This might be the best week yet for international participation at the Carnival, with horses from 10 countries set to line up across the seven races on Friday.
It should still be a good night for the home Godolphin team, however. They have a stranglehold on the night’s feature, the Group 3 Nad Al-Sheba Trophy. They’ve won it nine times, including the last six, and field four in order to try and retain the trophy. Siskany, trained by Charlie Appleby, looks the pick of them, but don’t discount Marco Botti’s Italian Derby winner Ardakan, who should be a bit fitter for his run here last time out, when he finished third behind the reopposing Global Heat.
The Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes is another race which usually goes to Godolphin and might well do so again, as Appleby is sending out one of his best. Nations Pride did the Carnival proud last season, winning the inaugural Jumeirah Derby here and then running in his own little series of derbies, finishing eighth in Epsom, second in Belmont and winning Saratoga and Jockey Club in the US.
Quite rightly, he has a penalty for his Grade 1 success when he runs on Friday, but he still looks the one to beat, being rated 4 pounds clear of the field. Daramethos, winner of the G3 Jebel Ali Stakes last time out, is an intriguing contender for Musabbeh Al-Mheiri, making his first start on the Meydan turf.
California-based trainer Doug O’Neill won the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas last week with Tall Boy and he might be able to steal a second Classic when Ami Please lines up in the G3 UAE Oaks. The daughter of Goldencents has won one of her five starts to date, at Santa Anita over a mile (over 1,609 meters), but has been finishing her races well, suggesting she will cope with the extra distance. Her main rival looks to be Mimi Kakushi, who will aim to follow up her UAE 1000 Guineas win for trainer Salem Bin Ghadayer, who says she only needs to repeat that effort to win again here. That’s confidence and I like it.
The Jebel Ali Free Zone Handicap, race two, is extremely competitive and Appleby’s Silent Speech will be popular, following his course and distance win last season. He’s up against dual Carnival winner Batwan, who will apparently be much happier on fast ground, after running on the soft last time, and the intriguing Boomshalaa for trainer Doug Watson. He was a good third on local debut three weeks ago but possibly doesn’t have the best of the draw here, going from stall one.
It’s lovely that popular grey Lord Glitters, a three-time winner at the Carnival, is being recognized with a race run in his name and his namesake contest, a 1,600-meter handicap, is a strong one. Turkish raider Aegean Finale was only beaten three-quarters of a length here last month and he looks a leading contender, as does the British-trained Ouzo, a close third and then second on his first two starts here this season.
The last race is a tough one to call, with Royal Mews having impressed last time. He and stablemate Western Symphony both have leading chances, as does the top weight Ever Given, who drops in grade having finished fourth in the G3 Firebreak Stakes last time. A repeat of that effort makes him very much the one to catch here, with Mickael Barzalona likely to ride a positive race onboard the 4-year-old.