02/25/2015 4:03PM

Meydan: Local Time, Safety Check heavy favorites on Thursday card

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Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins
Local Time will race beyond a mile for the first time in the 1 3/16-mile UAE Oaks.

A pair of group stakes with likely heavy favorites highlight Thursday’s seven-race card at Meydan in Dubai.

Local Time is 2 for 2 in her brief dirt career and will be an odds-on favorite to win her third race of the winter in the Group 3, $250,000 UAE Oaks, while Safety Check appears formidable in the Group 2, $250,000 Zabeel Mile.

The Meydan card starts at 9:45 a.m. Eastern, with the Oaks carded as race 3, post time 10:55, and the Zabeel Mile as race 6, post time 12:40 p.m.

Field size is smaller than usual for a Thursday World Cup Carnival card at Meydan, with two six-horse fields and one group of eight.

:: DUBAI WORLD CUP CARNIVAL: Get PPs, watch Thursday’s Meydan card live

One of those sextets makes up the UAE Oaks, a 1 3/16- mile dirt race in which half the starters are owned by Godolphin. The most accomplished of them is Local Time, who lost her career debut last summer in England but since has won five straight races. Local Time, by Invincible Spirit, won her maiden on an all-weather surface, captured a Group 3 on turf, and has looked totally at home on the new Meydan dirt track, where she won the UAE Guineas Trial by a nose and the UAE Guineas itself by more than three lengths.

There is one niggling issue - distance. Local Time has yet to race beyond one mile and is unlikely to benefit from Thursday’s longer trip. Should she falter, there are three possible upsetters: Good Place, Sharahsal, and Yodelling finished two-three-four  in the UAE 1000 Guineas, and all three look capable of improving while potentially better suited to the longer distance than the heavy favorite.

In the Zabeel Mile, Safety Check also steps up in trip from seven furlongs to one mile, though the ease with which he won both his races this winter, including a last-out romp in the Al Fahidi Fort, suggests he will win again unless his form is quietly sliding.

Darwin was a big disappointment making his Dubai debut in the Firebreak Stakes, but that was his first dirt start, and Darwin’s best turf form – a third in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes last summer – clearly puts him in the mix.

Earnshaw was one of France’s best 2-year-olds of 2013, but went winless in four starts last year. A form reversal is not out of the question for new trainer Salem bin Ghadayer.

Dark Emerald has won his last two over shorter distances and softer competition, while a case could be made that Anaerobio is edging toward a peak race in his third start this winter.