Kieren Fallon is looking forward to taking the ride on Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Little Mike as he makes his Dubai debut on the Super Saturday card at Meydan.
Dale Romans’ charge beat the likes of St Nicholas Abbey and Shareta at Santa Anita last November, but will be switching to the Tapeta surface as he tackles Round Three of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
The six-year-old has not run on dirt in well over two years but Fallon does not expect that to prove a problem in a race that is traditionally a Dubai World Cup trial.
“He’s obviously proven himself on the turf, but these American horses pretty much go on either surface,” he told www.bloodhorse.com
“If he takes to it like he did the turf, he’ll be the horse to beat.”
Last year’s World Cup winner Monterosso is set to return to action in the 10-furlong heat and will be having his first start since flopping in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July.
Prince Bishop, Hunter’s Light, Saint Baudolino and Kassiano also help comprise a strong Godolphin squad.
The Jebel Hatta is the other Group One event on the card and Andrew Balding fields Side Glance in this nine-furlong affair.
Third behind Frankel in the Queen Anne Stakes last term, Side Glance signed off last year with a sixth place in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and those kind of races will be firmly on his radar again this term.
“Historically, he does need a run but Andrew has done a bit more with him to try to get him that bit further on,” said David Redvers, racing manager to owners Pearl Bloodstock.
“Jamie (Spencer) rode him on Thursday morning and he was very happy with him.
“We are slightly unsure as to what is actually his best trip, but we’re pretty confident this will suit him and he ran very well over nine furlongs at York last summer won over the distance at Epsom, too.
“The Dubai Duty Free is the aim and this is very much his prep race for that and should put him right.
“The mile division has looked impossible for the last couple of seasons, but it certainly looks more open this year.
“We will be looking at those kind of races for him but he’s a good horse to travel so something like the Cox Plate might be considered later in the year. We will be keeping all the options open.”
Top South African performer Igugu is likely to demand much attention in this race despite finishing only third on her Dubai debut last month.
Winner of the prestigious J&B Met in 2012, Igugu was having her first start in nearly a year after a prolonged spell in quarantine and was being ridden for the first time by Christophe Soumillon.
She will be reunited with usual partner Anthony Delpech this time, with Soumillon riding The Apache, another of trainer Mike de Kock’s runners.
Delpech told www.mikedekockracing.com: “I know that the whole of SA will be watching and expecting Igugu to set the record straight. So that is a lot of pressure and expectation but she has shown how good she is and I know how good she is.
“She will be a fitter horse this time, and I just hope that everything goes well for us in the race.”
Ex-Aidan O’Brien-runner Await The Dawn bounced back to winning form for De Kock last time and he is one of nine to go to post in the Dubai City Of Gold.
British interests are represented by the Brian Meehan-trained Murano and Marco Botti’s Jakkalberry, who is having his first start since disappointing in the Japan Cup last November.
He previously finished a creditable third in the Melbourne Cup and Botti expects him to improve for the outing.
“He seems well. It took him a couple of days to recover from the journey but he has done a nice piece of work since he arrived,” he said.
“Hopefully he will run a good race on Saturday and then we can look forward to running him on World Cup night.
“He is in good form, but I think he will come on for the run.”