02/05/2013 2:14PM

Dubai: Alpha heads Godolphin's strong team on Maktoum Challenge card

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Barbara D. Livingston
A start in the Maktoum Challenge puts Alpha closer to an appearance in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30.

Alpha, who finished in a dead heat for first in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga last August, makes his Dubai debut in Thursday’s $250,000 Round Two of the Maktoum Challenge at Meydan Racecourse.

Owned by Godolphin Racing, Alpha has not started since finishing last of 12 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. A start in the Maktoum Challenge puts Alpha closer to an appearance in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30. A winner of 5 of 11 starts and $1,270,000, Alpha was 12th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, but rebounded to win the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga as a prep for the Travers.

The Maktoum Challenge is run over about 1 3/16 miles on the Tapeta Footings synthetic track. The race drew a field of 12. Alpha will be ridden by William Buick for trainer Saeed Bin Suroor. Kiaran McLaughlin trained Alpha in the United States.

Godolphin has a deep team in Thursday’s Maktoum Challenge, also starting top contenders such as Saint Baudolino, who was second in the 2012 French Derby and won the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Deauville last August, and Hunter’s Light, who won the Group 1 Premio Roma at Capannelle, Italy, last November.

Michael de Kock, the prominent South African trainer, runs Await the Dawn, who won the 2011 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, but was seventh in the BC Turf at Churchill Downs that year. Await the Dawn has not started since finishing last of 15 in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Meydan last March.

Two in the field started in the Dubai World Cup last year – Prince Bishop was seventh and Mendip was 11th, having won Round Two of the Maktoum Challenge in February 2012. Mendip has not started since the 2012 Dubai World Cup.

Earlier on the Meydan program, Music Chart can win the first major stakes of the year for 3-year-old fillies in Dubai, the $250,000 United Arab Emirates 1000 Guineas.

A Kentucky-bred by Exchange Rate who was purchased for $230,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale in 2011, Music Chart is part of a field of 10 in the UAE 1000 Guineas, which is run over about a mile on the synthetic track.

Shuruq and More than Sotka, second and third behind Music Chart in the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial last month, are part of Thursday’s field.