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Maktoum Challenge II: Asiatic Boy vs. My Indy
by Geir Stabell ( / Globeform (
Published: 2009-02-04 13:08:14

Dubai Thursday: The action is hotting up in the desert, with two superb days of racing at Nad Al Sheba this week.

The feature event on Thursday, the Al Maktoum Challenge II (G3) over 9 furlongs on dirt, brings out Mike de Kock’s star performer Asiatic Boy for his eagerly awaited seasonal debut. Runner-up to Curlin in the Dubai World Cup (G1) last year, Asiatic Boy is pointing for that event again this spring.

He may get a tough reappearance, however, as Godolphin take him on with the fast improving and race fit colt My Indy - winner of the first round of the series.

Round one of this three-race series, staged three weeks ago, attracted a mixed field of twelve runners, and the betting was headed by one of four Mike de Kock contenders, the South African bred five-year-old Royal Vintage. Runner-up to his stablecompanion Honour Devil both in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G2) and UAE Derby (G2) at last year’s Carnival, Royal Vintage was the obvious pick on previous form, but he was never going as well as the eventual winner, Godolphin’s Argentine bred performer My Indy, who put up quite an impressive performance to win as he pleased.

Confidently ridden by Dettori, the son of Indygo Shiner looked all over the winner as they turned for home - racing a few lengths off the pace - and he was produced to take the lead in mid-stretch. Striding smoothly away from the pack, My Indy opened up a clear lead and, despite swishing his tail a couple of times close home, he finished the race off in a manner suggesting that another furlong will not be a problem. Green Coast, coming off a win over 7 furlongs over this course in December, and Don Renato, who had not raced since finishing third in the Goldolphin Mile (G2) last March, ran on for the places - but had no chance with the winner - who is clearly an improved performer this year. Don Renato reoposses this week.

MY INDY, now aged four was making only his sixth lifetime start, and winning for the third time. The way he was travelling throughout the contest suggests that there is plenty more to come from this colt, and I will be backing him to beat Asiatic Boy on Thursday, in what does look like a two-horse affair. This is also a good opportunity for exacta / forecast bets.

THE CAPE VERDI STAKES (G3), a mile turf event for fillies and mares, is also staged on Thursday, and the race has drawn a mixed field (Race 5). Mike de Kock, having his team in great form as usual at this meeting, runs the talented four-year-old FRONT HOUSE, a daughter of Sadler’s Wells who was among the best in her division in South Africa last year. Front House has won 4 of her 6 races and she was placed in the other two. Ridden by Kevin Shea, she landed the Gold Circle Oaks (G2) over a mile and a half at Clairwood last July. She was beating fillies six months older than herself that day, without getting a weight concession. An impressive achievement indeed. This week’s shorter trip, and the fact that she has not raced for over six months, count against Front House, but she is almost certainly the best horse in this Cape Verdi, and could well win on her seasonal debut.

THE FIRST THOROUGHBRED race, a 7.5-furlong handicap on turf, looks a good opportunity for the Herman Brown trained gelding GLOW STAR. This five-year-old ended last seasson on a high note in South Africa, with three easy wins on the bounce, but he is still well handicapped for his UAE debut. Glow Star is ideally suited by 6.5 to 7 furlongs, he has finished in the first three in 11 of his 15 career starts, he gets Ryan Moore on board, and he will be my each-way bet here.

SUMMIT SURGE, trained by Ger Lyons in Ireland, could be the danger. He is not well handicapped, after some strong performances in Group company last year, but Summit Surge may be an improving older horse. He won the Ballycorus Stakes (G3) over a mile at Leopardstown last June, and was beaten no more than 3 ¾ lengths when eighth to Stimulation in the Challenge Stakes (G2) at Newmarket in October. Summit Surge is a relatively small, neat horse, who should act well around this course. He will be ridden by Johnny Murtagh.

RACE 3 on the card is in effect our second port of call (the 1st race is for purebred arabians) and this is a tricky handicap over 7 furlongs on the dirt course, where no significant draw bias has been detected over this distance. Godolphin run the Green Desert colt SIROCCO BREEZE, a four-year-old with only three runs on the clock. Saeed bin Suroor’s team, clearly eager to improve on a bleak 2008 campaign, has come out with all guns blazing at this meeting – totally opposite to what we have seen in previous years – and it is my guess that what they unleash in these handicaps will be fit and ready to run a big race. In Sirocco Breeze they have a potential improver, and he has not been harshly treated by the handicapper. After winning by 4 lengths over 7 furlongs at Leicester in October, he ran with credit when stepped sharply up in class over the same distance at Doncaster later in the month. Sirocco Breeze was unplaced but not more than 5 lengths adrift of the smart winner Mr Aviator.

QUICKSAND, making his second start at thhe Carnival for Mike de Kock, is also an obvious contender, after having run third to Glen Nevis (in a race that has worked out well) two weeks ago, while the French contender MINTED, now trained by Erwan Charpy, also makes some appeal. This runner was formely with Andre Fabre and he produced his best when winning a decent 6.5-furlong sprint on the all-weather surface at the big Deauville August meeting.

WITHOUT A PRAYER, who flopped badly on the dirt track here two weeks ago, could be an interesting bet in the fourth race on the night, the Tamayuz Handicap over 10 furlongs. His seasonal debut was too bad to be true and, judged on his best form on turf in Europe last year, he holds a winning chance. Dettori jumps on board, something that can only be seen as a plus. Ralph Beckett’s charge bounced right back from an appaling run in the Greenham Stakes (G3) last spring, to upset the heavy favourite Moyenne Corniche in a good conditions race at Newmarket four weeks later, and a similar turnaoround in form is not at all impossible.

GALACTIC STAR will be popular in this event but I am never too keen on these Group performers in seasonal debuts in handicaps. Carrying top weight, he will need to be at his best to win and connections are just using this as a prep race for bigger tasks. The Herman Brown trained BOUND BY HONOUR looks a more likely winner. He shaped well when fifth to the very fit Alexandros over a mile here two weeks ago and now takes the step up to his right distance. A six-time winner, Bound By Honour has finishes in the first three in 15 of his 25 career starts.

Only once has he been outside the first three when racing over 1 ¼ miles. He was a Group 2 winner over this distance last spring and ran a solid race when third in the prestigious Durban July Stakes (G1) in the summer – where he finished in front of last week’s big race winner Silver Mist. This guy is probably the one to beat, but I’m afraid he will most likely be the favourite and not much value. FEARED IN FLIGHT, now with Saeed bin Suroor, is a possible longshot. The former Barry Hills runner is weighted to run close to Without A Prayer, based on their running in the Hampton Court Stakes (LR) at Royal Ascot last year.

TWELVE SPRINTERS are set to clash in the Marju Trophy Sprint Handicap, a 6.5-furlong turf event, and two of these have caught my eye here already at the Carnival.

HATTA FORT, running for Godolphin, was unlucky when sixth to Hunting Tower over this course and distance in January. Held up, and not best placed in a steadily run race, he found trouble in running when trying to make amends in the straight, and could have finished closer. He must have gone into many a notebook that day and is probably no ‘big secret’ this week. This colt, a smart juvenile here in England in 2007, came to Dubai after a spell in the USA, where he had quite a good season last year. He put up a game performance when winning the 7-furlong Perryville Stakes at Keeneland in October, and again when third to Into Mischief (runner-up in G1 race since) in the Damascus Stakes over the same distance at Santa Anita on Breeders’ Cup day.

STAR CROWNED, runner-up to the classy sprinter Big City Man in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) last month, must also have a winning chance. Drawn right next to Hatta Fort, who has Dettori in the saddle, Star Crowned will again have the assistance of Mick Kinane, and this game and consistent son of Kingmambo seems as good on turf as he is on dirt. Perhaps one can say that he is even better on the lawn, having finished only 2 ¼ lengths behind the Australian champion sprinter Takeover Target in the Krisflyer International Sprint (G1) in Singapore last May.

THE FINALE on this Thursday card takes us back to 1 ¼ miles on turf, and the Alhaarth Handicap is an interesting contest. There are some solid performers here but some are also well exposed, and I am more inclined to look for likely improvers. The obvious choice is CAPTAIN WEBB, yet another Godolphin runner with strong claims (this one ridden by Ted Durcan). Captain Webb cuts back in distance, after running such an honest race in defeat against the favourably handicapped Gravitas over 1 ½ miles on his seasonal debut two weeks ago. He won the Glasgow Stakes over 11 furlongs at Hamilton last year, when trained by Mark Johnston, and also performed really well at courses as different as Brighton and Sandown, so Captain Webb clearly both tough and versatile. With 4 wins from just 8 starts, he can improve this year.

JOHN OXX, a very selective shipper of horses, has declared the lightly raced four-year-old RED EYE EXPRESS, who was an intended runner here on opening day but scratched. Red Eye Express won on his only start at two, and he gained one win and a second (beaten just a head) in his two starts in Ireland last year. Mike Kinane, who rides him again this week, guided him to a solid 3-length win over El Presidente in the Newry Stakes over a mile at Dundalk in October. Red Eye Express is bred to stay this distance and he is just the type to progress at four.


RACE 4 – Tamayuz Hcap: BOUND BY HONOUR

RACE 5 – The Cape Verdi: FRONT HOUSE

RACE 6 – Maktoum Challenge II: MY INDY

3 win bets
3 win doubles
1 straight Pick 3
1 each-way treble (UK)

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