DUBAI // No filly has ever won the UAE Derby, but Saeed bin Suroor hopes to change that statistic on Saturday night when he lines up Khawlah against the colts.
Last year Mike De Kock's Raihana became the 13th filly to be defeated in the race when she came within a length-and-three-quarters of stablemate Musir in the 1,900m Classic.
Khawlah defied almost a five-month absence to grind down de Kock's Mahbooba in the UAE Oaks in February, and bin Suroor was bristling with confidence when asked whether he expected a repeat of something similar on Saturday.
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"Yes. When she ran first time out she was not 100 per cent when she won," he said.
"She's class and came back sound from that race. She beat the best fillies here in the UAE and she has the class to run with the colts."
The Godolphin trainer has previous form in this department having saddled the filly Folk to finish 10th behind Asiatic Boy in 2007. Cocoa Beach was third three years ago in Honour Devil's race.
He is famous for taking on the colts in the English Derby with Cape Verdi in 1999 and believes that the daughter of Cape Cross is cut from the same cloth.
"Cape Verdi, Moonshell, and other great fillies we have had in the past 17 years, she is one of them," he said. "It's a good result to win the Oaks, and now she takes on the colts we are looking for a better result. I'm really happy with her."
After the UAE Oaks it was announced that Khawlah would go for the Musidora Stakes in England before a tilt at the English Oaks, which bin Suroor has won twice and has two other entries, Rumh and White Moonstone.
"We kept our options open," bin Suroor said. "The plan was the Musidora at York but we saw she came back so well and now we have a chance to run her in the UAE Derby, which is a [US] $2 million (Dh7.34m) race. We will see how she runs in that and then prepare her for the English Oaks."
The prize money bin Suroor mentions has been a significant draw card for trainers in Europe as it dwarfs that of the Epsom Derby, as well as the Irish and French versions.
Aidan O'Brien has entered Master Of The Hounds and Alexander Hope, who is intriguingly ridden by Jamie Spencer, the former Ballydoyle stable jockey. Others include David Simcock's Ahlaain, John Gosden's Utley and Brian Meehan's Mantoba, as well as Laser Bullet, the Japanese raider.
Only bin Suroor and De Kock have won the UAE Derby in the decade of the contest's existence and the enduring success of the Emirati was highlighted in a nail-biting finish to the Carnival trainers' championship.
It took a treble on the final night of this year's Carnival season to clinch the spoils from his long-standing rival. Honour System's victory in the Dubai Duty Free Double Millionaire Handicap on March 10 saw the scores stand, in terms of winners, at 16 to 15, and bin Suroor was delighted at the result.
"It's great to win it for the fourth time," he said. "It wasn't easy. It's just great to have horses that are good enough to win these races."