It’s finally here, the 19th edition of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, the Dubai Racing Club’s annual showpiece event, gets underway with an attractive seven-race card at Meydan Racecourse on Friday, January 14.
With a range of new incentives in place, the eight-week extravaganza, which will culminate in the $30.5 million Dubai World Cup meeting on 26 March, has the potential to be one of the best in its history.
The Carnival gets underway with the opening rounds of the 1600 metre (Dirt) Al Maktoum Challenge series, for Thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians and its main support race, the 1600m (Turf) Group 2 Cape Verdi for fillies and mares.
The card also features the first running of the Jumeirah Classic Trial; the first event in the exciting four-race Jumeirah Series which is dedicated to the Classic generation.
A full field of 14 thoroughbreds, many of them boasting big-race aspirations, will contest Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, a race of major significance and potential Dubai World Cup implications.
Arguably one of the best renewals of a race that was first run in 1994, the Group 2 contest has attracted the likes of 2021 Godolphin Mile (G2) winner Secret Ambition, Dubai World Cup fourth Hypothetical and Salute The Soldier, the Bahrain-owned gelding who won the second and third rounds of the series last season.
The full depth of the contest is driven home by the presence of two veteran former Al Maktoum Challenge winners, Kimbear (Round 1 2020) and Capezzano (Round 3, 2019) and four-time Meydan dirt scorer Thegreatcollection.
Former Godolphin-trained Imperial Empire is unbeaten in two starts this season for in-form handler Bhupat Seemar and will have the services of three-time Dubai World Cup-winning rider Frankie Dettori, who makes his highly anticipated seasonal debut in the UAE on Friday.
Seemar, who warmed up for the Carnival by saddling five winners on last week’s card, is mob-handed with five contenders in Secret Ambition (Tadhg O’Shea), Imperial Empire, Kimbear (Antonio Fresu), Kafoo (William Buick) and Avant Garde (Richard Mullen).,
Assessing the chances of his quintet, the trainer said: “This is the best Al Maktoum Challenge we’ve had in years. All five are in good form and ready to run. We have a nice mix of old pros and newer horses.
“Secret Ambition has a good draw (Stall 5), is fit, healthy, and good to go.
“Kafoo is drawn 10 but is unbeaten this season. He’s doing everything right. I only hope inexperience doesn’t catch him because he’s definitely got the talent to be up there to compete against this class of horses,” he added.
“Imperial Empire is a Dubawi and is a half-brother to a Group 1 winner, so hopefully he should show up.
“Kimbear ran a good race on his debut for us but unfortunately he’s drawn a bit on the outside (Stall 11), while Avant Garde is doing really well. This is his minimum trip, he would rather go over a mile and quarter, but it’s a good place to start him.”