01/07/2014 2:43PM

Dubai World Cup Carnival begins with Maktoum Challenge


Thursday’s seven-race card, headed by Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, marks the first of 11 programs – mostly Thursdays – at Meydan that comprise the Dubai World Cup Carnival. The Meydan season culminates March 29 with the Dubai World Cup program, which offers purses of $27.25 million.

The Maktoum Challenge, which goes as race 6 with a scheduled post of 11:25 a.m. Eastern, drew 10 entrants and matches the historic principals of recent World Cup Carnival meetings – trainer Mike de Kock and the powerful Godolphin operation. De Kock has two entrants in the Thursday feature, Daddy Long Legs and Rerouted, as does Godolphin, which sends out Steeler and Shuruq.

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who topped the 2013 Carnival with 19 winners, sends out the 4-year-old filly Shuruq, who won the UAE Oaks last winter at Meydan. The 4-year-old Steeler, who missed the entire 2013 season, makes his Dubai debut for trainer Charlie Appleby, who starts his first Carnival horses as head trainer Thursday.

Appleby began training for Godolphin in July, following the dismissal of trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni after Zarooni admitted to administering steroids to England-based Godolphin horses in his care. Steeler was among the horses banned from competition earlier in the year because of positive drug tests, as was Artigiano, who is entered in the Singspiel Stakes on Thursday. Steeler and Artigiano are the first suspended Godolphin horses to return to competition.

The structure of the Godophin operation in Dubai, however, remains similar to that of years past, according to racing manager Simon Crisford. Bin Suroor and Appleby both have about 30 horses in training. Top Godolphin runners intended for group stakes at the Carnival include Certify, Hunter’s Light, African Story, Maputo, and Tasaday.

De Kock sent out 15 winners at the 2013 Carnival and can pick from a larger stable this year. Shea Shea, Soft Falling Rain, and The Apache all won major races for de Kock at the 2013 Carnival and are expected to see action again this year. De Kock also has several accomplished South African horses new to Dubai in his care, as well as Gale Force Ten, who was campaigned until late in 2013 by trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Silvestre De Sousa and Mickael Barzalona, Godolphin’s two main riders, topped the jockey standings during the 2013 Carnival and will surely be prominent again this year. Richard Hughes is expected to move his tack to Dubai sometime in February.

The Maktoum Challenge Round 1, carded for about one mile on the Tapeta main track, also includes last year’s winner, the 10-year-old Barbecue Eddie.

De Kock has two of the principals – Mushreq and David Livingston – in the 12-horse Singspiel, a turf race at about nine furlongs.