Once again it’s Newmarket that try to hog the limelight this weekend, with the Dubai Future Champions Festival.
On Friday the highlight of a tasty looking card is the Dubai Fillies’ Mile, the richest juvenile Group 1 in Europe. Charlie Appleby will be hoping to add to the gutsy victory of Wuheida in last weekend’s Prix Marcel Boussac, as he unleashes another Dubawi filly, in the highly-regarded Sobetsu. A stunning 10-length winner over course and distance in September, she takes on an old adversary in Sir Michael Stoute's Spatial.
Speaking earlier in the week, Appleby said of his challenger: “I am very pleased with Sobetsu, she is proven on the track, which is a bonus, and I think that she has a very solid chance in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile. Her and Wuheida are the two standout fillies in my yard, two very imposing daughters of Dubawi with hopefully bright three-year-old careers ahead of them. If Sobetsu could complete the Group 1 double it would be fantastic for the team and fantastic for Dubawi as well. He’s already a renowned worldwide stallion but it would give a new status to his reputation.”
Of Stoute’s talented filly, Appleby said: “I appreciate that she has got to get past Spatial, and we very much respect her, but when they met before it was Sobetsu’s debut whereas Spatial had already run, finishing second to Wuheida. Sobetsu really came forward for that first run and was very impressive last time.”
Spatial is beautifully bred, being by 2000 Guineas runner-up and Epsom Derby hero New Approach, out of the 1000 Guineas runner-up Spacious. Sir Michael is thought to be sweet on the filly, with Cheveley Park Stud’s Chris Richardson talking of her as a horse with ‘a serious future.’
Aidan O’Brien is likely to have a say in the outcome, having taken the last two renewals, and he looks set to send a couple of fillies over in search of the valuable prize. Hydrangea and Rhododendron are the pair in question, and have competed against each other on a couple of occasions already this summer. They placed second and third in the Moyglare in September, and are a classy duo.
Minding won last year’s Fillies’ Mile, with Godolphin and Coolmore sharing five of the last six renewals. Expect a high-class filly to prevail.
On Saturday the juvenile colts take centre-stage in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes. Irish raids have proved fruitful in recent years, with Jim Bolger and Aidan O’Brien carving up eight of the last 10. Ballydoyle often send one of their leading lights, and last year the race went to Air Force Blue. He was expected to become something of a superstar on the track. Nothing is ever certain in sport.
Churchill looks to be the headline act in Saturday’s race, and is currently a short priced favourite. He already heads the markets for next season’s 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby, after his impressive performance in the National Stakes at the Curragh. Ryan Moore, fresh from his Arc triumph on Found, told At The Races: “He's a very exciting colt, I'm hoping he's going to be there and I'm very much looking forward to riding him.”
The William Haggas trained Rivet is expected to prove a worthy challenger, with the trainer saying: “Rivet has always been a very fluent mover, so he would appreciate dry ground on Saturday. He’s a very relaxed chap with a good temperament. The Dubai Dewhurst is a Championship Group 1 race, the most prestigious two-year-old race in England and, possibly, Europe. Rivet looked laboured when he won the Champagne Stakes but the ground was a bit loose and he and the runner-up, Thunder Snow, pulled a long way clear in a short space of time.”
Godolphin are set to take up the challenge with Thunder Snow and Blue Point. The latter, trained by Charlie Appleby, was runner-up in the Middle Park, having previously stormed to victory at York in the Gimcrack.
As ever, this looks to be a strong renewal, for an event that has gone to numerous high-class colts over the years.