Horse Racing
Barney Roy, Matterhorn and Defoe amongst the big names on show at Meydan on Super Saturday

04/03/2020 16:26

Meydan’s Super Saturday meeting (7 March) looks especially competitive this year but it will come as a shock to many if Barney Roy does not go very close to success in the G1 Jebel Hatta (1800m). 

And if Barney Roy can supplement his dazzling victory in January’s G2 Al Rashidiya (1800m), he will become a prime candidate for the G1 Dubai Turf over the same course and distance on the spectacular Dubai World Cup night on 28 March.

Anyone who follows European racing will know Barney Roy as a top class galloper in recent years and that includes victory in the 2017 G1 St James’s Palace Stakes (1600m) at Royal Ascot.

William Buick, on board again on Saturday, said after that Meydan debut run and win in January. "He will be much sharper for this because he has been off for a long time (226 days) and was fresh and raced over enthusiastically."

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby – enjoying a superb Carnival meeting – confirmed that all had gone well for the six-year-old gelding since that victory and said: "Barney Roy’s got class and we hope this race will put him right on course for the Dubai Turf."

Gate 12 might not be absolutely ideal, but as he tends to pounce from off the speed it should not be a big issue.

Plenty of Dubai World Cup (2000m, dirt) hopefuls will compete in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 over the same course and distance as Meydan’s showcase race, and they include Matterhorn (Mickael Barzalona) who proved himself at this distance with a runaway victory in a valuable all-weather event at Lingfield last April, highlight of a busy 2019 when he competed 15-times for prolific-winning UK trainer Mark Johnston.

He is now trained by Salem bin Ghadayer who said of the five-year-old horse: "He’s exciting for the Dirt here. He had plenty of racing in England but didn’t suffer for it and I think his style of racing will be well-suited to Meydan."

And despite being slow from the gates Matterhorn made an encouraging first Meydan adventure when third in the G3 Firebreak Stakes (1600m) last month.
Defoe also built his racing reputation in Britain and is trained by brilliant Newmarket handler Roger Varian. With a class edge according to the ratings, he looks to hold serious winning claims on his Meydan introduction in the G2 Dubai City Of Gold, the 2410m turf lead-up to the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at the World Cup meeting.

A winner of nine of his 19 starts, he gained a G1 breakthrough when upsetting some higher rated rivals in the prestigious G1 Coronation Cup (2405m) at Epsom last May. He followed up on that with another powerful surge to bag the G2 Hardwicke Stakes (2392m) at Royal Ascot in June. He has not been seen since a rare poor show – beaten out of sight by the mighty Enable in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2392m) at Ascot last July.

Trainer Varian – who achieved his best ever tally of winners with 116 in 2019 – has history in the Dubai City Of Gold having won it – and a few weeks later the Sheema Classic – with Postponed four years ago.

He said: "Dubai has been a long-term plan for Defoe who has enjoyed a good winter. He’s a gentleman of a horse who has been getting better with age."

The mount as usual of Andrea Atzeni, he has been steered away from fast ground during his career so though the Meydan turf course traditionally gets plenty of plaudits, rivals like the redoubtable fellow-British-trained late closer Desert Encounter (Jamie Spencer) would benefit if there proved to be any surface issues for Defoe on Super Saturday.