02/02/2010 1:00AM

Al Rashidiya opens Meydan turf course


The Group 3, $200,000 Al Rashidiya will be the first race run on Meydan's new turf course Thursday night. The 1 1/8-mile prep for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free lost some luster when the expected favorite, Presvis, opted for Friday night's 1 1/4-mile handicap on the synthetic track as his initial trial for the Dubai World Cup.

In his absence, the Al Rashidiya still includes two Group 1 winners, two Group 2 winners, and two Group 3 winners, but most of them are coming off long layoffs. Frozen Fire, now with trainer Mike de Kock, won the Irish Derby in 2008 but has not run since finishing seventh in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on July 25. His stablemate Front House won the 1 1/2-mile Dubai City of Gold last March but has been absent since his ninth-place finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic on March 28.

The Brian Meehan-trained Crowded House is winless since landing the Racing Post Trophy in October 2008. His last start came June 6 when he was sixth in the Epsom Derby. The Jerry Barton-trained Naval Officer took the Prix de Conde as a 2-year-old but has been away since his sixth-place finish in last year's UAE Derby.

Tam Lin, winner of the 2008 Kelso Handicap, did run just a week ago, but he was only 13th in Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge for Mubarak bin Shafya.

Oiseau de Feu has shown more recent back class than some of his eight rivals. The winner of the one-mile Group 3 Prix Paul de Moussac at Chantilly in June, he next finished just a head second to Lord Shanakill in the one-mile Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at the same track. Last time, on Oct. 3, he crossed the line sixth in the seven-furlong Group 1 Prix de la Foret but was disqualified and placed last. Switched by owner Hamdan Al Maktoum from Jean-Claude Rouget to Erwan Charpy for a Dubai campaign, he has as good a chance as any in a wide open affair.