02/08/2011 12:51PM

Zanzamar gets challenge in UAE 2000 Guineas at Meydan


Southern Hemisphere 3-year-olds, technically 4 years old on the Northern Hemisphere calendar, hold the key to the Group 3, $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas at Meydan on Thursday night.

The South African-bred Zanzamar, trained by Mike de Kock, looked sharp winning the seven-furlong UAE 2000 Guineas Trial on Jan. 20. By 1 1/4-mile Grand Prix de Paris winner Fort Wood, he should have no trouble staying the Guineas’ extra furlong.

But de Kock and rider Richard Hills must beware of the Argentine-bred Paulinho. The six-length winner of the one-mile Estrellas Juvenile, Argentina’s premier 2-year-old event, he has since been purchased by South African interests and turned over to Herman Brown with a Dubai campaign in mind. Not fully wound up for his Meydan debut on Dec. 30 when he was an unlucky second in a seven-furlong allowance, he picks up the services of British ace Ryan Moore and may be good enough to upset the favored Zanzamar.

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American interest takes the shape of Godolphin’s Buffum. A nose maiden winner going a mile in his Belmont debut, the Bernardini colt was subsequently 20 lengths fifth behind To Honor and Serve in the Remsen Stakes and must show more to have a chance with Frankie Dettori riding. The Clive Brittain-trained Abjer won the one-mile, Group 3 Autumn Stakes at Ascot in October but was next dead last in Saint-Cloud’s Group 1 Criterium International. He was fourth in his lone try on a synthetic track at Lingfield Park in August.

The listed $175,000 Firebreak Stakes, like the Guineas to be run on Meydan’s Tapeta surface at a mile, has come up red hot. It is highlighted by the return of Musir, winner last year of both the UAE 2000 Guineas and the UAE Derby. De Kock will give a leg up to Christophe Soumillon on a horse that is being prepared for the Dubai World Cup. De Kock also will saddle Imbongi. The winner of the Group 2 Zabeel Mile here last March on turf, he was second to Mendip in Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge and is using this as a probable prep for the Godolphin Mile.

That is the likely path Saeed bin Suroor has planned for Gayego. The Gilded Time 6-year-old is spending his third winter in Dubai, where he finished second in last February’s six-furlong, Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint. Absent since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he will be ridden by Ted Durcan as Dettori has opted for last year’s Godolphin Mile fifth Skysurfers.

Luca Cumani will saddle the ever-dangerous Bankable. Runner-up in the Dubai Duty Free, he returned to action Jan. 13 when a fast-closing fourth over an inadequate six furlongs. He will have Ryan Moore in the irons.