After time to settle in at Godolphin's Al Quoz Stables over the winter with trainer Saeed bin Suroor, 2012 Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner and former U.S. classics hopeful Alpha is set to make his Dubai debut Feb. 7 in the $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (UAE-II) Sponsored by Tabloid.
The 4-year-old Bernardini colt will bid to bounce back from a last-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) as he squares off in the 1,900-meter (about 1 3/16-mile) race against 11 rivals, including Godolphin's French classic-placed Saint Baudolino, trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni. Bin Suroor has three other runners entered: last year's winner Mendip, European group I winner Hunter's Light, and European multiple group winner Prince Bishop.
With wins last summer at Saratoga in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), captured in wire-to-wire fashion, and the Travers, in which he finished in a dead heat with Golden Ticket, Alpha will race for the first time since a disappointing performance in the Breeders' Cup Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park. He led briefly out of the gate in the 1 1/4-mile Classic, but was last on the home turn and was eased down in the final three-sixteenths.
Thought to be Godolphin's best shot at winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) after seven previous attempts to capture the coveted first jewel in the Triple Crown, Alpha was a highly regarded 3-year-old early last season for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin with wins in the Count Fleet Stakes in January and Withers Stakes (gr. III) in February and a close runner-up finish Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), but he finish when 12th in the Derby. He missed the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) after developing a fever before roaring back in the Jim Dandy.
Alpha's goals at the Dubai World Cup Carnival have not been finalized, but he is nominated for the $10 million World Cup (UAE-I), $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I), and $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-I), all on March 30.
Saint Baudolino, formerly trained in France by Andre Fabre, finished a close second to Saonois in last year's Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I, French Derby). The 4-year-old Pivotal colt will be making his first start in six months and first in Dubai, entering off a win over Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) winner Aesop's Fables in the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano-Haras du Logis Saint-German (Fr-I) last August at Deauville.
Saint Baudolino is tabbed as the 7-to-2 morning-line favorite while Alpha is the 6-to-1 third choice. Hunter's Light, a 5-year-old by Dubawi, who won the Premio Roma GBI Racing (Ity-I) last November in his most recent start, is pegged as the 5-to-1 second choice.
Other contenders in the Al Maktoum Challenge include Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's 2011 Godolphin Mile runner-up Mufarrh and English and Irish group winner Await the Dawn, a former Coolmore runner who was third to Twice Over and Midday in the 2011 Juddmonte International (Eng-I) and will make his first start for trainer and co-owner Mike de Kock.
The Feb. 7 card also features a showdown between Godolphin's Music Chart and Shuruq in the $250,000 United Arab Emirates One Thousand Guineas Sponsored by Gulf News.
The pair meet again after a one-two finish last month in the trial for the 1,600-meter (about one-mile) main event, with winner Music Chart prevailing by three-quarters of a length from runner-up Shuruq after a duel to the finish line.
Also on the card, sensational mare In the Spotlight returns from a heartbreaking loss in her international debut at Meydan Jan. 17. The 5-year-old Indian-bred and -owned mare finished fourth to Godolphin's Anatolian in the 2,410-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) race. She will stretch out to 2,810 meters (about 1 3/4 miles) while taking on 13 opponents, including Ahzeemah and Star Empire, who outfinished her when finished second and third, respectively, behind Anatolian last time out.
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