02/01/2017 5:21PM

Meydan: Le Bernardin faces tougher task in Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2

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Benoit & Associates
Second Summer, shown winning the Grade 2 Californian Stakes last spring, will make his first start in Dubai in Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge.

The Group 2, $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 on Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse could come down to a horse that never has run in Dubai, a horse with one start in Dubai, and one of the best-known horses in Dubai.

Le Bernardin is the Dubai stalwart, the last-out winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, a race he won for the second year in a row. The 8-year-old American-bred Le Bernardin, trained by Ali al Raihy, began racing in Dubai late in 2013 and has won 5 of 14 starts there, all at Meydan. His form is well established, and what seems clear by now is that Le Bernardin runs best over 1,600 meters, or about one mile. That was the distance of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, and is the distance over which four of his five local wins have come. Thursday’s race will be contested at 1,900 meters, about 1 3/16 miles, and to further compromise Le Bernardin, he drew the outside post in a 12-horse field.

The competition also looks stronger for Round 2 than in Round 1, and the race includes Second Summer, who makes his Dubai debut after having been turned over to trainer Doug Watson following a private purchase. Second Summer, before being sold, was based in California with trainer Peter Eurton, and after being switched from turf to dirt last winter, he went on a strong run. Second Summer, by Summer Bird, won two straight allowance races before capturing the Grade 2 Californian over 1 1/8 miles in May, and though his campaign ended with a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Gold Cup, Second Summer is qualified to win Thursday.

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Lindo Amor, a South American import trained by Mike de Kock, also appears to have a strong chance. Lindo Amor, a 4-year-old, was making his first start in a year when he rallied for third behind Le Bernardin in Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, and he appears to better suit Thursday’s longer distance than he did that one-mile trip.

The card’s second-most important race, the Grade 3 Al Shindagha Sprint, also is on dirt. Its most likely winner is Muarrab, who beat X Y Jet in the Group 1 Golden Shaheeen on the 2016 World Cup undercard, and most recently finished second to the ageless Reynaldothewizard, who is sitting this race out to prepare for more important targets later in the winter. Wild Due, the American expatriate, was making his Dubai debut when he finished third behind Muarrab last out, and while he could improve second time out, Wild Dude is a 7-year-old with plenty of racing behind him.

The card starts at 9:30 a.m. Eastern with the Al Shindagha, race 3, scheduled to go at 10:40 and Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, race 5, at 11:50. Live video and wagering is available at DRF Bets.