We are halfway through the Dubai International Carnival now and the local horses can feel the inexorable march of foreign raiders as they mass at the border before World Cup night.
Last year the raiding party were subdued on World Cup night by Carnival horses who had advertised their ability in the run up to the big night.
Now is the time for the local horses to step up again, for the raiders are strong in number and quality.
With that in mind the two best dirt horses at this year’s Carnival are on show this week and I fully expect them to oblige, albeit at restrictive odds, and send a shot across the bows of the forthcoming interlopers.
Here are my four selections this week.
This perennial Carnival performer can take advantage of having a tactical edge in a small-field staying contest.
I expect Christophe Soumillon to make all aboard him in a field where all his rivals are habitually ridden patiently.
The rail is out 12 metres on the turf as well, which aids front-runners, particularly in steadily-run races.
Red Galileo showed that he retains all of his ability on his return to Carnival action and he has always gone well at this track. Time for Soumillon to steal this from the front.
I have grown to be a huge fan of this horse since his two fast-time domestic wins.
He is a dirt machine with the pace to sit handy and an ability to keep grinding out even fractions whilst his rivals baulk at kickback and the relentless way he goes about things.
His demolition job in the trial for this, the UAE 2000 Guineas, had me shouting “what are you all going to do now” after two furlongs and that was from stall 15!
Now, with a better draw and his trainer Ahmed Bin Harmash still in hot form, his rivals have a mountain to climb.
Nordic Lights was heavily supported to beat Roaring Lion in the Dante Stakes at York last summer and his latent potential remains intact, albeit it will come to fruition at a lesser level.
He shaped well on his return to action here at Meydan and with a decent draw in stall 3 his forward-running style can be easily employed by jockey William Buick.
His inability to cut it at graded stakes level thus far has been down to a lack of a gear change but, ridden prominently in a handicap, he will be hard to peg back as long as he is not forced to go too hard in the early stages. He looks sure to go well.
All hail the best dirt horse in the UAE. He promised much last year before a crucial hesitation at the stalls in the Dubai World Cup ended all chance he had.
His ruthless dirt grabbing stride was seen to good effect in Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge this year when he bullied his opponents into submission.
Making all, he grabbed the dirt and the rail to run out an impressive winner in a very fast time.
He is drawn wide on Thursday, so may have to show that he is more tactically versatile than being just a front-running bully.
However, he may still make the rail as his main challenger for the lead, Cosmo Charlie, is drawn outside him.
If North America gets there, it’s all over folks and even if he doesn’t he is unlikely to be troubled by these rivals.
New Trails is a progressive dirt horse but he is half-a-furlong slower than North America and at this stage of his career is merely taking lessons from his superior.