Meeznah, owned by Saeed al Tayer, chairman of Meydan Racecourse, and Saif Ali, lines up against Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa's Vita Nova in the Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock in her first race of the 2011 campaign.
Meeznah back at the track for first time in 2011
LONDON // Meeznah, who finished second in last year's Epsom Oaks, takes her first tentative steps onto a racecourse this campaign when she contests the Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock today.
Meeznah, owned by Saif Ali, the camel trader, and Saeed H Al Tayer, the chairman of Meydan racecourse, confounded all expectation last June when losing by a neck to the globe-trotting Snow Fairy over Epsom's undulating 2,400 metres.
The idiosyncrasies of Epsom clearly did not suit her, and she struggled to meet that level of form throughout a busy summer. She finished fourth in the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks, as well as third and seventh in two Group 2 races at the end of the season.
A year older, it seems the daughter of Dynaformer has also got a little wiser over the winter, and David Lanigan, her trainer, has had an uphill task to get her ready for this afternoon's 2,382m race.
"She has grown up a lot over the winter," Lanigan said. "She's a four year old now, so she keeps a little bit for herself in her work at home. She is a very laid back filly, so she will only do as much as you ask of her."
It got to a point in her training earlier this week when Lanigan considered that a change of scenery from his Revida Place stables in Newmarket might be good for her.
"We took her away for a racecourse gallop at Kempton on Wednesday," Lanigan said. "You can only get so much work into her at home. It was a chance to get her somewhere new. She wouldn't work as impressively as that at home.
"That said, she'll improve a hell of a lot and we'll see where we go with her afterwards."
As the Pinnacle Stakes is only the second Listed contest for fillies in England this season, the race has attracted a stellar field including the much-vaunted Crystal Capella, who nosed ahead of subsequent Dubai Sheema Classic winner Dar Re Mi at York in 2009.
If Lanigan was wary of the danger posed by Crystal Capella, he was also mindful of Vita Nova, trained by his former boss, Henry Cecil.
The four-year-old filly, owned by Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, the chairman of the Emirates Equestrian Federation, won her seasonal debut by six lengths a fortnight ago. The sheikh's red-and-black starred silks missed out on a big win at Sandown Park racecourse on Thursday night when Poet failed gallantly to maintain his early lead over Workforce in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes.
Workforce, who last year won the Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, asserted his authority in the final 200 metres in his opening race of the season.
Much like Poet, Vita Nova also likes to race prominently and connections will hope that the vagaries of racing dictate that this time a pre-race prep will count for that little bit more.