johnston, winning eight of 20 against respectable company. NOTES: Bin Ghadayer discusses the preparation of Capezzano and his remaining runners.
Fight On, a stakes winner in the USA for trainer Doug O'Neill, must up his game from a third-place finish in handicap company last time as the highweight (60kgs), but gets a 3kgs break from that impost and a plum draw in four under Pat Cosgrave. Walking Thunder (Connor Beasley, post eight) looks to return to his best form for Phoenix Ladies Syndicate and Ahmad bin Harmash and will definitely be a pace factor, as will UK-based Ambassadorial, who was a fine second at this trip on Jan. 16, but must overcome post nine under John Egan. Secret Ambition has drawn post three under Tadhg O'Shea and hopes to return to the form that saw him take December's course and distance Dubai Creek Mile (Listed).
Race 7 (10:00 p.m.)—$175,000 Friday Handicap 90+ (2410mT)
The odds are in Godolphin's favour with half the 16 horses running in the royal blue and the jockeys' quarters possibly running out of cap colours in the process in the concluding handicap. Contested over 2410m, or one lap around the sweeping turf oval, the race features defending winner Mountain Hunter, who should be a tough customer once again for Saeed bin Suroor. Still, he did not attract the yard's lead rider Christophe Soumillon, who goes with top-rated Desert Fire (108), third by 1½ lengths last out in the Zabeel Turf (Listed) astern Certain Lad in a course record-equalling 2:00.67. Pat Cosgrave picks up the mount on Mountain Hunter.
Charlie Appleby's top chance appears to be Jalmoud, whose full-sister Magic Lily is favoured in the Balanchine (G2) earlier in the card. Always well-regarded, the chestnut gelding was fourth last out behind Logician in the Great Voltigeur (G2) at York, one race before said grey conqueror went on to land the St Leger (G1).
If Godolphin is somehow ghosted in the top spot here, the culprit could be Irish gelding Massif Central, who ran a blinder last out to be second over this trip on Jan. 23, chasing home well-intended Bin Suroor trainee Dubai Future. Trained by Mick Halford, the son of Arcano has not won in 15 months, but rarely runs poorly and appears to appreciate the return to good ground. It does not hurt that he will receive 4-4.5kgs from Desert Fire and Mountain Hunter. Dubai Future also returns here as one of the expected favourites and will once again be ridden by Harry Bentley at a generous 54.5kgs.