01/25/2017 6:06PM

Dubai: Pair of Group 2 stakes headline Meydan card

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Top to bottom, the Thursday program at Meydan Racecourse is the strongest so far this Dubai World Cup Carnival. The seven-race card, which starts with an Arabian race, includes a pair of Group 2 turf stakes, the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, and three solid supporting races.

Trainer Mike de Kock and jockey Christophe Soumillon have owned the Group 2 Al Rashidiya Stakes, having won five straight editions, and the pair has the likely favorite again Thursday in Light the Lights. Light the Lights, a 5-year-old South African import, made his Dubai debut Jan. 5 in the listed Singspiel Stakes and was up late under Soumillon to beat pace-setting Championship. It was three more lengths to the show horse that night, and Light the Lights got a form boost a week ago when Championship scored a sharp victory in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort.

“He has done well since winning his Dubai debut,” de Kock, who has eight total Al Rashidiya wins, said on his website. “He has improved and should give a strong account.”

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Light the Lights breaks on the outside of an eight-horse field in the 1,800-meter (about nine furlong) Al Rashidiya. Among his rivals in the card’s third race is Godolphin’s Promising Run, a Group 3 winner over one mile in England who gets a weight break as a 4-year-old filly facing males.

Promising Run is in the Al Rashidiya because Godolphin has a better horse, Very Special, for the Group 2 Cape Verdi, a filly-and-mare-restricted stakes over 1,600 meters that goes as the card’s fifth race. Five-year-old Very Special last was seen in August finishing second in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes to the excellent Alice Springs, and she had a strong run a year ago in Dubai that began with a convincing victory in the Cape Verdi. Very Special went on to win the Group 2 Balanchine in early March before finishing sixth in the Group 1, $6 million Dubai Turf. Very Special, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, will be ridden by Jim Crowley.

The UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) drew 14 entrants, several of whom are trying dirt for the first time, and is a tricky puzzle. Godolphin has four runners, two for bin Suroor and two for Charlie Appleby, among whom Best Solution, at 111, has the highest rating.

Best Solution, a Group 3 winner over one mile, had a strong 2-year-old campaign which ended with a second-place finish in the Group 1 Grand Criterium at Saint-Cloud. By Kodiac and out of a Kingmambo mare, Best Solution has only raced on turf and breaks from post 14 in the Guineas Trial.

Appleby’s two entrants, Van der Decken and Fly At Dawn, finished one-two in a conditions race at this distance on dirt on Dec. 29, and though neither would be Best Solution’s equal on turf, they are both dirt-bred and proven – to some extent – on the local surface.

Also worthy of consideration is Cosmo Charlie, who won his career debut for trainer Doug Watson going 1,400 meters on Meydan’s dirt track on Dec. 15. An American-bred by Stay Thirsty and out of a Salt Lake mare, Cosmo Charlie led in his win over second-place Capezanno, who returned to win a maiden race on Dec. 23, and third-place Mazeed, who goes in the Guineas Trial for de Kock.

De Kock’s second Guineas runner, Megnaas, is an Argentine-bred son of Asiatic Boy, with whom de Kock won the UAE Derby. Megnaas, a South African import, won one of two starts last year, capturing an all-weather maiden, but as a 3-year-old on Southern Hemisphere time concedes considerable weight to all his rivals Thursday.

The card starts with the Arabian race at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. Scheduled post time for race 2, the first Thoroughbred race, is 10:05. Live video and wagering is available at DRF Bets.