Seven races, including two group I events, are carded for the Dubai World Cup Carnival's $1.8 million "Super Saturday" program March 8 at Meydan Racecourse.
Super Saturday is a prelude to the Carnival's grand finale, the $27 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 29 card . Each Super Saturday race has a corresponding race on World Cup night and offers trainers a valuable opportunity to test their runners ahead of the world's richest race day.
Anchoring the Super Saturday card is the third and final round of the Al Maktoum Challenge (UAE-I). The $400,000 race is run at World Cup's 2,000-meter (about 1 1/4-mile) distance on the all-weather track.
Fourteen are entered, including the Saeed bin Suroor-trained pair of Prince Bishop
and African Story
, first and second, respectively, in Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge (UAE-II) going 1,900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) Feb. 6.
Prince Bishop won by 1 1/4 lengths in track record time while African Story, the 2012 Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) winner, was making his first start since finishing fifth behind Animal Kingdom in last year's World Cup.
Bin Suroor said both 7-year-old geldings came out of the race in good order and are in good form.
"Prince Bishop looked better than ever winning that and I was really pleased with him," he said. "He has been working well since and Kieren Fallon gets on really well with him.
"African Story needed that run a month ago and has improved a lot fitness-wise since. We think 2,000 meters is his trip now and he loves the all-weather surface.
"Hopefully both will run well but it is a good race."
Bin Suroor has won the final round of the Al Maktoum three times with subsequent Dubai World Cup winners: Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (IRE) (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006).
Fellow Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby, saddling his first Super Saturday runners, sends out Cat O'Mountain. He won a 2,200-meter (about 1 3/8-mile) handicap on the all-weather track Jan. 16 in his local debut, but then disappointed in a 10th-place finish next out Feb. 20.
Joshua Tree, second to Opinion Poll in the 2012 Dubai Gold Cup (UAE-III) on World Cup, has won the Canadian International (Can-I) in each of the last three seasons and also has won in Ireland, England, France, and Qatar.
Super Saturday's other group I race is the $300,000 Jebel Hatta, over the same 1,800 meter (about 1 1/8-mile) turf course and distance as the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I).
Fourteen are entered, including trainer Mike de Kock's South African champion Vercingetorix, winner of all five career starts to date including a group I race in his native county last year and his Dubai debut Feb. 13.
Stable companion Anaerobio is seeking a third Meydan win this sesaon, while Mushreq is another looking for a second Dubai World Cup Carnival win this year after taking the Singspiel Stakes Jan. 9. The trainer also sends out Mars, third in last year's St. James's Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot.
South African champion Heavy Metal looks for his first win since taking the Durban July (SAf-I) in the $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (UAE-II).
The $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal (UAE-III), over the same 1,200 meter (about six-furlong) all-weather track and distance as the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) sets up as a rematch between last year's winner, Reynaldothewizard, and 2012 victor Krypton Factor. Reynaldothewizard went on the win the Golden Shaheen from Balmont, who also is entered, while Krypton Factor was third.
South African champion Soft Falling Rain, winner of last year's United Arab Emirates Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-III) and Godolphin Mile (UAE-II), starts for the first time since a disappointing effort last October in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot.
Shea Shea bids for a repeat in the $175,000 Meydan Sprint (UAE-III) after setting a track record in the race 12 months ago and then following up again with a track record triumph in the Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-I) on World Cup night.
Two-time South African Horse of the Year Variety Club looks the horse to beat in the $200,000 Burj Nahar (UAE-III) as he bids for a 10th consecutive victory.
The listed $250,000 Al Bastakiya, over the same 1,900 meter all-weather course and distance as the United Arab Emirates Derby, is headlined by Godolphin's Emirates Flyer, second in the U.A.E Two Thousand Guineas.