Another superb night of racing with fast times and fabulous finishes. Two of the six races were so close that the winning jockeys believed they had been beaten crossing the line!
Magic Lily was top of the bill with her short head win in the Cape Verdi. Had she not got up in the final stride under James Doyle, then Godolphin would have drawn a rare blank on the night.
There were six Godolphin runners in the Zabeel Turf but Certain Lad upstaged them by taking the spoils for Mick Channon and Ben Curtis.
Doug Watson secured his 600th winner in the UAE when Midnight Sands led late on in the Mina Handicap.
Roulston Scar and Bochart were impressive winners in the first two races, while the globetrotting Suedois clung on for a popular success in the finale.
Suedois could be back in action next week, when the action will feature the UAE 1000 Guineas. Join us then for more thrills and drama.
What a night for Doug Watson. He achieved his 600th winner in the UAE and leads the trainer rankings after three weeks of the Carnival.
Here's how the jockeys stand.
The final race . on the card is another thriller which goes to the wire, with the Group 1-winning Suedois fending off Epic Hero by the narrowest of margins after both had been delivered from mid-division in a race run at good gallop.
Many thought William Buick had timed things to perfection on Epic Hero, but the line came a stride too soon for Simon Crisford's charge. Above N Beyond was third.
Nobody could begrudge nine-year-old Suedois, trained by David O'Mera, another big-race success off a mark of 110. He has been a tremendously consistent performer all around the world.
"He’s been an absolute superstar," jockey Danny Tudhope, enjoying a first winner at Meydan, said. "He was running out of steam and I was crying for the line to come and thought I’d got beat. In another stride he would have got beat, but he showed a good heart and attitude.
"He’s stil the horse of old. The engine is still there. He’s been running at top level for the last fewyears now and earned a lot of prize-money along the way.
"I think the plan is to go for the Group 2 next week. You might see him again there."
Midnight Sands was a 600th winner in the UAE for a delighted Doug Watson.
The trainer said: “We are very fortunate. I came up under Kiaran McLaughlin and I got the job when he left. He left a good bunch of horses, which made life easier for me in the first few years and a good staff. They are the main drivers behind it.
“I was thinking about (win 600) going into tonight. “The owner of Thegreatcollection, Zaur Sekrekov, sent me a picture and I didn’t realize we got to 500 with Thegreatcollection (who finished fourth in today’s milestone race). I thought ‘wow this could be funny.’
“It has been a nice few years and we have got a great staff and what a group of owners who give us some nice horses to train. Obviously that includes His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid (Al Maktoum) and Mohammed Khalifa Al Basti. I can’t go through them all. There are so many of them, including Sheikh Rashid (bin Humaid) Al Nuaimi, who has given us some very nice horses.
“You have to have the horses to win races. We have the horses and we have the staff who can get them ready to run.”
He added: “This is a nice, progressive horse. I like the way he did – he has tonnes of ability, battles hard and has a good mind. He likes racing and is tough.
Getting a mile helps out a lot. I don’t know where we go next with him. We might stay with handicaps.”
Pat Dobbs believes the best may still be to come from Midnight Sands, who was extending his winning sequence to four.
“He’s only just turned four, he’s a big baby,” Dobbs said. “He was very impressive tonight, and travelled super. We went a good, honest gallop all the way and there was no hiding place.”
Midnight Sands was moving up in trip and Dobbs said: “I always felt a mile would suit better – last time [over seven furlongs] I was always having to keep the revs up.
“He has a brilliant attitude and is four from four now. Not many do that.”
This evening’s action concludes with another maximum field of 16 contesting the Aliyah Handicap on turf over 1400 metres.
Major Partnership was a fluent winner of a similar contest over 200 metres less a fortnight ago, when he won at the main expense of Zainhom, who stayed on well, and the Group 1-winning Suedois. That pair re-oppose, as does Azmaam who finished sixth.
Pat Cosgrave rode Major Partnership on that occasion and retains the ride on the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained colt. The combination were always in a handy position from a low draw that night and Cosgrave drove him clear up the rail when a gap presented itself. Watch a replay below.
“I think he’s a better horse this year,” the jockey said. “He looks better and is moving better. He got a nice run up the fence and was convincing.”
Royal Marine, a stablemate of Major Partnership, was highly tried last summer but struggled to make an impact in Group 1 company. Gelded in the interim, he now has his sights lowered with Soumillon on his back.
Another to have been gelded since last season is Epic Hero, who has his first start for Simon Crisford having previously been trained by Andre Fabre.
The former Godolphin inmate will be equipped with a first-time hood and will be an interesting contender if able to overcome his wide draw.
What a performance by Midnight Sands. He overcomes stamina doubts to claw back the globetrotting Ambassadorial in the final strides of the Mina Handicap.
All the way up the straight it looked like Ambassadorial, whose last run was at the Breeders' Cup, would prevail as he bossed the race under Pat Dobbs.
But Midnight Sands, seeking a fourth successive win at Meydan, pulled out all the stops to get up close home and give Doug Watson a fifth win at this year's Carnival and his 600th success in the UAE.
George Villiers was a distant third, in a race where few got competitive.
James Doyle admitted he thought Magic Lily had finished second at the end of a pulsating Cape Verdi.
The jockey, riding his second winner of the night, believed Nisreen had clung on. “I didn’t think I’d peg her [Nisreen] back and even at the line I didn’t think I’d won,” Doyle said. “Magic Lily’s tough, very game.
“Things didn’t go entirely our way. The plan was to lead and she got lit up a bit when the oher horse [Dubai Blue] went past. She over-raced a bit.
“We think she’s a nine or ten-furlong ten filly and the Balanchine will be perfect for her. She will go close in that.”
William Buick was on stablemate Beyond Reason and Doyle revealed: “The other filly has been showing more in her work and she ran well, but perhaps the end-end gallop has just drawn the sting out of her a bit.”
On tonight’s quick times, he said: “You can be fooled into thinking’s it’s very fast ground, but when it’s very quick the horses don’t let themselves down. It’s a beautiful surface out there tonight.”
Pierre-Charles Boudot, rider of Nisreen, said: “She ran very well. The pace was very strong and the way was open just at the turn and she came in really easy. She was very courageous.”
Buick said of Beyond Reason: “She ran well. She would be better back to seven furlongs.”
Runners from South Korea, Sweden, England and Bahrain add spice to the penultimare race – the Mina Handicap, on dirt, over 1600 metres.
One of the most interesting raiders is the useful Red Hot Chilli, trained by Patrick Wahl in Sweden. He has his first start at Meydan, having proved consistent in his native country on all-weather surfaces.
The home team is led by Midnight Sands, one of two runners for Doug Watson, and George Villiers, conditioned by Satish Seemar.
Midnight Sands arrives in great heart after wins at Meydan in November (watch above) and December. However, he does have an extra 200 metres to cover – plus he is up 5lb for a narrow win last time.
The globetrotting Ambassadorial, trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam in Newmarket, was not disgraced when running in the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on his latest start. It would be no surprise if he made his presence felt from a favourable draw.
A thrilling finish to the $250,000 Cape Verdi with Magic Lily collaring Nisreen on the line.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the way the turf and dirt tracks are riding tonight, the winning time was another course record. The horses really are relishing both surfaces.
Trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by James Doyle, this was an eighth win in the past ten years in the Cape Verdit for Godolphin.
Doyle had intended to lead but the headstrong Dubai Blue, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, set the eaerly fractions. Magic Lily tracked her, with the well-fancied Surrounding in third place early on.
Up the straight, Nisreen got a dream run up the rail and she looked certain to win for much of the final 200 metres. However, Magic Lily stays well and got her nose in front where it matters most.
Beyond Reason kept on for third but Surrounding and Dubai Blue faded to be seventh and eighth.
Charlie Appleby is not at Meydan tonight but the Balanchine seems certain to be next for his regally-bred filly, with the extra 200 metres sure to suit.
Three Godolphin runners will ensure Surrounding does not have things all her own way in this evening’s feature.
Saeed Bin Suroor has won five of the past nine renewals and this time relies on Dubai Love, impressive on two starts on the all-weather at Lingfield but well-held in her previous two races on turf.
Meanwhile, Charlie Appleby will be represented by the lightly-raced Magic Lily, a regally bred mare who will be having only her fifth race, as well as Beyond Reason.
“She sustained an injury in the early part of her three-year-old career and that’s why she missed 2018,” Appleby said of Magic Lily. “We were very happy to get her back on track for her reappearance in France in October], where she put up a respectable effort there.
“I was a bit disappointed, but we sort of potentially knew our fate there in her last start because she was drawn wide at Lingfield [the following month]. She didn’t do it the right way around, therefore we knew it was always the plan to come here.”
Appleby, not at Meydan tonight, added: “The trip will be on the sharp side for her on Thursday, but it’s hopefully a nice prep for her into the (1800m) Balanchine.
“Her preparation has gone well, so we’re looking forward to seeing her next start on a nice conventional track like Meydan. She’s in good order and should put up a decent performance.”
The feature race is up next with eight runners going to post for the Group 2 $250,000 Cape Verdi Sponsored By Creek Views over 1600 metres on turf.
Surrounding is officially rated between 5lb and 9lb superior to her rivals and the bad news for her opponents is that Mick Halford, her trainer, has “had this race in mind for her for a long time”.
The seven-year-old looked better than ever last season when she chalked up four wins. On her latest outing she won over 1400 metres at Dundalk.
“She had a wonderful (2019) season and we’re delighted with her,” Halford said. “She has won five Listed races in the space of 12 months and a Group 3 at home. She has age on her side and is again a filly who just kept improving. She's been a model of consistency and only does what she has to.
“I had this race in mind for her for a long time and we’re pleased with her. She’s travelled out well and is training well, but she’s very straight-forward and has that experience. She’s at her best on good ground, seven furlongs to a mile is good for her and taking on her own sex will be good for her. I’m quite hopeful.”
He added: “Generally, Dubai is good if you think there’s still improvement in a horse who likes good ground and has a good attitude. The great weather and facilities just bring out the best in them. You’ll often find you’ll improve a horse here.
"To be able to play on this stage is wonderful. To have a horses able to compete here is great and heps shorten the winter."
A surprise in the $175,000 Zabeel Turf with Certain Lad, trained in Britain by former England football star Mick Channon, taking the spoils.
The pace did not seem overly quick, but the winner equalled the course record.
Simsir was a big eye-catcher in second, staying on strongly from off the gallop, with Desert Fire best of the six Godolphn runners in third.
Dream Castle was a big disappointment, getting pushed a bit wide and never threatening to get involved.
Winning owner Chris Hirst: "I’m over the moon, it was his first run here and I wasn’t expecting that. He was given a great ride by Ben [Curtis] and I really appreciate it that he came out here to ride for us.
“The main target was a race here on January 30th. We will take a look at that now.”
Curtis arrived in Dubai this morning and had a nap on the sofa of colleague Danny Tudhope plus a lay by the pool before getting down to business. He is booked on a 2am flight back to Britain tonight.
“He’s improving with every run, it’s unbelievable," Curtis said. "It rode a good race and the time backs it up.
“He’s a handful [in the preliminaries]. He gets hot, sweaty and acts the maggot a bit but that’s probably a good thing, otherwise they might not have flown me out here to ride him!”
Channon said: “He has always been a good horse, he was in good form and we had the (nerve) to go and it worked out. We've always thought a lot of him.
"You never know going against Godolphin. We've always been competitive and never slow at having a crack (at big races). That's why we have race horses. We’ll have a go at the best if we can and go on to the next race (at Meydan).”
Bochart, winner of tonight's second race, is a hugely popular horse at the Zabeel Stables of Satish Seemar.
Winning jockey Richard Mullen said: “He’s one of the yard favourites, it’s been well-documented that he nearly died. He’s the apple of everybody’s eye at Zabeel.
“For him to come and win at the Carnival is testament to everybody’s work at Zabeel.
“He’s such an honest horse. He still spooks at everything, it’s why he has has a pony. He wants to run, doesn’t want to be in his box. He wants to be part of racing and enjoys the competition.
“He’s a flagbearer for racing in Dubai. The older they get, they don’t get any slower. Horses get five-star treatment out her and improve for the sunshine."
Bochart came close to lowering the course record that Mind Your Biscuits achieved in the 2018 Golden Shaheen. Watch that magical effort below.
Mullen denied Bochart has to lead but added: ”It makes life easier for everyone in general [when in front]. They can’t do everything on one breath, but it’s easier if you are driving the train!
“When it rains, the dirt works opposite to the turf. The sand gets wet, it gets hard and rides quicker.”
The inaugural running of the $175,000 Zabeel Turf, a Listed Handicap for horses rated between 95 and 112 sponsored by Riviera 1, has attracted a classy field of 11.
Group 1 winner Dream Castle and Group 2 winner Loxley head the runners. They feature among no fewer than six Godolphin runners with Dubai Horizon, First Nation, Desert Fire and Art Du Val also carrying the famous blue colours.
Dream Castle is Godolphin’s No 1 contender. He was a late non-runner from the Group 2 Singspiel Stakes last week, leaving the way clear for his too-class stablemate, Benbatl, to win easily.
Mick Halford fields an intriguing runner in the Aga Khan-owned Simsir. He won two of his three races last year – over the same 2000m he will contest this evening — and he travels over in form, finishing second four weeks ago at Dundalk, again over 2000m.
“He’s lightly raced and was quite a big horse who took plenty of time to mature and come to hand,” Halford said. “He won his first two races and I said that maybe we would bring him here, so we freshened him up and gave him a run before he came out.
“He finished second and we were delighted with him because he needed that for experience. When he won his maiden he won in good style, but didn’t learn a whole lot. His second outing was on the sand in Dundalk and he went around quite comfortably, as well, so he has come on from this experience.
Halford added: “He’s a horse we thought had a good profile for Dubai. He has a great constitution and good attitude and he’s a horse who loves good ground. I think there’s more to come from him. He’s a beautiful-moving horse.”
It’s one-way traffic in the Al Furjan with Richard Mullen making all aboard the Satish Seemar-trained Bochart in a time of 1min 10.18sec, which is just outside the course record.
Clearly, the dirt is riding very quick tonight after the recent rain and Bochart was in his element - Mullen grabbing the rail on him and setting fractions rarely seen.
The combination came home just over five lengths clear in a time marginally slower than that recorded by Mind Your Biscuits in the 2018 Golden Shaheen.
Some effort by a horse who has a rating of 95.
Desert Doctor was the distant runner-up, with Behavioral Bias, a stablemate of the winner, running well to be third given he swept wide into the straight.
My Catch could not get to the front and was well held.
The second race is also a sprint handicap over 1200 metres, but this time the action for the Al Furjan switches to the dirt for horses rated between 90 and 108.
Satish Seemar has four runners – Bochart, Beachcomber Bay, Behavioral Bias and The Song Of John.
Seemar has already had a couple of winners on dirt at this year’s Carnival and, with slightly better fortune, might easily have had four.
His Above Normal and Saltarin Dunbai finished second and third in the same 1800 metre contest on the opening night – when beaten a short head and a short head – and, remarkably, his Secret Ambition and North America were beaten by the same margins in Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge last week.
Front-running My Catch was back to form when winning at Meydan last month (watch above) and, if in similar heart, must have prospects of defying an 8lb rise.
However, he does have a wide draw to overcome on this occasion and will have competition for the lead in the shape of Nine Below Zero.
Perhaps the most fascinating runner is Tribal Guest, a Charlie Appleby-trained son of War Front who makes his debut on dirt after 553 days off the track. This will be only his seventh start and he has won over today’s trip at Kempton and Newmarket.
Ed Crisford, son and assistant of trainer Simon, was understandably delighted with Roulston Scar’s smooth success under James Doyle.
“He travelled well and James kept it simple,” Crisford said. “The pace was this side [on the stands’ side] and it worked out well. It was a straightforward race and he did it very well.
“We are learning about the horse, but he’s always travelled well in his work and he did it nicely. This looks a perfect trip for him and there’s a nice programme at the Carnival for him.”
Doyle added: “I was a little bit worried about his draw but I was pleased to get a lead. I got a nice tow along. We thought he’d be bang there, all the conditions looked right for him.”
Those runners drawn low, including Almanaara in stall 1, found themselves swimming against the tide and were unable to make an impact. The pace set on the stands’ side was simply quicker.
Roulston Scar is an emphatic winner of the opening contest.
Having his first start for Simon Crisford, he was always coasting under James Doyle on the stands’ side, having got a nice tow into the race from Geological and Pocket Dynamo.
Dream Today, runner-up here last week, ran another cracker to fill the same position, with Moment Of Silence and Summerghand the next pair home.
The winning time was a swift 68.8 seconds, suggesting the recent rain has not slowed the ground.
Roulston Scar was a 110,000gns purchase out of the Kevin Ryan yard and looks a shrewd buy.
The action gets under way at 6.30pm with the Riviera 2 (Handicap) over 1200 metres, featuring a maximum field of 16.
It will be fascinating to see if Almanaara can build on his decisive success in the Emirates NBD Personal Banking Handicap over 1000m on the opening night of the Carnival a fortnight ago.
The seven-year-old grey, trained by Doug Watson, got a lovely tow from the trail-blazing Caspian Prince on that occasion and stretched a length and three quarters clear of that rival in the closing stages. Rewatch the race below.
Better known as a dirt performer, he was having his first run on turf since August 2016 and seemed to relish the switch. He now has to cope with a 6lb rise and an extra 200 metres, although he is proven over further.
“He seemed to enjoy the change of scenery,” Watson said. “He used to be spectacular in his work [on dirt] but now it’s just ordinary. We thought he might be a World Cup night sprinter and perhaps he might still be.”
Blueberry (third), Riflescope (fourth), Es Raco (fifth), Portamento (sixth) and Pocket Dynamo (ninth) all finished behind Almanaara two weeks ago. The quintet face no easy task turning the tables, although Riflescope did keep on well after fluffing the start.
Dream Today chased home Ekhtiyaar in a similarly competitive sprint handicap over the same 1200 metres last week, when he had Moqarrab (third) and Summerghand (fourth) behind.
Saeed Bin Suroor relies on two likely contenders in Yattwee and Moment Of Silence, while Roulston Scar is an intriguing runner on what will be his first start for Simon Crisford.
He showed progressive form when trained by Kevin Ryan last year before running below-par on soft ground at Ascot in the autumn. Geological, in stall 11 and ridden by apprentice Vanessa Maye, is a likely pace angle.
Saeed Bin Suroor and Doug Watson have made a swift start to the Dubai Carnival, with each enjoying four winners over the first two weeks.
Bin Suroor will field nine runners this evening, with his Dubai Icon a non-runner in the penultimate contest.
Perhaps his best hope for a winner is Dream Castle, who runs in the Zabeel Turf (7.40).
Watson will field four challengers, with Almanaara and My Catch leading contenders for him in the first two races. He also saddles Midnight Sands and Thegreatcollection in the Mina Handicap on dirt at 8.50.
The first eight races of the Carnival were all won by different jockeys.
Going into week three, Christophe Soumillon, above, leads the way with three victories on the board. Richard Mullen is the only other rider with more than one winner to his name.
Soumillon has five rides tonight and all have claims. He was booked to ride in every race but Dubai Icon is now a non-runner in the 8.50.
Incidentally, the past two days in Dubai have been dry after plenty of rainfall. This evening is set fair with conditions on the turf course described as good.
Welcome to our live blog and coverage of the third meeting of the Dubai Carnival.
We will again bring you previews, results, snap reports and reaction plus videos and pictures.
We’ve only just caught our breath after the drama of last week when Kimbear, Secret Ambition and North America fought out a thriller in Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Kimbear won by inches (watch below) and earlier Benbatl had been a class apart in the Singspiel Stakes – one of four Godolphin winners on an eight-race card.
This evening we have six races to enjoy, with the feature being the Group 2 $250,000 Cape Verdi Sponsored By Creek Views over 1600 metres at 8.30pm.
The race title remembers Cape Verdi, a brilliant runaway winner of the English 1,000 Guineas for Godolphin in 1998. She was their first winner of the Classic and then went off favourite for the Derby at Epsom, where she finished ninth after failing to stay.
The one they will all have to beat tonight is Surrounding, who travels over from Ireland after a fruitful time in her native country for Mick Halford last year.
Halford also has an intriguing representative in the main supporting race, the Zabeel Turf at 7.40pm, via Simsir, but Godolphin will take some stopping as they are responsible for six of the 11 runners.
The other four races on the card are competitive handicaps – three of them attracting maximum fields of 16.
It will not be easy to identify the winners in advance, or perhaps even after the finish if the first two weeks of the Carnival are anything to go by. There have been some fabulous finishes with the photo-finish equipment at Meydan kept busy.