By Jim Cornes
Meydan Main Track, Feb. 26
GITANO HERNANDO (GB) and FANUNALTER (GB): Jockey Johnny Murtagh rode Gitano Hernando in company with his stablemate Fanunalter, under regular exercise rider Lucia Botti, the wife of trainer Marco Botti, for a six-furlong work just after sunrise.
Fanunalter led by one to two lengths early, with Gitano Hernando, winner of the 2009 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, ranging up on the inside about three furlongs from the finish. The pair sprinted home together on even terms, covering the final three-eighths in :34.91. Fanunalter finished with good energy and seems sharp; the 5-year-old Falbrav gelding, a two-time stakes winner in England last year, was entered in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (UAE-III) over 1,600 meters (about one mile) on the March 3 Super Thursday program but was not declared to run.
Gitano Hernando duplicated his racing style in the workout, stalking a pacemaker and closing to finish six furlongs in 1:16.15. Owned by American-based Team Valor International and Gary Barber, the 5-year-old has been entered in the $300,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (UAE-II) at 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) on the all-weather track, which is the key prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). Gitano Hernando must show improvement from his last start—a fifth-place finish in the Maktoum Challenge Round II (UAE-III)—to merit strong consideration as a contender in the March 26 World Cup.
TWICE OVER (GB) and TRANQUIL TIGER (GB)—In his first piece of work since returning to Dubai Feb. 21 to prepare for his second tilt at the Dubai World Cup, Twice Over tracked his stablemate Tranquil Tiger from almost two lengths behind through the first 1,000 meters (about five furlongs), then caught him quickly and drew away under slight hand encouragement by his rider.
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s 6-year-old multiple group I winner, who was third to Zenyatta in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), was eased up approaching the finish line. A final time of 1:27.64 for 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) with jockey Tom Queally aboard, with the final 600 meters in :37.44 (:12.80, :11.33 and :12.31), shows a certain level of fitness. Twice Over is set to make his seasonal debut in the Maktoum Challenge Round III having not raced since Oct. 16, when he won the Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket over multiple European group I winner Vision d'Etat, Arlington Million Stakes (gr. I) winner Debussy, and Gitano Hernando.
But going 2,000 meters in the Maktoum Challenge off the layoff combined with limited local preparation means there are a lot of obstacles to overcome in a very talented field. Look for Twice Over, trained by Henry Cecil, to get a lot out of this race over the track. Last year, the son of Observatory finished 10th in the World Cup, but only three lengths behind winner Gloria de Campeao, with no prep race in Dubai.
MARINOUS (FR) and RAJSAMAN (FR)—This Freddy Head-trained pair was sent out for an open gallop, with French group III winner Rajsaman leading group II winner Marinous over six furlongs in an easy 1:17.22. Each of these horses has impressed in recent weeks, and they showed how sharp they are by sprinting the last 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :36.34 (:12.64, :12.61 and :11.09) with no encouragement from their riders. As both galloped out strongly, they convinced me that they can produce their very best efforts in Super Thursday races at value odds. Marinous is the highest rated runner set to start in the $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (UAE-II) at 2,485 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) on turf, while Rajsaman is set for the Maktoum Challenge Round III. Kieren Fallon is named to ride both runners.
Main Turf Course, Feb. 26
KASBAH BLISS (FR)—Having his first feel of the Meydan turf, Kasbah Bliss went an easy 800 meters (about four furlongs) in :52.59 with the markers/dogs out 24 meters. This 9-year-old gelding, a veteran of 50 starts in England, France and Hong Kong, has displayed a very good energy level since his arrival into quarantine Feb. 18, and he showed a quick burst of speed with the final two furlongs in :23.91 (:12.14, :11.79) and was eager to do more. Long and strong morning gallops before and after the workout indicate this horse is comfortable and primed for a solid effort in the Dubai City of Gold. With the rail in the true position and some pace to run at, he can be expected to produce a late run on Super Thursday. A distance specialist who has placed in three group I races, including the Hong Kong Vase (HK-I), Kasbah Bliss is trained by Francois Doumen.
Eye In Dubai’s Extra Long Look List (Horses to watch on Super Thursday): Argentine Horse of the Year Interaction (ARG) in the Dubai City of Gold; South African champion and last year’s UAE Derby (UAE-II) winner Musir (AUS), who has lost only twice in his career and was second on both occasions, in the Maktoum Challenge; multiple European stakes winner Win For Sure (GER), who won a $150,000 Dubai International Racing Carnival handicap Jan. 27 over subsequent winners Navajo Chief and Raihana, in the Maktoum Challenge, and Haatheq (USA), a Shadwell Farm homebred who carried Calvin Borel to his Meydan Masters victory Feb. 17, also in the Maktoum Challenge.
Notable Names Entered for Super Thursday: Two-time Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I) winner Richard's Kid (USA), who will be making his first start of 2011 and his first for trainer Satish Seemar in the Maktoum Challenge after closing out 2010 with a victory for Bob Baffert in the Goodwood Stakes (Gr. I) over eventual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Dakota Phone; 2010 Arlington Million Stakes winner Debussy (IRE), who is making his first start, also in the Maktoum Challenge, since being rank early and fading to fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I); Godolphin’s Etched (USA), winner of last year’s Monmouth Cup Stakes (gr. II) who has not raced since a sixth-place finish in Blame ’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), also in the Maktoum Challenge; Godolphin’s Mendip(USA), a son of Harlan's Holiday who won the UAE classic Al Bastikiya last year and who could be the global stable’s best candidate for the Dubai World Cup but who has been entered in the Burj Nahaar at 1,600 meters; 2010 South African Horse of the Year Irish Flame (SAF), from the Carnival-leading barn of trainer Mike de Kock, in the Maktoum Challenge; group I winner Presvis (GB), who is coming off a very impressive win in the Al Rashidiya (UAE-II) Jan. 27, in the $250,000 Jebel Hatta (UAE-II) at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf; and Zabeel Racing International’s Conveyance (USA), who has not run since setting the pace in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) last May, in the $200,000 Mahab al Shimaal (UAE-III) at 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) on the all-weather track.