01/26/2010 12:00AM

Maktoum Challenge tops Meydan opener


Meydan Racecourse will celebrate its grand opening in Dubai on Thursday night with an eight-race card worth $930,000 highlighted by Round 1 of the $200,000 Maktoum Challenge, a Group 3 mile with implications down the road for both the Dubai World Cup and the Godolphin Mile.

The glittering new racecourse/hotel complex that replaces Nad Al Sheba as the United Arab Emirates' equine showpiece will play host to perhaps the strongest Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge in its history. Godolphin will be unloading two of its big guns right off the bat in Midshipman and My Indy.

A close third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride, the 4-year-old Midshipman is expected to take to Meydan's new Tapeta surface and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. He must break widest of all in post 14 in this one-turn, American-style contest.

My Indy, winner of this race last year on the Nad Al Sheba dirt as well as Round 2 of the Challenge going 1 1/8 miles, will be making his first start since finishing a distant fifth behind Well Armed in the Dubai World Cup. He is untested on a synthetic track.

So, too, is Gloria de Campeao. Fourteen lengths second in the World Cup, the Pascal Bary-trained Brazilian-bred next won the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup but was only seventh in his most recent outing, in the Arlington Million, and may find this mile too short.

Tam Lin, winner of the 2008 Kelso Handicap and second in both the Poker and Fort Marcy at Belmont last year when trained by Saeed bin Suroor, will have his initial outing on a synthetic track in his first start for new trainer Mubarak bin Shafya.

Premio Loco has a good upset chance. Trained by Chris Wall in England, his most recent start was a winning one on Sept. 27 when he took the Group 3 Grosse Europa Meile at Cologne. Prior to that, he had been a length second in Windsor's listed, one mile and 67-yard Midsummer Stakes to Without a Prayer, a Ralph Beckett trainee who tries him again off a three-length listed race score on the Kempton Polytrack on Nov. 29.

* The first of the seven Thoroughbred races on the Meydan card is the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial, a seven-furlong conditions race worth $50,000. It features Absolute Music, a progressing filly who was second in the seven-furlong, Group 3 Prix Miesque and third in the six-furlong, Group 3 Prix Eclipse in her most recent two starts last autumn. She will be challenged by a sharp Southern Hemisphere 3-year-old from South America, Talenta, a Group 1 winner going a mile on turf at Gavea in Brazil.

In addition to the nine pounds that Southern Hemisphere 3-year-olds must give to their Northern Hemisphere rivals at this time of year, Talenta must carry a seven-pound penalty for her Group 1 victory, so she will be saddled with 136 pounds, while Absolute Music gets in with 120. The Trial is a prep for the one-mile UAE 1000 Guineas on Feb. 11.