Dubai’s “Super Saturday” is a bit of a misnomer this year, not only in the wake of its being run behind closed doors due to the coronavirus. Several top performers just competed on this past Saturday’s Saudi Cup program, leaving Meydan’s dress rehearsal for March 28 Dubai World Cup night featuring more understudies than marquee acts.
One of the exceptions, however, is Godolphin’s Barney Roy who brings star power to the $400,000 Jebel Hatta (G1) – his springboard to the Dubai Turf (G1). The Charlie Appleby trainee exuded class in his Al Rashidiya (G2) comeback over Saeed bin Suroor’s Dream Castle at this course and about 9-furlong trip, and could top a trifecta for the yard. Magic Lily enters in career form after turning the Cape Verdi (G2)/Balanchine (G2) double versus fellow distaffers, and Spotify shortens up following a best-of-the-rest behind yet another Appleby stablemate, Ghaiyyath, in a course-record Dubai Millennium (G3).
British shipper Defoe returns to action for Roger Varian in the $350,000 Dubai City of Gold (G2), the tune-up for the about 1 1/2-mile Sheema Classic (G1) on turf. Better than ever last term when upsetting the Coronation Cup (G1), Defoe meets veteran Desert Encounter and up-and-comer Pablo Escobarr who both have the advantage of pipe-openers at the Carnival. The usual Godolphin suspects include Loxley, Mountain Hunter, Jalmoud, and First Nation (notably the mount of William Buick).
If the Dubai World Cup winner probably isn’t prepping in the $600,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), nevertheless Military Law and Matterhorn can bolster their resumes ahead of March 28. The Musabbeh al Mheiri-trained Military Law is the one to beat as the winner of the Dec. 5 Entisar at this track and about 1 1/4-mile trip, and most significantly runner-up to Benbatl in Round 2 last out. Matterhorn stands to benefit from his warm-up third in the Firebreak (G3), his Dubai debut for Salem bin Ghadayer – as does Quip, a distant fifth in the same race and now second-up for Doug Watson. The lone Godolphin runner, bin Suroor’s Desert Fire, is a specialist at the distance but sampling the dirt for the first time.
Likewise the $350,000 Mahab al Shimaal (G3) is missing most of the leading local dirt sprinters pointing to the Golden Shaheen (G1), but Ibn Malik captured the Garhoud Sprint before placing in the Dubawi (G3) and Al Shindagha Sprint (G3). Seemar holds a strong hand with the speedy Bochart and Wafy, who romped at Jebel Ali in his UAE premiere, and Sweden’s I Kirk can factor if back to his best. The same applies to American expat Switzerland who has yet to transfer his U.S. form.
In contrast, there are several high-profile Godolphin Mile (G2) contenders in the $350,000 Burj Nahaar (G3). The top two from the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) over this metric mile, Kimbear and Secret Ambition, square off against Jane Chapple-Hyam’s money-spinning globetrotter Ambassadorial, Doug O’Neill’s Blitzkrieg, Axelrod back from a year-long absence, and his bin Ghadayer stablemate Heavy Metal, once the kingpin in this division but apparently feeling his age as a 10-year-old.
Appleby’s Space Blues brings the highest rating into the $350,000 Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3), but the Prix Jean Prat (G1) runner-up faces a speed test in his first try at about 6 furlongs. Ekhtiyaar, who chased Blue Point home here a year ago, is the established player in the prep for the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) despite his recent fourth to Rusumaat in the Dubai Sprint. Ayr Gold Cup winner Angel Alexander might fire in his third start of the Carnival, while Bin Suroor’s Land of Legends is intriguing on the cutback.
There could be a Kentucky Derby (G1)-related development, as the $300,000 Al Bastakiya is a stepping stone to the UAE Derby (G2) on Dubai World Cup night. Although Godolphin’s Ya Hayati is not Triple Crown-nominated, the Dubawi colt has lots of upside going turf-to-dirt for Appleby. Godolphin colleague bin Suroor counters with Laser Show, the Al Bastakiya Trial winner, and Dubai Love, the UAE 1000 Guineas heroine exiting a second in the UAE Oaks (G3).
Post time is earlier on Saturdays than the familiar Carnival Thursdays, with the Al Bastakiya kicking off the action at 7 a.m. (ET).