Dubai Carnival Update: Zabeel Mile Next in Musir’s Comeback; Royal Diamond Aims for Trophy

By Michele MacDonald

      Musir, a Group 1 winner who has done his best running in Dubai, returns to headline the $250,000 Zabeel Mile (G2) in his second start after experiencing fertility problems at stud as he tries to earn a berth on the Dubai World Cup (G1) program in four weeks.

A turf event that has drawn a field of eight, the Zabeel Mile is the featured event on the six-race March 2 Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan, which begins at 9:50 a.m. EST. The race is a prep for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) on World Cup day, March 30.

The co-featured $200,000 Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) over 2810 meters (about 1 ¾ miles) on turf, which is a stepping stone to the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) on World Cup day, has drawn 11 runners, including Group 1 winners Royal Diamond and Kidnapped.

MUSIR winning in Dubai. Copyright Andrew Watkins

Trainer Mike de Kock said Musir ran well in his first race back when fourth in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) on February 21, giving way in deep stretch after gaining the lead in his first start in eight months. The Australian-bred son of Redoute’s Choice “has come on for it, but is not at his peak yet,” de Kock said of the homebred racing for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum.

Musir, who will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon from the rail, has been made the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Zabeel Mile. Beginning in 2010 as a three-year-old following his champion juvenile season in South Africa, Musir has won five group stakes at Meydan, including the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) and last year’s Al Rashidiya (G2). Overall in his career, Musir has won eight of 18 starts, has placed six times and banked $2,446,815.

Another one of de Kock’s entries, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Royal Ridge, has earned the trainer’s salute as one expected to perform well after three strong efforts in Dubai this season.

“He’s made marked improvement and should go close,” de Kock said of the South African stakes winner, rated as a 6-1 chance with Paul Hanagan aboard from post six. In seven runnings of the Zabeel Mile, de Kock runners have taken down the top prize three times.

Godolphin’s highweighted Fulbright also has run creditably during the Carnival, notching a third in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G2) and a second in the Firebreak Stakes (G3), both on the all-weather track, but the 4-1 English Group 2 winner hasn’t yet found a winning kick at Meydan. The switch to grass may help as Mickael Barzalona rides from post four, but his 131-pound impost is not an advantage as he is required by race conditions to give three pounds to his rivals due to his victory in the Dubai Challenge Stakes (G2) at Newmarket in October.

“He has perhaps not enjoyed a lot of luck so far (in the Carnival) so hopefully everything can fall into place this time, but it is a good contest and that penalty makes the task more difficult obviously,” said trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni.

In the Nad Al Sheba Trophy, a competitive group of distance specialists will line up as Godolphin sends three into the fray, led by 5-1 French stakes winner Tenenbaum, a four-year-old Authorized gelding who has won half his six starts. He finished third in the Qatar Prix Chaudenay (G2) on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) Weekend last October in his most recent start. Barzalona will ride Tenenbaum, who has the lightest impost at 123 pounds, from post three.

Balladry, previously trained by Eoin Harty and sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2) on dirt, is given a 20-1 chance for the blue squadron as he starts in post two with Hanagan. Handicapper Ahzeemah, coming off two narrow misses, is 8-1 with Kieren Fallon from post seven.

Last year’s Irish St. Leger (G1) winner Royal Diamond, 9-2, will be making his 2013 debut from post six and is 9-2 on the morning line. Saddler’s Rock, 6-1, a multiple Group 2 winner and a close third in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot last year, carries high weight of 131 pounds and gives from three to eight pounds to the field as he starts from post ten after the scratches of Averroes and Jakkalberry.

Many graded/group stakes winners and horses familiar to North American players are entered for the March 2 card. They include 2012 UAE Derby winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) starter Daddy Long Legs; Sham Stakes (G3) winner Out of Bounds, another former Harty trainee, and 2011 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) runner-up Arthur’s Tale. That trio is set for the third race, a $150,000 handicap at the World Cup distance of 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on the all-weather track.

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Rich Nilsen is an 18-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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