The Dubai World Cup Carnival is underway at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, which means bettors can enjoy competitive racing action every Thursday for the next two months.
The 10 carnival race cards are steppingstones toward the $35 million Dubai World Cup program Mar. 28, when top-class horses from around the globe will gather at Meydan to vie for a series of super-rich prizes.
There’s plenty to anticipate during the Carnival. Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill is sending a division to Meydan this winter, led by 2018 Stephen Foster H. (G1) winner Pavel. Oaklawn H. (G2) winner Quip, two-time Canadian International (G1) victor Desert Encounter, Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) winner Suedois, Jockey Club Derby winner Spanish Mission, and exciting Keeneland maiden winner Liam’s Legend are among the other familiar names eligible to compete.
The Dubai World Cup Carnival kicked off Jan. 2, but the action will really heat up Jan. 9. Two Group 2 stakes races are among the highlights on a classy card.
Let’s dig in and review some of the most noteworthy horses to watch this week.
Race 2: Longines Hydroconquest Handicap (10:05 a.m. ET)
A familiar face in this 6-furlong turf dash is #5 Neverland Rock, who will embark on the third stage of his career after stints in Europe and the United States. Third in the Quick Call (G3) at Saratoga last summer, Neverland Rock failed to fire when he tried the Meydan dirt in last week’s Dubawi Stakes, but a return to grass may trigger a rebound.
Race 3: UAE Two Thousand Guineas Trial (10:40 a.m. ET)
Potential contenders for the Group 2 UAE Derby (and by extension, the Kentucky Derby) will line up in this 1-mile test for 3-year-olds. Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor hold a strong hand with three entrants, including #11 First View, who is 2-for-2 over the synthetic track at Kempton Patrk in England. #13 Laser Show and #14 Lost in Time are Godolphin’s other hopefuls, while respected trainer Doug Watson will saddle the maiden #10 Far Sky, a son of Stay Thirsty who finished a close second in his Meydan debut Dec. 19. Swedish shipper #15 Nocentsinkentucky, who has four wins from five starts, adds further depth to this must-watch race.
Race 4: Singspiel Stakes (G2, 11:15 a.m. ET)
Only half a dozen horses will face the starter in this 1 1/8-mile grass race. Barring a surprise, Godolphin should sweep the exacta. #3 Benbatl, the decisive winner of the 2018 Dubai Turf (G1), will make his first local start in nearly two years and is favored at 3-5 on the morning line. He’ll be joined at the post by stablemate #4 Dream Castle, the winner of the Jebel Hatta (G1) over this course and distance last winter.
Race 6: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2, 12:25 p.m. ET)
The occasionally brilliant but inconsistent #8 North America will kick off his 8-year-old season in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, a 1-mile race he crushed by nine lengths in 2019. A free-running frontrunner, North America has been known to break poorly on occasion, so drawing the far outside post should help him stay out of trouble. He’ll be joined in this competitive field by the flashy miler #1 Muntazah and the 10-year-old veteran #3 Heavy Metal, who defeated Muntazah in the 2018 Godolphin Mile (G2).