Bahrain trainer Allan Smith is confident he can acquire the services of Frankie Dettori again for Dark Power in the 1351 Turf Sprint in Saudi Arabia next month.
The combination teamed up for a shock 66-1 triumph in the near seven-furlong contest in Riyadh 12 months ago, when they left such smart performers as Mubtasim, Glorious Journey and Suedois in their wake.
“He’s riding for me this Friday in Bahrain in our Crown Prince’s Cup and I shall have a quiet word, but I’m almost sure he will be on board,” said Smith.
Smith fondly recalled the big day in 2020.
“Dark Power had broken the 1200-metre track record and the 1000m track record in Bahrain before going there,” he said.
“We knew he was a quality horse, but we were only racing up against what we had here.
“I remember saying to Frankie when I legged him up, ‘don’t forget there’s prize money down to sixth’. He said he wouldn’t forget, but going round the paddock I thought it would take a good one to beat him. He looked every bit the part.”
Dark Power has raced little in the last 11 months due to the pandemic, but Smith reports the former Clive Cox-trained gelding to be ready to defend his crown.
“He’s had nearly a year not doing too much. We were hoping to run him on World Cup night (in Dubai) when we got back from Saudi, but that was cancelled,” he said.
“I didn’t want to get him ready too early this year because we always had this race in mind.
“He’s just had two quiet runs, but basically we’ve been trying to keep his weight low as he eats like the proverbial horse.
“The day after his race the other day his weight was pretty much spot on. It is roughly what it was going into the Saudi race last year.”
Dettori’s mount for Smith in the 10-furlong, 12-runner Bahrain showpiece is Rayounpour, formerly trained in Ireland by Mick Halford.
His trainer believes he can improve for a run that saw him beat four of his rivals over a mile and a half on New Year’s Day.
Smith said: “Rayounpour won over both 10 furlongs and a mile and a half for Mick Halford, so we know he’s got the pace for this. It looks a good renewal with the likes of Simsir and Litigator in the field. Frankie knows the Bahrain circuit well and I’m looking forward to it.”
Simsir – like Rayounpour once trained by Halford – defeated a high-class field in the Bahrain International Trophy in November.
Simsir, who is trained by Fawzi Nass, benefitted from an enterprising ride from Scottish jockey Lee Newman in November, but Nass has opted for Dutch rider Adrie De Vries for his latest challenge.
Nass said: “Simsir has enjoyed a nice break since his win in the Bahrain International Trophy. I think he has improved since then and has definitely strengthened up. The standard of racing in Bahrain is a lot more competitive than it used to be four or five years ago.”
Andrea Atzeni has plumped for the ex-Roger Varian-trained Litigator over another former stablemate Gold Wand (Mickael Barzalona). The pair are now with Haider Ebrahim.
Atzeni said: “Litigator is in great shape and his home work has been very good. It was a very tight decision between the two, but on his home work, he has a little bit more speed than the filly. Both of them have won over a mile and a half, so this would probably be their minimum trip.
“It’s a fair track with a long straight and the best horse normally wins here.”