The gelded son of Dubawi exits a measured victory last out in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, defeating subsequent UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Mouheeb, among others, and heads into the $1.5 million Saudi Derby in proper form.
A good-looking, undefeated (from three starts) dark bay with tractable pace, Rebel's Romance is arguably Appleby's best chance at victory and may vie for favouritism in what looks a strong renewal.
"Rebel's Romance has done well since his last start in the Guineas Trial," Appleby said. "I think the track will suit him. This is his next step up again, really, and he goes against the American horse (Cowan), the local horses and Saeed's filly (Soft Whisper), who was very impressive in the Guineas. He goes in there in very good order."
No matter what happens on Saturday, the goal afterward remains the $750,000 UAE Derby (G2). He is also nominated to the American Triple Crown.
Godolphin's Group 1-winning Space Blues is the top-rated horse Appleby brings to Riyadh and will likely be a slight favourite in the $1 million 1351 Turf Sprint. A seven-time winner from 13 starts, the son of Dubawi rides a four-race win streak into Saudi, topped by August's Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) over a similar distance to Saturday's turf dash.
Appleby also starts HH Sheikha Al Jalila Racing's Glorious Journey, who was the 9/4 market favourite in last year's edition, but could not overcome a wide draw and finished third behind Dark Power and stablemate Mubtasim. Once again, Glorious Journey enters off a run in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) at Meydan over 1400m, finishing third behind Land of Legends and stablemate D'bai.
"Space Blues , if he brings his 'A game,' he's going to be (tough to beat)," Appleby said. "He'll go off favourite, I would imagine. The draw is the thing there, as we all know, and I hope the ground isn't too quick there for him. He is better on decent ground, but he goes there well. We went to Meydan (for a gallop/breeze) and we were pleased with the way he galloped and how he came out of it.
"Obviously, Glorious Journey goes in that race fit and ran a great race last year from a bad draw," Applbey continued. "Hopefully, he can have a little luck with the draw this year and he's going to be a major player again."
Appleby strongly considered entering D'bai, but instead will keep him in Dubai to contest the Zabeel Mile (G2) at Meydan.
"It was a bit of a decision that had to be made where you either drop back to the six and a half (in the 1351 Turf Sprint)—and that's sharp for D'bai—whereas stretching up to the mile, he's won over the distance at Ascot and Pontrefract, so we know he gets the mile. He ran a great race there last time in the Al Fahidi, so we thought it suited him to go up in trip instead of back, at his age."
Secret Advisor completes the quartet and could be slightly overlooked in the $2.5 million Red Sea Turf Handicap over 3000m. A stamina specialist, the 114-rated son of Dubawi exits a fourth in German G1 company last fall and was a smart winner of the 2800m Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) at Meydan one year ago.
"Secret Advisor is a horse who gets the trip well and runs well fresh," Appleby said. "The race can be run to suit him. He's a bit of a hold-up horse, so we think he'll run well.
"We have a nice little team going to Saudi," he concluded. "We have four good horses going there and if we can bag one winner, we'd be delighted."