$1 million Bahrain International Trophy takes place today with stellar 14-runner field taking part
AFP | Kolkata
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
The Bahrain International Trophy goes from strength to strength with the strongest field in the five-year history of the race assembled for today’s $1 million feature at Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club (REHC) in Sakhir.
The race, which is due off at 3.05pm, will be broadcast around the world to over 110 countries. Horseracing enthusiasts from around the world are highly anticipating the prestigiouse race, which will witness strong competition between international and local horses represented by several well-known stables and world-class jockeys.
There are plenty of familiar names to racing fans among the 14-runner field with Britain and Ireland strongly represented. Godolphin’s four challengers include last year’s winner, Dubai Future, while two locally trained runners will be trying to keep the raiding party at bay.
REHC High Committee chairman His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa attended the horse draw for participating jockeys held late Wednesday night. HH Shaikh Isa welcomed the owners, trainers and jockeys from various international, regional and Bahraini stables, who will be taking part in today’s race at the REHC track.
HH Shaikh Isa bin Salman noted the strengthening of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s position as a host and organiser for various international sporting tournaments, including horseracing, thanks to the support of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister.
HH Shaikh Isa bin Salman affirmed that the elevation of the Bahrain International Trophy to Group 2 status and the hosting of the event for the fifth year in a row reflect the Kingdom’s international reputation in equestrian sports and horseracing.
HH highlighted that the REHC ’s achievements have helped attract world-class stables, international trainers, and jockeys to participate in this year’s race. In addition to the Bahrain International Trophy, seven other races will be held for the cups of the sponsors of the Bahrain International Trophy, including Beyon, Bapco Energies, Bahrain Economic Development Board, Chopard Bahrain Jewellery Centre, Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, and Bahrain Turf Club.
ABOVE THE CURVE: She’s a tremendously reliable filly, winning at the highest level in France last year and running numerous other good races at the top level, including when a close fourth in the Fillies & Mares’ at Ascot last time. Her other efforts this year have included a third in the Pretty Polly (behind Via Sistina) and second in the Nassau Stakes. She’s a big filly who probably wouldn’t want the ground to be too quick, but it would be folly to underestimate her.
ASTRO KING: Something of a “nearly horse” for much of his career – including twice being placed in the Royal Hunt Cup – but arrives here after successive big handicap wins, beating 33 rivals in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket on his latest start. The nature of big-field contests does suit him and, as such, a strong gallop will aid his cause.
BIRR CASTLE: The French challenger has won two Listed races this year, but his best effort was clearly when ¾-length third to Ace Impact in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville in August. It would be dangerous to take that form literally – the subsequent Arc winner was returning from a break and won cosily – but Birr Castle also ran well when placed behind Horizon Dore after that effort. Seems well served by good ground or softer.
CALIF: The big hope of the home team, having been bought for €400,000 since gaining his second pattern-race win of the year in Germany last time. Unproven much beyond a mile and probably needs to take his form up a notch here, but Fawzi Nass pulled off a similar track with Simsir in this two years ago. Calif is usually blanketed for stalls entry so don’t be alarmed about that before the start.
DUBAI FUTURE: Dug deep in the closing stages to win this prize last year, having finished eighth 12 months earlier. Unlikely to give up his crown without a fight and won’t lack for freshness, having been absent since chasing home Mostahdaf in the Neom Turf Cup at King Abdulaziz in February. He doesn’t have a rival of that calibre to worry about here, but this is a stronger edition than in 2022.
HIGHLAND AVENUE: The imposing grey snapped a barren run in style when gaining an emphatic success in the Darley Stakes at Newmarket month. That was a timely reminder of what he’s capable of when on-song and, given he usually races prominently, he can be expected to be in the thick of the action from the outset. Stable jockey William Buick prefers Nations Pride, but James Doyle has ridden Highland Avenue plenty in the past.
ISRAR: John Gosden saddled the runner-up in the first two renewals of the race and will be hoping Israr can avenge those defeats. He probably didn’t get the credit he deserved when running away with the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July as most focused on the below-par run of Adayar, the 2021 Derby winner. Israr was unable to reproduce that form on the all-weather next time, but he did little wrong when edged out by Al Qareem in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot last time. Usually races over further and may be vulnerable dropping back in trip.
LAFAYETTE: He must have given his connections plenty of fun over the years, winning or being placed in 20 of his 34 races. He’s been as consistent as ever during a busy year, with the highlight being his Group Three success at The Curragh in August. Won on fast ground earlier in his career but does seem at his most effective on good or softer.
MARHABA YA SANAFI: Won the French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp (by a short neck from Isaac Shelby) in May and kept on well when six lengths third to Ace Impact in the French Derby at Chantilly the following month. However, he then ran a stinker in the Jacques Le Marois before finishing fourth in Prix Niel at Longchamp last time. He probably didn’t stay in the latter, when at least putting that penultimate effort behind him.
NATIONS PRIDE: The globetrotting four-year-old is the class act in this line-up, having skipped another crack at the Breeders’ Cup turf to run here. Remarkably, he is seeking to win in a sixth different country, having already won prizes in England, Dubai, America, Germany and Canada. He’s won Group One prizes on his past two starts, in Germany and Canada, having first struck at the highest level in the USA last summer. The one blip in his career came when eighth in the Derby in 2022. Versatile regards trip, ground and tactics, another bold bid is on the cards.
POINT LONSDALE: He’s slipped down the pecking order at Ballydoyle since winning his first four races as a juvenile, not helped by an injury that kept him off track for much of 2022. He began this term with successive Group wins at The Curragh and Chester but has shown better form in defeat in his past two races, finishing sixth in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown (3¾ lengths behind Auguste Rodin) and fourth to King of Steel in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last time. However, he’s needed plenty of revving up in recent races and possibly wants deep ground to show his best.
QAADER: He was a progressive performer for Mark Johnston in 2021 and made a promising start for Fawzi Nass at the start of the following year. However, he had been off the best part of the year before returning and winning at Riyadh in February. He then finished second on his reappearance run here two weeks ago. He has plenty on his plate in this company.
REAL WORLD: Thrived in 2021 and at the start of the next year, when he won his first five races on turf. Later in 2022, he progressed further when chasing home Baaeed in the Lockinge Stakes plus the Queen Anne. However, he missed the second half of the 2022 campaign and his three runs in the spring suggest he’s not the force he was. His chances hinge on Saeed bin Suroor reviving him.
SPIRIT DANCER: Part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, Spirit Dancer has come a long way since losing his first four races in handicaps when rated in the low 80s. This year, he’s taken his form to a new level – winning handicaps at York and Windsor (off 102) before taking the Group Three Strensall back at York. His winning run came to an end when he could finish only 5¼ lengths fourth to Highland Avenue in the Darley Stakes at Newmarket last time, although he had a penalty to carry and the tacky ground possibly didn’t suit him. He’s the type to outrun his odds.
Spirit Dancer, ridden by Oisin Orr and trained by Richard Fahey, is one of three British trained horses running in the Bahrain International Trophy. Spirit Dancer is co-owned and bred by Sir Alex Ferguson, who is in Bahrain to watch his horse run in the Group 2 race.