As the recognized 1 1/4-mile prep for the world's richest horse race, the $12 million Dubai World Cup, the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) has attracted a quality field of 10, including Godolphin's Thunder Snow, who finished second in this race before winning the 2018 Dubai World Cup. The 2017 UAE Derby (G3) winner made history when victorious in the 2018 Dubai World Cup by becoming the first horse to complete that particular double and is seeking a second niche in UAE racing folklore by becoming the first horse to win the Dubai World Cup twice. On his most recent outing, the Saeed bin Suroor stable star finished third in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs in November. In total, he has three G1 wins and earnings of more than $9 million from 21 starts (7 wins).
“He had a busy 2018, so we have given him a nice break,” Bin Suroor said. “He did a very nice final serious piece of work last Saturday and we also took him over to Meydan for a gallop, which went very well. Obviously the Dubai World Cup is the main target, with this the obvious stepping stone. We expect him to run well, but he will definitely improve for the outing.”
Bin Suroor has won the race on no less than 11 occasions, whereas fellow Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby is seeking a maiden success in the contest and will be relying on dirt debutant Nordic Lights. The 4-year-old Intello gelding won a turf handicap at the Dubai World Cup Carnival on his latest start and broke his maiden at first asking on the Lingfield all-weather just shy of a year ago.
Appleby said: “He works on dirt at home where the surface is quite deep and I think the one at Meydan will suit him better. The Jebel Hatta was the alternative, but we are well represented in that and we think, given his style of racing, good gate speed and natural speed, he may take to the dirt. Thunder Snow is obviously going to be hard to beat, but the rest are pretty evenly matched, so it looked worth a go.”
Three horses, all trained by Bin Suroor for Godolphin, have won the Al Maktoum Challenge R3 en route to victory in the big race itself, most notably Dubai Millennium in 2000. Electrocutionist in 2006 was the most recent.
South Korea's Dolkong was a winner just nine days prior, dismantling his Curlin Handicap (Listed) foes over the same trip. Hoping to earn their way into the proverbial big dance, trainer Simon Foster and Owner Lee Tae In will give it another go.
Lightly raced New Trails will make just his eighth lifetime start and has been progressive for Ahmad bin Harmash. Worse than second only once, he exits a good second to North America in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) and was a winner over this trip in November.
Fourteen-length Mina Rashid Handicap winner Capezzano will line up for Salem bin Ghadayer and owner Sultan Ali, but must prove himself as more than a miler. He should provide some pace for the race, but will likely be joined up front early by Doug Watson trainee Cosmo Charlie, who carries the colours of Ramzan Kadyrov, whose North America won this last year for Satish Seemar. Also a winner over this trip, he was third in Round 2 and must improve.
Bin Ghadayer, who won this race two years ago with Long River, also starts U.S. classic-placed Gronkowski, who chased home Triple Crown winner Justify in the last leg of said triad. The Phoenix Thoroughbreds colt was last seen when a lacklustre third in Grade 3 company in New York. The yard completes a trio of starters with recent Listed winner Montsarrat, who has proven a consistent and talented performer, but is ambitiously placed in this spot.
South American Grade 1 winners Furia Cruzada, a two-time Dubai World Cup alumnus and third in this race last year, and Logrado provide intrigue from the Green Stables of Erwan Charpy. The latter makes his local bow and is a Grade 1 winner over this trip in Argentina. A big, long-striding type, he has impressed onlookers while training, but his trainer has warned that he will definitely need the run.
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