Eye in Dubai: Feb. 19-22

Lord of the Stars and Ahlaain look sharp for starts int he Meydan Classic Feb. 24.

By Jim Cornes

Meydan Training Track

    FERNELEY (IRE) and CROWDED HOUSE (GB)—California grade II winner Ferneley, with jockey William Buick aboard, and English group I winner Crowded House, under jockey Ryan Moore, worked 1,000 meters (about five furlongs) in company over the Tapeta surface on Feb. 19. As the pair galloped strongly together toward the marker on the backstretch, I started my watch at 1,200 meters (six furlongs) just to see their pace going to the pole. On even terms, they traveled to the marker in :13.03, then proceeded to pick up the pace every 200 meters, with the final quarter-mile in :23.40 (:11.71, :11.69). Ferneley led his workmate by a length at the finish in 1:00.78. This was a solid maintenance move without urging for either, with Ferneley seeming to move the better of the two. Both galloped out relaxed and breathing easily. With a possible race for each of the Ben Cecil trainees on the Super Thursday program featuring six major stakes on March 3, another breeze this week should set them on edge. Ferneley finished seventh in his Carnival debut on Feb. 3, but just 3 ¾ lengths behind winner Warsaw in a $175,000 handicap. Crowded House, who was second in a pair of group III stakes at Meydan in 2010, also finished seventh on that day when he faced highly regarded winner Bold Silvano in the Maktoum Challenge Round II (UAE-III).

Meydan Main Turf Track (markers/dogs set out maximum 26 meters)

    RAJSAMAN (FR) and MARINOUS (FR)—The Freddy Head-trained pair worked together on Feb. 19, with Marinous outside of Rajsaman over a steady 1,200 meters in 1:21.57. The time might seem slow, but the placement of the markers had these horses working on the outside rail and they began with an easy early pace. What was impressive was how they handled the last 800 meters (about a half-mile) with each 200 meters faster than the next down the stretch (:13.64, :13.54, :12.95, :11.84) for a clocking of :52.97. Finishing on even terms under the watchful eyes of their trainer, who was positioned at the winning post, both horses were eager to do much more. It seems evident that each will be ready for their respective planned races on March 3 and 10. Rajsaman, who defeated dual French classic winner Lope de Vega and French champion Siyouni in the 2010 Prix de Fontainebleau (Fr-III), will be making his first start of the year, as will Marinous, a capable group II winner who competed in both the 2010 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) and the Japan Cup (Jpn-I).

    LORD OF THE STARS (USA)—A wire-to-wire winner on the grass on the Jan. 20 Carnival program —and notably the first ever to win with that style on the Meydan turf—Lord of the Stars worked in company with his David Simcock-trained stablemate Ahlaain (USA) in a move to maintain fitness. They went 600 meters (about three furlongs) on the firm course. Six days out from their scheduled starts in the $150,000 Meydan Classic at 1,600 meters (about one mile) on Feb. 24, the pair picked up speed each furlong to sprint home in :36.29 (:13.16, :11.70, :11.43). Lord of the Stars remains sharp, and with the temporary rail set at 15 meters out, which has shown to support horses on or near the lead at Meydan, should go well from his outside barrier draw in the Meydan Classic. The Kentucky-bred son of Speightstown will again be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea. Ahlaain, a Kentucky-bred son of Bernstein who will have William Buick replacing Ryan Moore in the irons, should benefit from his inside post and his stalking running style.

Meydan Main Track

    INTERACTION (ARG)—This horse continues to train forwardly with powerful daily gallops under exercise rider Christophe Bretez. On Feb. 19, he worked 800 meters (about four furlongs) for trainer Pascal Bary on the Tapeta surface. While never asked for speed or allowed to extend himself, Interactionclicked off steady :12-and-change eighths to complete the half-mile in :48.35. This horse has caught my eye for some time with his eager, strong gallops and his relaxed attitude around the International Stables Quarantine. The 5-year-old son of Easing Along is a pleasure to be around and has moved forward since his third-place finish in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round II (UAE-III) on Feb. 3and I feel he will be a major factor in the $300,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (UAE-II), the highlight of the Super Thursday program on March 3 and a key prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). Interaction is one to watch—and enjoy.

    FAREER (GB)—Finally entered on the turf surface he has worked so well on here for the $175,000 Range Rover Trophy over 1,600 meters on Feb. 24, Fareerarrived on the main track shortly after sunrise on Feb. 22. He was spotted having an open gallop under jockey Richard Hills in the center of the track wearing visors (blinkers) for the first time. Entered with visors on for the race, I believe the change of equipment and surface will provide Fareer with the chance to display the talent he has shown in morning training on race night. Although his race on Feb. 18 was disappointing when he finished fourth, I believe he can redeem himself with a sensible pace and produce a late run under Hills for trainer Ed Dunlop.