Welcome to the Dubai Carnival for 2008. We were off to a false start last week due to the weather but it's full steam ahead today. Let's see if we can find a winner or two to make up for lost time. On with the show!Meydan Hotel Handicap (Turf)
A nice little handicap to kick things off. Algharb has been put up favourite by most firms but he has to improve a fair bit for mine to take on the competition today. He has local form on his side but the bulk of his previous European runs indicate he has ground to make up. The best of his Dubai form probably places T-Bird as his equal but the market doesn't reflect that. The trip looks a tad far for Indian Trail and I'm prepared to risk him today. German raider Santiago Atitlan has some decent form and will arrive fitter than most. He had a tune up eight weeks ago and should be much improved for the outing. De Kock runner Drift Ice needs to produce a career best to place IMO.
At her peak Ripple's Maid is right in this. Well drawn but weighted to her best for mine. Mares are always a risk in Dubai but the wet weather of late may help her cause. The one I really like here though is Grand Vista. Touted as a potential Gr1 horse after his first couple of starts things started to go astray when he was trained as a miler. Had some decent form at that trip but I much prefer this son of Danehill back at six and a half furlongs. Has been working very well for Herman Brown of late and if he's not too free on the bridle early will be very hard to beat. Meydan Business Park Handicap (Turf)
A terrific chance for Dandy Nicholls to get off the mark here with Something. There is plenty of speed engaged and this fellow will be stalking that pace. The trip suits him more than many opponents who will be gasping for air over the last 100 yards. The biggest danger could be a hectic pace. A breakneck leader tempo would really suit one runner engaged here - Mariol. I strongly fancy one of the pair to take the race and it's hard to find likely ways for the others to get competitive. Meydan Marina Stakes (Conditions Race) (Dirt)
A tough looking race dominated by Mike De Kock and a host of Sth American entries. Throw in a couple of likely Euros and you have a dart board contest. It really looks a race to sit back and watch with a view to the Guineas/Derby layter in the season. The value today looks to be around the likes of Ukranian and Yahrab but there are at least ten genuine chances here.Meydan City Handicap (Turf)
New Guinea was lightly raced last season and arrives here relatively fit and well. He should be very hard to beat this evening. Habitual non triers like Hard Top should be taken on trust. Ex Sth American Gr1 winner Dono Da Raia looks interesting. His form could improve dramatically after a year of acclimitisation in the Emirates. No doubt New Guinea is the stable selection though.
The two biggest dangers to the favourite are clearly the well waited pair down the bottom. Lake Poet was progressive last year winning a couple of nice handicaps. He could be a little exposed now though. The real question mark is the patiently handled Longville for Mario Hofer. The stable knows the time of day and arrive here with the perfect type for the carnival. A really progressive type who should continue to improve. Faced some serious improvers at the end of last season and should be very hard to beat today. The postage stamp on his back could make all the difference when they reach the line. Meydan Racecourse Handicap (Turf)
Absolute three horse race here and if anything else scores it will be a massive surprise. Divine Jury arrives here with a very strong vibe from the stable. Set for the Duty Free on World Cup night he'd want to be right up to the task today. Rated higher by the stable than the likes of Oracle West and Grand Emporium, both classy De Kock runners in Dubai. If the word is right he'll be very hard to beat getting six pounds from Lingarri.
The other pair to be considered are Lingarri and With Interest. The former has all the runs on the board and rightly concedes weight to the field today. Always hard to beat in a contest like this and will easily expose any chinks in Divine Jury. With Interest on the other hasnd remains a complete mystery. No doubt he has enormous potential but that's offset by an extensive list of injury setbacks. Both wins have been achieved over proven high quality opponents. Certainly gets the help from the handicapper that's required but his brittle body presents as a decent risk. Al Shindagha Sprint (Sponsored by Meydan) (Group 3) (Dirt)
Another narrow contest with only two real hopes on paper. Asiatic Boy returns to dirt racing after some fair efforts on turf in the UK last year. He picks himself on the class front. Getting a six furlong tune up today and the short trip could be the greatest danger to the De Kock stable star. If he is to be turned over it looks like Diabolical could be up to the task - especially at this trip. Much better suited once switched to sprinting at the end of his three year old year. progressive at four and should be a strong campaigner for Godolphin during 2008. No doubt the pair have it between them with a significant class drop to the remainder. Meydan Races to the Future Handicap (Turf)
Along with the Marina Stakes the most open event on the card. A host of chances and luck in running/fitness will be the keys to victory. I do like progressive handicapper Coeur De Lionne but he probably doesn't want it too soft or unforgivng out there. A tough ten furlongs on firm ground/all weather was as far as he wanted last year. Switched camps for today's race and the new stable has an excellent record in Dubai. Al Shemali has a real show and looks to be better suited to a variety of surfaces. Tough little race to end the day.
Good luck folks!