By Nicholas Godfrey
Bahrain: Bahrain International winner Simsir heads the field at Sakhir racecourse on Friday when Frankie Dettori, Andrea Atzeni and Mickael Barzalona are among the jockeys in town for the Crown Prince’s Cup.
Locally designated a G1, the 1m2f contest is one of three principal races on the Bahrain racing calendar alongside the Bahrain International in November and King’s Cup in March.
Adrie de Vries, already on the mark at this year’s Dubai Carnival, takes over on Simsir from Lee Newman, who made all on the former Mick Halford-trained gelding in a widely praised effort to win the £500,000 Bahrain International from European-trained visitors Global Giant and Sovereign.
Simsir was making his debut for Bahraini-based Fawzi Nass on that occasion. “Everything happened quick before the international race with him travelling over from Mick Halford in Ireland so he’s had a nice, freshening break for this race and hopefully he’s in good form,” said Nass, well known for his international exploits.
“He showed class prior to that so I thought he’d be up there but obviously to win it was a bit of a surprise. I think he has definitely strengthened up and improved but the race will be run very differently.
“It’s definitely a lot more competitive than it used to be four or five years ago – you’ve seen Bahrain’s horses can compete against international horses.”
As if to demonstrate that point, both Nass and colleague Allan Smith, the multiple Bahrain champion trainer, were on the mark at the inaugural Saudi Cup card 11 months ago in Riyadh.
Frankie Dettori, who rode Smith’s Saudi winner Dark Power, has a fine record in the Crown Prince’s Cup, having won four of the last six.
He partners the Smith-trained Rayounpour, another former inmate of the Halford stable in Ireland. The lightly raced five-year-old beat several of Friday’s rivals in a G2 event on January 1.
“He won over both 1m2f and 1m4f for Mick Halford so we know he’s got the pace for this,” said Smith. “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.”
Andrea Atzeni had a tough decision to make between the two former Roger Varian-trained horses Litigator and Galtres Stakes winner Gold Wand, who ran in the Oaks at Epsom.
Both are now trained by Haider Ebrahim; Atzeni rides Litigator, with Barzalona on Gold Wand.
“Litigator is in great shape and his homework has been very good,” said Atzeni. “It was a very tight decision between the two, but on his homework, he has a little bit more speed than the filly.
“Both of them have won over 1m 4f so this would probably be their minimum trip, but it’s a fair track with a long straight and the best horse normally wins here.”
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