We have one last chance to build our Cheltenham betting banks up and while we have a good value shout in the ultra-competitive Imperial Cup at Sandown, the bulk of our betting opportunities come some 4,000 miles away in Dubai as Super Saturday takes place in advance of the Dubai World Cup day on March 30th.
It’s an early start so make sure you’re on the ball, and be on the lookout for World Cup winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic third Thunder Snow making his comeback in the Maktoum Challenge at 2.55 though he’s not always at his best first time up after a break.
We start with the Listed race at Meydan however and a filly who should be seen to good effect back in Britain at some point over this coming summer on the turf:
12.35 Meydan (Al Bastakiya – Listed Race) – DIVINE IMAGE
She’s taking a little bit of time to get used to things in Dubai having started off in Britain, perhaps specifically the dirt surface at Meydan which catched some newbies out, but having made such a wonderful debut at Chelmsford it’s clear this daughter of Scat Daddy has a very big future in the game.
Having blown her chances in the race completely before staying on for second place in an unsatisfactory running of the UAE 1000 Guineas, Charlie Appleby’s filly took her time once again to get going in the Group 3 UAE Oaks before winning on the line last time out and she gets into this race without a penalty. More significantly perhaps, major improvement is expected now.
Fellow Godolphin runner Estihdaaf carries the first colours for trainer Saeed bin Suroor and jockey Pat Cosgrave having won the UAE 2000 Guineas but he’s drawn wide and arguably doesn’t have as much improvement in him as the filly who gets the nod to get us off with a flyer.
1.45 Meydan (Burj Nahaar – Group 3) – AXELROD
Phoenix Thoroughbred, known for not being slow to shift their horses around when needs be, had this American-bred solely trained in the States as a two and three-year-old where his form stands up very well in the context of this race.
They have ambitions to win with him on Dubai World Cup day and so despite perhaps needing the run, we can expect Axelrod to be no bit-part player in this race and this Group 3 level is well within his compass. His form with McKinzie last year puts him way up around the 120 level if his improvement has continued and that would be more than enough to win today.
Doug Watson keeps improving his horses and his Muntazah knows his way around here, so if still in the same form as when winning at Meydan three weeks ago he rates as the obvious danger but the value lies with Axelrod for connections who also have the former Jeremy Noseda runner Gronkowski performing later on the card against Thunder Snow.
2.20 Meydan (Dubai City of Gold – Group 2) – OLD PERSIAN
Godolphin’s domination of these races looks set to continue and last year’s vastly improving Great Voltigeur winner Old Persian can kick his belated carnival form off with another Group 2 win under star man William Buick.
Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old Dubwai colt went off well fancied for the St Leger at Doncaster following wins at Ascot and York last backend but this trip is his ideal and its thought this race could put him spot-on for the big day in three weeks’ time.
David Simcock sends 7yo globetrotter Desert Encounter for this as well and he could be a little overpriced given his overall profile, rating as the main danger ahead of the improving Spotify.
2.25 Sandown (Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – FIRST FLOW
There are plenty in with winning chances as you’d expect in this race but Kim Bailey’s First Flow, despite the long absence, is the one who stands out as having the most speed between markers in these specific underfoot conditions and as a seven-year-old with just four hurdles under his belt he could have plenty more to give yet.
He did precious little wrong last season before his Cheltenham off-day in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, pertinently mostly on soft going which he’ll also encounter here, the highlight being his Grade 2 novice win at Haydock where he smashed a horse who has gone on to be rated 157 over hurdles whereas he gets in this race off a mark of just 144.
His rivals are numerous, the best of them all things considered probably being likely favourite Monsieur Lecoq for Jane Williams, in-form Paul Nicholls’ Malaya and the returning runner-up from 2018 Call Me Lord from Nicky Henderson’s yard.
3.30 Meydan (Jebel Hatta – Group 1) – WOOTTON
It rather went under the radar when Godolphin purchased this son of Wootton Bassett over the winter and when winning his French 2000 Guineas trial last spring for Henri-Alex Pantall he looked the real deal.
He went on to finish fourth in the big race behind Olmedo in what was a messy event before running a creditable third in the St James’s Palace Stakes, 3¾ lengths behind Without Parole at Royal Ascot who was given a rating of 119. Judging by the way he ran on his first start for the boys in blue, it seems plenty of improvement is needed, but crucially it is expected.
He was never in the Zabeel Mile in truth though he ran on well towards the end but William Buick takes over in the saddle now and since he’s a little more used to things and he gets the extra furlong to chase down, he can finally prove that he is a Group 1 performer with fellow Godolphin runners Dream Castle and Loxley expected to give him most to do.