02/15/2012 4:59PM

Meydan: Mahbooba back at preferred distance in Balanchine


Mahbooba should be expected to turn the tables on First City when the two meet for the second time this winter in the Group 2, $200,000 Balanchine Stakes for fillies and mares on Friday at Meydan in Dubai.

The Mike de Kock-trained Mahbooba, who was third behind Khawlah in the 2011 UAE Derby and sixth last fall in the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine, won her first Meydan start of the winter, the Jan. 5 Al Rashidiya Trial, by an impressive 4 1/4 lengths, but upstart First City nosed her out of a victory on Jan. 20 in the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes. At one mile, the Cape Verdi played more to the strength of First City, who had finished fairly close to good milers like Goldikova, Sahpresa, and Timepiece last year in Europe, while Mahbooba favors longer distances. Her Jan. 5 win came at nine furlongs, the same trip as the Balanchine and one over which the Ali al Raihe-trained First City is unproven.

De Kock also entered Cape Verdi third-place finisher Reem in Friday’s race, but the new player on whom to keep an eye might be Godolphin’s Dysphonia. The 6-year-old Australian-bred is a seven-time winner who gains the services of Frankie Dettori.

Meydan’s international racing flavor comes fully forth in the Balanchine in the form of Grafitti, a 7-year-old mare who conducted her 2011 campaign in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

Friday’s card begins earlier than usual and post time for the Balanchine is scheduled for 8:55 a.m. Eastern.