Just as night turns to day and winter turns to spring, so the jump racing season draws to a close and racing on the flat begins.
Alright there’s no need for Jumps fans to panic just yet, as it’s a month or two before the ‘Tweeds’ go back into the wardrobe, but there’s no doubting that a new Flat campaign is approaching at speed.
Tomorrow Lingfield hold the All-Weather Championships, whilst on Saturday the Dubai World Cup takes place in Meydan. Both events give warning that racing’s codes are about to change, and indeed there is now just over a week until Doncaster’s Lincoln Meeting.
A staggering £1.1 million is on offer for Finals Day at the Surrey track tomorrow, making it the richest all-weather event in Europe. Litigant was one of the stars of the 2014 meeting, when taking the All-Weather Marathon. He returned last summer after a spell on the side-lines to win two valuable races on the turf in the Betfred Ebor and the Betfred November Handicap.
Last year’s outstanding performer was probably Godolphin’s classy gelding Tryster. Charlie Appleby’s star heads for Meydan this weekend, though this time a year ago was winning the All-Weather Middle-Distance Championship at Lingfield. Appleby proved the dominant force 12 months ago with a hat-trick of winners on the day. He only has one entrant this time round with the ultra-consistent Anglophile going in the marathon.
Godolphin will of course have plenty of entrants at Meydan with Appleby responsible for Jungle Cat along with Tryster. The $30m event has, as always, attracted high class fields with plenty of familiar faces on display. California Chrome is likely to be one of the star attractions as he appears in the concluding race, the Dubai World Cup.
He has been drawn 11 of 12 for the main event, but trainer Art Sherman is nevertheless confident of a strong performance. “The outside draw is good if you've got the horse and I hope we have,” said the American trainer. “There wasn't too much I could do about the draw. He's got tactical speed so I'm not going to worry about it.”
Another American challenger for the $10m showpiece is Mshawish, owned by Al Shaqab Racing and ridden by Frankie Dettori. He has been drawn in stall two and his trainer Todd Pletcher said: “The track is good on the inside and with our horse's experience, we know he doesn't mind being inside. We talked to Frankie earlier and his choices were - in order - two, three, four, five, six and one so why not go with his first choice? Hopefully we'll be in a good stalking position - that would be ideal.”
Plenty of other well-known faces will be making an appearance at Meydan, including Postponed, Highland Reel and Dariyan in a thrilling looking Dubai Sheema Classic. Postponed made a winning debut for trainer Roger Varian at Meydan earlier this month, when comfortably accounting for Dariyan.
Along with the Charlie Appleby trained Tryster, the Dubai Turf field includes The Corsican, Euro Charline, Intilaaq and Gabrial. Real Steel is less well known to us in the UK, but is a top-class animal in Japan. He recently chased home the classy Japanese colt Duramante, and looks capable of giving Tryster a real test.
Marco Botti has Naadirr running in the sprint; a race that includes Muthmir for William Haggas, Goldream for Robert Cowell, and last year’s popular winner Sole Power for Ed Lynam. Cowell’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner had a spin at the track earlier in the month and that should have put him just right for Saturday’s race.
It’s a truly international event, attracting equine stars from around the globe, and though it may lack the profile of the Breeders’ Cup, it successfully and rather suitably bookends the European turf season with its American counterpart.