It is the Dubai Future Champions Festival this weekend over at HQ. We have a total of seven Group races run over the two days ‘showcasing the future stars of the Flat at the Home of Horseracing’ as the marketing guys would say. The bet365 Fillies' Mile for the fillies and the Darley Dewhurst Stakes for the colts are the two big races but there is plenty to get enjoy and it’s not just about the two-year-olds with the ultra-competitive Cesarewitch running on the Saturday.
The ground on the Rowley Mile was pretty heavy for last weekend's meeting but the weather has been kinder this week and the going is now described as soft. It should be noted the stands' side strip comes into use for the two-day Future Champions Weekend and that has not been raced on since June so all being well, we’ve got decent conditions.
They get underway at 12.45 with the 7f Godolphin Under Starters Orders Maiden Fillies' Stakes Div 1. Charlie Appleby had two entered to make their debuts and the one that runs in Div1 is Divine Light. By Kingman out of Blue Angel making her a half-sister to a couple of winners including Listed winner Virens Army. My usual rule of Godolphin debutants at HQ applies and she will be backed to make a winning start to her career.
The Division Two of the Godolphin Under Starters Orders Maiden Fillies' Stakes is the 1.15. Romantic Song goes in this one for Appleby a filly by Shamardal out of Listed winner Tearless. Another well-bred one that the Godolphin debutant rule applies to her with her sole half-sister Nonchalance being a winner is seen as a positive naturally.
The 5f Group Three Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes is due off at 1.50. It all went wrong for Method in the G.1 Juddmonte where his saddle slipped 4f out with Dettori reporting afterwards the colt was running freely causing his saddle to slip forward badly This drop to 5f shouldn't be an issue, especially on the going, and the chestnut will be backed.
Group Three action again at 2.25 for the 7f Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes. I had one in mind for this that sadly does not run and I haven’t now had a bet in the race.
At 3.00 they face 7f for the Group Two Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes. Charlie Appleby had a couple entered here, D’bai run and finished second at Kempton on Wednesday instead, meaning interestingly the yard left in just the lightly raced four-year-old Zakouski - was also in the G.3 tomorrow. Last seen winning the G.2 Zabeel Mile at Meydan back in February there could be more to come from this one yet. He has won three of his four starts and though on official ratings has a bit to find against a few here there is every reason to believe the son of Shamardal can improve again with so few miles on the clock. Won on debut and in January after a 267-day break so lack of a recent run does not concern me; the ground is an unknown but half-brother Kings Command won on soft so hopefully he’ll be fine. I have bet already here at the 13-2 on Wednesday. Charlie Appleby said: “We have been pleased with Zakouski’s preparation and are happy to drop him back to seven furlongs in testing conditions. He is a horse with a nice profile and doesn’t have to carry a G2 penalty for his win earlier in the year. We are looking forward to seeing him back running on British soil ahead of another Dubai campaign."
At 3.35 we have the main dish of the day the Group One bet365 Fillies' Mile. Pretty Gorgeous was my bet for the Group One Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac over a mile before the feed problems lead to her and all other O’Brien runners on the Arc card being withdrawn last weekend. Regular opponent Shale also lines-up and they are closely matched but the form of the G.2 Debutante Stakes sees me favour the Jospeh O’Brien trained runner purely on the basis that was on soft going. I have the 7-2 Thursday lunchtime.
The lucky last at 4.45 is the Group Three 1m2f Darley Pride Stakes. I have backed Magic Lily a few times going all the way back to her two-year-old days. She was running well at the Carnival back at the start of the year and put in a fair effort in defeat in the G.2 Dahlia Stakes but was then down the field when last seen in the mile G.2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. Form of that race aint worked out bad though and a return to this trip and drop in grade is probably more suitable. She will be another one I will be hunting around for the best price on when they price-up. Charlie Appleby said on Thursday “Magic Lily was on the go for a while during the first half of the year and we gave her a nice break over the summer. This looked like a nice opportunity for her, particularly as she won’t have to carry a penalty for her victories in Dubai. There is a question mark about how she will handle the ground but she goes into this race fresh and well.”