By Kaitlin Free
Meydan Racecourse announced Thursday morning that their highly anticipated Super Saturday card would be run without spectators. Due to the ongoing concern from coronavirus, only a horse’s connections and pre-approved members of the media will be allowed on the grounds. All ticket sales were placed on hold and customers that had already purchased tickets were reimbursed. Other countries have recently announced similar plans due to the outbreak. France plans to run next week’s race meetings behind closed doors as does Japan until further notice.
Despite the lack of fans, the Super Saturday card at Meydan will still go off as planned with deep runnings of the G3 Burj Nahaar, G1 Jebel Hatta, G1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, and G2 Dubai City of Gold. With the Saudi Cup and it’s under card taking place a week prior, Super Saturday lost a few key entrants that would have otherwise ran here. Even without these starters the highlighted stakes races are still quality of the highest level.
The G3 Burj Nahaar Sponsored by Emirates Holidays kicks off the major four races. Drawing a full field of 12, this race will be used as a prep for potential Godolphin Mile and Dubai Golden Shaheen entrants. Previous Godolphin Mile winners Heavy Metal, Tamarkuz, African Story, and Conflict used this race as their prep into Dubai World Cup Night. Once again returning is the aforementioned Heavy Metal. Now at age 10, it seems as if his best days could be in the rear view mirror. Heavy Metal has not won a race since winning the 2018 Godolphin Mile but was 2nd in last year’s edition. His best running will probably be saved for the big dance in a few weeks. Mickael Barzalona has the mount. 2018 Burj Nahaar winner Kimbear also has drawn into the field. Kimbear found the winner’s circle earlier on in the carnival in Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge before finishing a disappointing 8th in Round 2. 8F is a prime distance for Kimbear and he should bounce back well in this spot as the highest rated horse in the field. Pat Dobbs will have the call. Since transferring to the stable of Salem bin Ghadayer in Dubai, plans for former US trainee Axelrod really have not panned out. He finished a disappointing 10th in this race last year and ran 9th in the Dubai World Cup. Axelrod comes into this year’s Burj Nahaar as a fresh horse after taking nearly a year off. Xavier Ziani will ride. Other entrants include the recently sold All Out Blitz and Secret Ambition, who has had two big 2nds at Meydan already in 2020. Doug O’Neill trainees Blitzkrieg and Prodigal Son with represent the United States.
The G1 Jebel Hatta Sponsored by Emirates Airlines is usually dominated by the ruling family of Dubai and this year will be no different. Godolphin heavy hitters Barney Roy, Dream Castle, Spotify, and Magic Lily carry the hometown hopes. The Jebel Hatta is used yearly as a springboard into the Dubai Turf. Past winners Sajjhaa, Presvis, and Ipi Tombe have successfully completed the G1 double. Barney Roy has done exceptionally well since returning to the races in 2019 after proving subfertile at stud. He is a perfect 1 for 1 in 2020 with a win in the G2 Al Rashidiya last out. William Buick has the mount on Barney Roy and looks to ride an unbeaten record at Meydan into Dubai World Cup Night. Dream Castle has spotty form outside of Meydan but always runs his best races in the desert. The winner of this race last year, he has had two on the board finishes at Meydan in 2020 to tune up. Christophe Soumillon will ride. Spotify and Magic Lily round out the Godolphin top contingent. Spotify finished a respectable 2nd last up to star runner Ghaiyyath and seems to be in career best form. He also is another horse that runs his best at Meydan and should continue to press forward here. Stablemate Magic Lily is unbeaten in 2 starts in 2020 at Meydan and is also in top form. While many will be focusing on Barney Roy and Dream Castle, this pair is poised to surprise people. James Doyle and Mickael Barzalona have the mounts respectively.
The G1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored by Emirates is a common launching pad for Dubai World Cup success. African Story, Prince Bishop, Electrocutionist, Street Cry, and Dubai Millennium all won this race before taking down the big one. With the allure of the Saudi Cup in 2020, the chances of the Dubai World Cup winner coming from this race are slim to none. This round of the Al Maktoum Challenge was unfortunately the race that took the hardest class hit. Quip, Matterhorn, and Military Law all rank evenly at the top of this field. Recently sold to foreign interests, Quip comes into this race off of a disappointing 5th in the G3 Firebreak Stakes. Quip had a promising start to 2019 after winning the Oaklawn Handicap but unfortunately had an abysmal ending to the year and has yet to get back on track. Top rider Pat Dobbs has the call. Matterhorn has an advantage on his foes in this race in the form of experience. He raced 15 times in 2019 with 5 wins, one being a listed stake. He started 2020 off with a 3rd to Capezzano in the Firebreak Stakes where he finished in front of fellow runner Quip. Although he doesn’t have the most attractive resume, Matterhorn runs well fresh and was recently purchased to run specifically in Dubai. Mickael Barzalona will ride. Military Law has found a new home on the dirt and has done well during this year’s carnival. He took The Entisar Stakes back in December over top runners Gronkowski and Maguzi. Military Law started his 2020 campaign off with a 2nd to Dubai World Cup favorite Benbatl once again out finishing Gronkowski. His recent races make him attractive in this spot. Antonio Fresu will be up. Top Argentinian runners Saltarin Dubai and Roman Rosso will also contest Round 3.
The G2 Dubai City of Gold Sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo remains the most popular prep for the Dubai Sheema Classic, one of the richest turf races on Earth. Recent Sheema winners Old Persian, Hawkbill, and Postponed also won the Dubai City of Gold in the same year. On paper, this appears to perhaps be a two horse race. G1 winning veterans Defoe and Desert Encounter are back for more this year. Both had a big 2019 and are looking to duplicate that form. Defoe makes his 2020 debut here after being off since last July. He reunites with regular rider Andrea Atzeni and has the class to win off of the layoff. Desert Encounter does however have a start under his belt in 2020 and it was over the Meydan turf course. He finished a distant 5th behind Ghaiyyath in the G3 Dubai Millennium Stakes just a few weeks ago. Desert Encounter is hit or miss first up and should improve with fitness. Jamie Spencer has the call. Stakes winner Pablo Escobarr and the Godolphin contingent of First Nation, Mountain Hunter, Jalmoud, and Loxley will try to find cracks in these top two competitors to round out the field.
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