By Nicholas Godfrey
UAE: Coronation Cup winner Defoe returns to action at Meydan tomorrow on a ‘Super Saturday’ card held behind closed doors as a precaution against the further spread of coronovirus.
The stands may be empty but on the track ‘Super Saturday’ still promises a full-scale dress rehearsal for Dubai World Cup night on March 28 with six Group races plus a Listed contest.
The highest-rated horse on the card, Defoe makes his seasonal debut in the G2 Dubai City of Gold (3.30pm GMT), a trial for the Sheema Classic on World Cup night as trainer Roger Varian follows the path he took with Postponed in 2016. Andrea Atzeni rides.
Unseen since coming only ninth on soft ground in the King George, the six-year-old had previously won both the Coronation Cup at Epsom’s Derby meeting and the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“He’s trained well at home and this has been the plan for a while,” Varian said, speaking to the Dubai Racing Club. “I’m happy with his condition. He arrived in Dubai Thursday morning, last week, and seems to have settled well in the international stables.
“He’s a very different horse from Postponed, but he’s a very straight-forward horse,” the trainer went on. “Nothing seems to faze him. He’s a solid horse, even though he doesn’t have quite the CV that Postponed did when he came to Dubai. Hopefully, he satisfies us in the City of Gold and we can go on to the Sheema Classic. He should love the track at Meydan, being a left-handed flat track.”
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby fields an enviable team for Super Saturday headed by Barney Roy, odds-on favourite for the G1 Jebel Hatta (2.20pm GMT) after his course-and-distance win in the Al Rashidiya.
Other likely types from Appleby include Space Blues, who makes his Dubai debut in the G3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (1.10pm GMT), and well-bred Ya Hayati on dirt in the Meydan Trophy (12.00pm GMT). The UAE Derby is the latter’s target.
Super Saturday runners and riders at emiratesracing.com