***This article was originally published on Feb. 16 on Bloodhorse.com***
Tough-as-nails Raihana will be making a quick turnaround and will jump into group company when she goes to the post in the eight furlong Al Fahidi Fort Sponsored by Commercial Bank of Dubai (UAE-IIT) at Meydan Racecourse Feb. 17. The turf contest is one of a pair of stakes races that highlight the Thursday night card.
After beating males in a nine furlong turf handicap on Feb. 10, Raihana will face 11 challengers in the Al Fahidi Fort. The field has one other distaff challenger, the rapidly-improving Thai Haku, who enters the contest off of a second-place finish in the Cape Verdi Stakes Sponsored by Bab Al Shams (UAE-IIT) in January.
Raihana, a 5-year-old Australian-bred daughter of Elusive Quality, races as a homebred for Sheik Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and is trained by Mike de Kock. She made quite a name for herself last year at the Dubai Carnival, capturing the listed UAE Oaks before finishing a strong second to Musir in the UAE Derby (UAE-II). Christophe Soumillon, who has been red-hot of late, will be aboard.
Raihana will be joined in the Al Fahidi Fort by stablemate Our Giant, who enters the race off of a fourth-place finish in the Al Shindagha Sprint Sponsored by Etisalat (UAE-III). Prior to that, the son of Giant’s Causeway won a six furlong allowance race in his seasonal debut. Both races were on the all-weather Tapeta surface; trainer de Kock is moving the group I winner back to the turf and stretching him out to what is probably his best distance. Our Giant has been in the money in nine of 11 starts going one mile. Kevin Shea will ride.
Another top challenger in the race is Hearts of Fire, who will be making his first start since being purchased for $905,249 at the Tattersalls Autumn horses in training sale in October. Winner of the Gran Criterium (It-I) and named champion 2-year-old colt in both Italy and Germany, Hearts of Fire was originally conditioned by Pat Eddery in England. The 4-year-old son of Firebreak is now with Qatar-based trainer Ibrahim Saeed Al-Malki, and is owned by Hassan Ali Abdul Malik. Ryan Moore will ride.
Sheik Hamdan’s Derbaas is another improving type in with a chance. The 5-year-old horse by Seeking the Gold will be making his stakes debut at Meydan, after reeling off three straight wins in allowance company. Richard Hills has the mount.
Star Empire Headlines Nad Al Sheba Trophy
Star Empire heads a field of nine older runners in the listed Nad Al Sheba Trophy Sponsored by Al Dana Wealth Management. The 14-furlong turf marathon will be contested as the fourth race on the seven race program.
A lightly-raced 5-year-old gelding by Second Empire, Star Empire is a stakes winner in his native South Africa, and is rounding into form nicely for Mike de Kock. Christophe Soumillon will ride.
Godolphin will send out two representatives in the race, Claremont and Opinion Poll. Opinion Poll is the more accomplished of the duo, having been victorious in the Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup (Eng-II) and finishing third in the Prix Royal Oak (Fr-I) last year. Mahmood Al Zarooni trains the son of Halling, who was a narrowly-beaten second in his seasonal debut Jan. 27. Ahmed Ajtebi will be aboard.
Another to consider is Drunken Sailor, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Luca Cumani. Although a bit off form of late, the son of Tendulkar was impressive when reeling off back to back wins last season at Meydan. He will be reunited with jockey Kieren Fallon, who has had the most success aboard him.
$250,000 Al Fahidi Fort Sponsored by Commercial Bank of Dubai (gr. II, race 6, 12:35 p.m. EST), 3yo (SH-bred) and up, 8 furlongs, turf.
PP, Horse, Wgt., Jockey, Trainer
1. Our Giant (Aus), 126, K. Shea, M. de Kock
2. Derbaas (KY), 126, R. Hills, A. Al Raihe
3. Bushman (GB), 126, W. Buick, D. Simcock
4. Raihana (Aus), 121, C. Soumillon, M. de Kock
5. Le Drakkar (Aus), 126, O. Peslier, A. bin Huzaim
6. Finjaan (GB), 126, P. Dobbs, D. Watson
7. Thai Haku (Ire), 121, C.P. Lemaire, M. Delzangles
8. Invisible Man (GB), 126, L. Dettori, S. bin Suroor
9. Silverside (VA), 126, J. Grosjean, M. Delcher
10. Hearts of Fire (GB), 126, R. Moore, I. Al-Malki
11. Snaafy (KY), 126, T. O’Shea, M. Al Muhairi
12. Mabait (GB), 126, K. Fallon, L. Cumani
$175,000 Nad Al Sheba Trophy Sponsored by Al Dana Wealth Management (listed, race 4, 11:15 a.m. EST), 3yo (SH-bred) and up, 14 furlongs, turf.
PP, Horse, Wgt., Jockey, Trainer
1. Claremont (Ire), 126, M. Barzalona, M. Al Zarooni
2. Royal Bengali (KY), 121, A. Murgia, A. bin Huzaim
3. Bergo (Ger), 126, R. Moore, G. Moore
4. Opinion Poll (Ire), 130, A. Ajtebi, M. Al Zarooni
5. Drunken Sailor (Ire), 126, K. Fallon, L. Cumani
6. Montaff (GB), 126, J. Murtagh, M. Channon
7. Mojave Moon (GB), 126, P. Cosgrave, M. bin Shafya
8. Star Empire (SAf), 126, C. Soumillon, M. de Kock
9. Pompeyano (Ire), 126, L. Dettori, S. bin Suroor