01/25/2011 3:23PM

Irish Flame looks best in Dubai Duty Free prep


Trainer Mike de Kock is always the danger man in Dubai, and he will be cast in that role at Meydan on Thursday night when he saddles Irish Flame in the Group 2, $200,000 Al Rashidiya, a course-and-distance prep for the 1 1/8-mile, $5 million Dubai Duty Free on March 27.

A South African-bred son of Dynasty and a Southern Hemisphere 4-year-old, Irish Flame appears to have this race at his mercy. He has won 3 of his last 4 starts in his native land, two of those at the Group 1 level. Most recently he finished a length second in South Africa’s most prestigious race, the 1 3/8-mile Durban July Cup on July 31. Kevin Shea will take his usual seat aboard Irish Flame, who is a listed race winner at the Al Rashidiya distance.

Stablemate River Jetez offered a hint as to Irish Flame’s potential when he was a most unlucky third in last week’s Cape Verdi Stakes, as the mare had been making her first start that day since finishing sixth in the Durban July Cup.

Steele Tango may have the best chance of pinning back the favorite. The winner of a course-and-distance handicap on Jan. 11, this Roger Teal trainee had previously finished second in the 1 1/8-mile, Group 3 Darley Stakes at Newmarket. Sea Lord, the winner of the one-mile, Group 3 Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury last summer, will appreciate the return to turf after an eighth-place finish in Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge on Tapeta two weeks ago. Bushman, who won the Group 2 York Stakes and the Group 3 Diomed Stakes in England for trainer David Simcock last summer, is dropping back down in class after unplaced efforts against better in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Juddmonte International.

Godolphin’s hope is the Australian-bred Caymans. A Group 2 winner Down Under, he failed in his lone start in England when sixth in a Nottingham allowance in November.