DUBAI // Meydan Racecourse hosts its second meet tonight and Brazil's Antonio Cintra is hoping to prove that, contrary to popular belief, his country's horses can perform on Tapeta as well as dirt. Back in 2005, Sushibar, ridden by Tiago Pereira - last week's Brazilian feature-winning jockey - blazed a trail for the South American country by winning the Saratoga Stakes at Nad al Sheba.
Where he led, others followed. In 2006, Cintra's His Heart Alone scored a high-profile victory in the Grade Three Al Shindagha Sprint for Mick Kinane on his Dubai debut. Since then Brazilian horses have enjoyed remarkable success at Nad al Sheba. Of the 27 countries battling for desert riches over the six years, records show Brazil is the fifth most successful - even more impressive considering the first Brazilian runner only arrived here five years ago.
A closer look at Carnival statistics reveal why Brazilian runners are better on dirt - 50 runs on turf have produced two wins while 88 on dirt yielded nine. Cintra, though, is confident Tapeta will suit his charges. "It's true our best results are on dirt, but our horses should not be discounted," he said. "Look at the first meeting. Gloria de Campeao is a Brazilian horse and he won the feature race."
In fact, Gloria de Campeao, prepared by Pascal Bary and ridden by Pereira, shows much versatility. He was runner-up to Well Armed in the 2009 Dubai World Cup on dirt and followed up with a win in the Singapore Cup on grass a few months later before his recent Tapeta success. Stefan Friborg, his owner, said the horse had been prepared on synthetic tracks in France, a fact that may indicate top-quality Brazilian runners simply need enough exposure to Tapeta to perform.
"Brazilian horses like harder surfaces and Tapeta seems to suit them," said Cintra. "Mine have worked well and I'm confident." So confident is Cintra that he does not mind sticking his neck out and saying his runner, Al Arab, in tonight's first race could win. The four-year-old won a Listed mile at Cidade Jardim in Sao Paulo in November. "He has impressed me in his gallops on Tapeta and I think he will run well and has a chance to win," he said.
Cintra also saddles Olympic Danz and Jardim in the third, the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial. This race provides a barometer of form ahead of the 2,000 Guineas Classic for colts later in the season. "It's a strong race," said Cintra. "Mike de Kock has good runners in Musir, Solid Choice and Mr Crazy Boy, and Godolphin's horses also look strong. "If mine are in the top five I will know they are heading in the right direction."
Dirt may be considered Brazil's preferred surface, yet Cintra points out that until Brazilian horses began having international success, many were sceptical.
"Before Brazilian horses first started travelling abroad and coming to Dubai nobody knew about them," he said. "Brazilian horses have run well in the US on synthetic, so why not here?"