It’s been a splendid night with the seven races - five of them Group contests - offering plenty of excitement and drama.
The Zabeel Mile was the feature and produced a fabulous finish, with the Charlie Appleby-trained D’bai flying at the finish to snatch the spoils under William Buick.
Appleby also landed the Balanchine, although not with the filly most expected him to win with. His Summer Romance made all under James Doyle, with the better-fancied Althiqa keeping on to finish third.
The UAE Oaks was won in spectacular style by Mnasek, who showed herself to be a serious UAE Derby contender with a six-and-a-half length success. Doug Watson and Pat Dobbs also struck in the Al Shindagha Sprint with Al Tariq, who the trainer views as a Golden Shaheen contender.
Equilateral was a decisive winner of the Meydan Sprint, while New Trails and Hypothetical won the handicaps in good style. Six different jockeys won on the night.
Join us again next week when the action will include the Nad Al Sheba Trophy and Dubai Millennium Stakes.
There were doubles for Charlie Appleby and Doug Watson this evening, with the former now boasting a clear lead as top Carnival trainer.
Pat Dobbs enjoyed two big winners this evening, with the other six races beIng shared out. William Buick nudged ahead of Frankie Dettori courtesy of D’bai’s narrow success in the Zabeel Mile.
Al Tariq is the game winner of the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint.
It caps a great night for Doug Watson and Pat Dobbs, who combined to land the UAE Oaks earlier this evening. Watson has now won four of the past five renewals of this race.
Al Tariq had won at Jebel Ali last time and this represented a tougher assignment. However, he showed great resolution to wear down Important Mission, who made much of the running.
Gladiator King got upset in the stalls and that clearly would not have helped him. He was unable to land a blow in his attempt for back-to-back wins in the contest, having to settle for third.
Dobbs said: "It was important he jumped and got out of the kickback. He hit the gates brilliant and we went a proper gallop. He travelled super and s tough.
"I'm delighted for the owner [Abdul Mohsen Al Abdul Kareem] as he's been very loyal to us."
Watson added: "He's got better every time he's started for us. I'm very hopeful that will get him an invite for the Golden Shaheen on World Cup night."
Last, but not least, on a tremendous card is the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint sponsored by New Land Rover Defender. A purse of $130,000 is up for grabs.
Will Gladiator King repeat his fluent success of last year? He shaped well on his return when third to Switzerland in the Dubawi Stakes last month, fading late on as if possibly in need of the run after 11 months off. If that has added an edge, he will take some stopping under William Buick.
Satish Seemar, his trainer, also runs Bochart, who was fifth in the Dubawi Stakes, and Behavioral Bias, third to Canvassed in a handicap last time when a nose behind Important Mission. The latter is weighted to again come out on top and will be equipped with first-time cheekpieces.
Assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar, said: “Gladiator King has a good draw and should be spot on after running well for a long way on his comeback. He's a big, strong horse and you can only do so much galloping with him to get him in shape enough to compete with those types, so he definitely needed the run. He's definitely tightened up and improved from then.
“Bochart had a bad draw last time, but a much better gate this time and a fast race will suit Behavioral Bias who likes to stay on late. It is nice to have three good chances in a big race like this at the Carnival.”
Salem bin Ghadayer saddles local debutant The Perfect Crown as well as Important Mission, while Doug Watson relies on Al Tariq, who won the 1000m Listed Jebel Ali Sprint last time. He said: “That was very rewarding at Jebel Ali and this is the obvious next target. We think he can at least be competitive in a strong renewal.”
Summer Romance has won the Group 2 $163,000 Balanchine.
She's not always been straightforward and had been too keen last time but on this occasion, equipped with a hood, she settled beautifully in front for James Doyle, who was able to dictate steady fractions.
It was evident some way out that the pursuing pack were going to have their work cut out clawing her back.
And it proved an unequal task with Doyle's mount having plenty in reserve for the final stages. It was a comfortable success.
Stylistique and Althiqa emerged from the pack to chase the winner home. The latter, her stablemate, probably did well to get as close as she did given the way the race unfolded.
Doyle said: "She's talented. It's easy to forgive her first run here when she was fresh. She's racey and enthusuastsc about the job but that first run would have settled her a bit and Charlie [Appleby] did a few differet things in the prelims and that helped a bit.
"Leaving the hood on has also heloped, and we were gifted quite a nice lead. She was always doing as little bit but we did not go overly hard fractions and I was pretty hopeful she would hit the line well. She stuck to her guns."
That's six races and six different winning jockeys this evening.
The penultimate race on the card is the Group 2 $163,000 Balanchine (21:25), sponsored by Range Rover and over 1800m on the turf.
It’s restricted to fillies and mares, with a pattern emerging: Charlie Appleby and William Buick have combined to win the past two runnings with horses - Poetic Charm and Magic Lily - who had previously won the 1600m Group 2 Cape Verdi.
The combination attempt to repeat the trick for a third time with Althiqa. Buick will not lack for confidence after D'bai's dramatic Zabeel Mile victory although the extra 200m is a niggle for her trainer.
“We had slight doubts about the 1600m before the Cape Verdi, but she saw it out well,” Appleby said. “She now has an extra 200m, under a penalty, so that is a new question, but she is in great form."
Her stablemate, Summer Romance, was only fifth in the Cape Verdi and Appleby added: “That was a bit disappointing from Summer Romance, but she has worked well since and we will race her in a hood. The trip should suit her.”
Godolphin have two other contenders trained by Saeed bin Suroor in Dubai Love, the choice of Frankie Dettori, and Last Look. They were third and eighth, respectively, in the Cape Verdi.
Bin Suroor said: “Dubai Love is a tough filly with a touch of class as she displayed winning last year’s UAE 1000 Guineas. The 1800m should really suit her and she is in great form. Last Look is a full-sister to Farhh and from a family that improves with age, so this step up in trip looks in her favour.”
One runner who could spoil the Godolphin party is the Roger Varian-trained Stylistique. She was runner-up in the Cape Verdi and the extra 200m should play to her strengths. Down On Da Bayoum, the 2020 UAE Oaks winner, makes her seasonal and turf debut for Salem bin Ghadayer, who already has one eye on the Godolphin Mile for her.
D’bai pulls out all the stops to win the $163,000 Zabeel Mile.
It looked bleak for Godolphin’s principal hope as he sat a long way off a sedate gallop but William Buick conjured a great late burst from him to get up near the finish.
Buick clearly enjoyed that, as he waved his whip in delight yards from the line.
Jim Crowley dictated a steady pace on Eqtiraan and it seemed those racing at the head of afffairs would be at an advantage.
D'bai was caught out of his ground but Buick didn't panic and, sticking to the outside, his mount showed great acceleration to take the spoils. He covered the last four furlongs in a dazzling 22.7 seconds.
In a bunched finish, First Contact and Art Du Val filled the places with Eqtiraan holding on to fourth.
"He's a lovely horse but needs things to fall right," Buick said. "He did well there, to come off such a slow pace. He had a lot of ground to make up and he did it. On his day he's a really good horse, as he showed there."
Asked if he was always confident of victory, he said: "I was as confident as one can be. I was happy that when the line came we were in front," he said, eyes widening.
His reaction might have been different had D'bai come up short.
We’ve already had plenty of treats this evening and next up is the highlight – the $163,000 Zabeel Mile over 1600 metres on turf (20:50).
Eleven have been declared for what appears a wide open renewal. Godolphin have yet to strike this evening but their four runners all hold strong claims.
Charlie Appleby is seeking a third consecutive win in the turf feature and will saddle three, with stable jockey William Buick opting to ride Carnival regular D’Bai, runner-up in the 1400m Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort on his reappearance (see below).
Mickael Barzalona rides Appleby’s Velorum, who failed to figure in the Al Fahidi Fort, with James Doyle aboard Art Du Val, fourth in the 1800m Singspiel Stakes on his one previous outing this year.
Appleby said: “D’Bai ran a very good race in the Al Fahidi Fort and the return to 1600m is not a concern as he won over the trip as a young horse. We think the trip will suit him at this stage of his career. The 1800m looked slightly too far for Art Du Val in the Singspiel, so the drop back 200m should be in his favour. Velorum needed the comeback run in the Al Fahidi Fort and has improved from it.”
Land Of Legends won the Al Fahidi Fort for fellow Godolphin trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor who relies on Bedouin’s Story this time.
The six-year-old came with a late burst to scoop a 1600m handicap three weeks ago and Bin Suroor said: “He won nicely last time with a powerful finish under a great ride from Frankie Dettori, so conditions obviously suit. This is a big step up in class, but we are looking forward to seeing how he copes with it.”
Mnasek has pummelled the opposition in the UAE Oaks.
The daughter of Empire Maker, runner-up in the UAE 1,000 Guineas on her previous outing, had fluffed the start in her first two races but this time she got away on terms and the writing was on the wall from as far as 700 metres out when Pat Dobbs loomed up alongside the leaders.
From then on, she surged further and further clear before Nayefah made some gains on her towards the finish. Last Sunset was a one-paced third.
The winning distance was six-and-a-half lengths and Doug Watson, the trainer of Mnasek, now has a serious UAE Derby conteder on his hands. That race will be tougher than this but she has surely earned her slot.
Dobbs said afterwards "you have to be gentle with her" with regard to the start and added that she wasn't enjoying the early kickback.
He sacrificed ground by moving to the outside but, an athletic sort, it made no difference.
Dobbs said: "She doesn't have the early speed [of some] and wasn't enjoying the kickback, but she stays well, is tough and very genuine. She's a great mover."
The action is coming thick and fast tonight. Up next (20:15) is the second fillies’ Classic of the season, the Group 3 UAE Oaks sponsored by New Jaguar F-Type.
The field of seven includes the Doug Watson pair of Mnasek and Super Chianti, who finished second and third respectively in the UAE 1000 Guineas.
That 1600m fillies’ crown was won by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin with Soft Whisper, who also won the 1400m trial when chased home by stable companion Last Sunset. The latter has since filled the same runner-up berth, over 1400m on turf, in the Meydan Classic Trial and looks to go one better here in a race the trainer has already won 10 times.
A slow start didn't prevent Mnasek winning on her debut but did cost her last time. What is in store this evening?
Bin Suroor said: “The step up to 1900m should really suit her and she ran well on dirt in the trial for the UAE 1000 Guineas, so we have no qualms about the surface.”
Meanwhile, Mnasek has been hindered by sluggish starts but the daughter of Empire Maker has had some more practice in that department and is bred to enjoy moving up in distance.
“She's doing really well and we broke her out of the gate twice with Pat (Dobbs, jockey)," Watson said. "I'm happy with him being on her this time. She has a lot of talent and if you stay out of her mouth - because she's touchy with that - at the start, she will break a lot better. I think she and Super Chianti are in great shape for the run. Mnasek should definitely love the distance.”
He added: “Super Chianti will get a visor this time and hopefully that helps her break better and she can be a little more involved. They're both coming into the race fitter than before and I think they'll give good accounts of themselves.”
Jebel Ali filly Nayefah is also one to note. Nicholas Bachalard’s challenger has yet to lose her maiden tag but she's bred for the trip and been running creditably.
New Trails is back with a bang!
The seven-year-old, trained by Ahmed bin Harmash, had been off a year and would not have been at the top of many shortlists for the Curlin Stakes but he stayed on dourly to take the spoils under Fernando Jara, who was riding his first winner is more than a month.
In-form Tailor's Row took the field along and looked like he might keep all his pursuers at bay 350 metres out, when the Godolphin pair of Real World and Dubai Icon were chasing him hard.
Both the runners in blue eventually got past Tailor's Row late on, but by then New Trails had swept past them all. Twelfthofneverland made late gains for fifth.
New Trails had made little impact when last seen in action, in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 last year, and was winning for the first time in more than two years.
This represented a drop in class, though, and he took maximum advantage under a well-judged ride.
"You never know how [they are going to run] first time up," a delighted Jara said. "When he's right, he's got some class and is up there with these horses."
On future plans, he said: "We'll see what the boss thinks. I'll be ready to go where ever they want to go!"
The Curlin Stakes Sponsored By New Jaguar F-Pace is up next (19:40) and Desert Peace, a son of Curlin, would be an appropriate winner.
Charlie Appleby does not have too many runners on the dirt but Desert Peace is bred to relish the surface and, having been gelded, the US-bred four-year-old has the potential to be a force on the surface for years to come.
He cost $1,300,000 as a yearling and has won two of his three starts, both of them on the all-weather at Kempton Park. This will be hs first run beyond 1600m.
Twelfthofneverland, twice a game winner at Meydan last month, and Tailor’s Row, beaten a nose in Listed company at Jebel Ali last time when seeking a fourth successive win, represent notable opponents.
Dubai Icon was below form when 13 lengths sixth to Golden Goal last month but the extra 600 yards here will suit him much better. His stablemaste, Real World, is tried in a vasor.
Equilateral is clearly right at the top of his game and lands the Group 2 Meydan Sprint.
There wasn't much between any of the five runners at the finish but, in truth, Equilateral looked the winner most of the way under Andrea Atzeni.
In the past the Charlie Hills-trained six-year-old has not always found much off the bride but he is seeing out his races much better these days.
On this occasion he was never far away, travelling powerfully, and was in front some way from home but never looked like wilting.
"I thought it was a very good performance," Atzeni said. "I was trying to tuck in behind but he was moving so easily and I didn't want to check his momentum. He was probably in front soon enough but he galloped out really good and obviously loves it out here."
The unconsidered Acklam Express kept on well to be beaten a length, with A'Ali keeping on for third, beaten another neck. However, neither of the late closers could lay a glove on the winner.
Waady, the winner last year, was off the bridle some way out but was only beaten about two lengths in fourth. Caspian Prince finished last of the five but was only half a length behind him.
It’s the first of our Group 2 races next (19:05) with the $163,000 Meydan Sprint over 1000 metres on the turf.
Waady, trained by Doug Watson for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is back to defend his crown with Jim Crowley again in the saddle. He won at the main expense of Equilateral last year (Caspian Prince fourth) and the pair meet again. Watch a full replay below.
Both ran well on their respective returns at Meydan. Waady was runner-up in the Dubawi Stakes, while Equilateral beat Mutaraffa (who has since run well again) in the Dubai Dash.
Doug Watson, trainer of Waady, said: “He ran very well on his dirt comeback when second in the Dubawi Stakes and this is the obvious next target. He is in great form and should run a big race.
“It's really good to be back on grass with him and he's definitely better on it. Everything about him at the moment is positive. I would love to see him run well again in this, so that we can just go straight to the Al Quoz Sprint with him (on March 27, Dubai World Cup Day).”
Frankie Dettori rode Equilateral to victory last month but switches to A’Ali for Simon Crisford. A’Ali was the taking winner of Group Two 2 sprint at The Curragh last July, for which he is penalised here.
Lazuli and Good Effort are non-runners.
A thrilling start to the evening with Hypothetical wearing down Bright Star in the closing stages of the New Jaguar Xf Handicap.
The Saleem bin Ghadayer-trained winner had been runner-up to Secret Ambition in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes on his previous start and clearly enjoyed these shallower waters.
He and Mickael Barzalona muscled thier way to the front in the last 50 metres after it seemed Bright Start, a runaway maiden winner last time, had got first run.
Barzalona was delighted with the winner and said: "Mentally he can be a bit busy but he's improved a lot. He travelled smoothly and hopefully he can take another step forward."
Alkaamel was third with Tuz, after a lengthy lay-off, being a creditable fourth.
The big disappointment was Golden Goal, who was obliged to race wide and was simply unable to get a good position at any stage.
He momentarily looked like picking up in the straight but it was all a bit laboured and he finished fifth.
All eyes will be on the Doug Watson-trained Golden Goal in the opening New Jaguar Xf Handicap after he smashed the 1400m track record on his return here last month in the Al Furjan By Azizii.
Ridden by Pat Dobbs, the grey sat in behind a strong pace travelling powerfully and then zoomed clear in the closing stages.
The handicapper has taken a swipe at him and this is over 200 metres further but he is proven over the longer trip and the form has been franked. "We've loved him from day one and he is something to look forward to," Dobbs said after that comeback success.
English raider Desert Doctor chased Golden Goal home last month but, even with a pull in the weights, faces no easy task turning the tables.
Bigger threats could be Hypothetical, runner-up to Secret Ambition in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes here last time, and Bright Start, a runaway maiden winner over about 1900m last time.
Tuz and Chiefdom will also be interesting if ready to go after their respective absences
Charlie Appleby has seven runners tonight as he seeks to add to the seven winners he has already chalked up at this year’s Carnival. All his runners have claims with Althiqa perhaps his best chance in the Balanchine.
He and Buck combined to win with Zakouski , Secret Protector and Star Safari last week.
William Buick and Frankie Dettori have each ridden five winners at this year’s Carnival. Both have five rides this evening and it would be no surprise if we hear from both before the night is out.
Buick, in particular, has an excellent book. His rides are: Lazuli (19:05), Desert Peace (19:40), D’bai (20:50), Althiqa (21:25) and Gladiator King (22:00).
The first four weeks of the Dubai World Cup Carnival have bubbled along very nicely but the action cranks up a notch on Week Five with a seven-race card featuring three Group 2 contests plus two Group 3s.
All the action is sponsored by Pillar Partners Al Tayer Motors, with the $168,000 Zabeel Mile (20:50) taking centre stage.
The Balanchine (21:25) and Meydan Sprint (19:05) also Group 2 races and carry similar intrigue.
The Group 3s are the second fillies’ Classic of the season, the Group 3 UAE Oaks (20:15), and the Al Shindagha Sprint (22:00).
Flashback: enjoy a bit of nostalgia with Safety Check's Zabeel Mile win in 2015
In addition, there are two classy handicaps to digest with Golden Goal, a potential Godolphin Mile contender, taking part in the first of them.
Overall, there will be 38 horses in action with a rating of at least 100.
It’s safe to say this evening’s action seems certain to yield plenty of clues for Dubai World Cup night on March 27.
As usual, our rolling blog will include previews, snap reports, videos and reaction. Join us when we return at about 17:45.