x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Horse racing: Monterosso gets chance to show rate

Monterosso, the Dubai World Cup winner, looks to have better luck than other horses who have shined on Dubai Carnival night.

Mickael Barzalona exhults after winning the Dubai World Cup aboard Monterosso.
Mickael Barzalona exhults after winning the Dubai World Cup aboard Monterosso.

There have been some brilliant winners of the Dubai World Cup and some that never could quite find the magic again.

Saturday night we have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what might be possible for Monterosso, who lines up in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park for Godolphin.

Monterosso scooped the US$10m (Dh36.7m)Dubai World Cup in March and his seasonal bow on the European stage under Mickael Barzalona will be in the Group 1 contest, which when first run in 1886 was the most valuable prize in racing at £10,000.

Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, has warned that Mahmood Al Zarooni's horse will come on for his first run for 98 days but the question that needs answering is whether Monterosso is simply a one-trick pony or a world champion in more than just name.

Prior to his success in the world's most valuable race, Monterosso had proven form on Meydan Racecourse's Tapeta surface.

Last year he finished third in the World Cup, and then warmed up before this year's triumph by finishing fourth in round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge.

Nine of the 12 winners of the Tapeta races on World Cup night since the surface was laid down in 2010 had previous form on Meydan's idiosyncratic track.

Of course Monterosso, who is officially the highest-rated horse among his nine rivals, and was progressive on turf in 2010 for Mark Johnston, but it remains to be seen whether the five year old can match the best on grass.

There will be nowhere to hide tonight. The Eclipse, which is the first opportunity in the British Turf season for three year olds to take on the older generation beyond a mile, has attracted a stellar cast despite the retirement of So You Think.

Nathaniel, last year's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, joins Twice Over, the Eclipse winner of two seasons ago and dual Dubai World Cup runner.

There is the Godolphin blue danger of the exciting and lightly-raced Farhh, who will carry Frankie Dettori, but it is Cityscape, who won the Dubai Duty Free in such taking style in March for trainer Roger Charlton, who could be the most intriguing opponent.

No Dubai Duty Free winner has ever beaten a Dubai World Cup winner.

From when Key Of Luck, the inaugural Dubai Duty Free winner in 1996 failed to haul in Singspiel in the Dubai World Cup the following year to Al Shemali narrowly finishing third to Lizard's Desire and Gloria de Campeao in Singapore two seasons ago, they have always come off second best.

And yet Cityscape's four-and-a-quarter length victory over seven individual Group One winners at Meydan proved that he is a horse that can mix it with the best in the world, and on the surface that matters.

"We had a good winter here which meant he'd done some good work so he went to Meydan very fit, he did very little there," Charlton said.

"As we know he produced a stunning performance. Quite where he found the turbo-booster that produced a course record and had them off the bridle and destroyed them, I'm not sure.

"It's great when you see a six year old doing that. It was his first time at nine furlongs and 10 furlongs is worth trying."

If Cityscape can beat Monterosso home, it would have been worth trying indeed.


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