By Nicholas Godfrey
Sakhir (Friday): Bahrain International Trophy G3 £500,000 1m2f, turf, 3yo+ (1pm GMT)
A cosmopolitan field full of Group winners headed by the Godolphin pair Barney Roy and Zakouski plus globetrotting G1 veteran Lord Glitters has been assembled for the third running of the Bahrain International Trophy.
Bahrain’s showpiece international race at the Rashed Equestrian and Horseracing Club’s Sakhir racecourse provides the highlight of a burgeoning racing calendar in the welcoming island kingdom, which is making significant inroads on the global stage – not least via the introduction of the new £550,000 Turf Series, a ten-race programme already attracting European interest set to run from December to March.
Newly promoted to G3 status for 2021, the 1m2f event boasts an international array of equine talent from five nations. Likely favourite is G2 winner Zakouski, the mount of Wiliam Buick, while James Doyle gets the leg-up on Charlie Appleby-trained stablemate Barney Roy.
Bahrain regular Frankie Dettori is in town to partner three-time Meydan winner Dubai Future for Saeed Bin Suroor, while Dubai World Cup third Magny Cours is yet another serious contender in the Godolphin blue for training legend Andre Fabre.
Other notable runners include Irsh G2 winner Cadillac, 1,000 Guineas third Fev Rover and her fellow three-year-old filly Penja, recently sold to Germany out of Jean-Claude Rouget’s stable for €1.2m.
Local knowledge played a major role in the success of Simsir, who scooted clear under Lee Newman 12 months ago for Shaikh Nasser’s Victorious team, one of the dominant forces in Bahraini racing. With Qaader a non-runner, Simsir’s trainer Fawzi Nass saddles two ex-Europeans this time, namely Naamoos (formerly trained by Mark Johnston) and Emperor Of The Sun (ex-Donnacha O’Brien), aboard whom Newman will be attempting to repeat last year’s success.
Shall we talk about it?
Barney Roy: “Our plan was to go for the Bahrain International Trophy with Barney Roy last year, but unfortunately on the back of his success in Germany he met with a setback and he’s had all the summer off.
“We’ve been purposefully working back from Bahrain and I’d like to think that we’re going to go over there with a competitive horse as well. I was pleased with his comeback run in the Darley Stakes on a track which doesn’t actually suit him. We got what we wanted out of it and hopefully he now has his racing brain back and engaged. I think the style of the race will suit him in Bahrain. It’s a slick track there and the tight turns will suit him. If he goes there with his old A-game, shall we say, because he’s not getting any younger, he’s going to be a big player.” Charlie Appleby (trainer)
Emperor Of The Sun: “We’ve only had Emperor Of The Sun for a few days – after he left Donnacha O’Brien, he went to John O’Donoghue at the Curragh. He did his biggest piece of work a couple of days before he got on the flight to Bahrain. We know he stays all day; this is the absolute minimum trip he would manage. He’s a galloping type. Lee (Newman) rode him for the first time on Tuesday morning and his feedback was good. He feels and moves well, and Lee will obviously hope to do the same as last year.” Fawzi Nass (trainer)
Fev Rover: “I know she won the Prix du Calvados on soft ground but she’s a filly I’ve always wanted to get on on quick ground. I’ve only had two opportunities this year and she was third in a Guineas and second in a Group 2 in Ireland. She’s also a filly I’ve really wanted to step up in trip but I’ve just never had the opportunity – every time I found a race for her, it rained all week. I do feel a mile and a quarter is where she needs to be – she definitely wants the trip; she’s been crying out for it. Everything is ideal for her – it’s just a warmer race than I’d like! She needs to improve but she might.” Richard Fahey (trainer)
Lord Glitters: “I certainly think he still retains his ability – he had a very good winter in Dubai after running fifth in this race last year, and he was second to a progressive Godolphin horse [Real World] giving weight in the Strensall at York. His couple of races after that haven’t exactly gone to plan but he’s an older horse now and he feels his joints so he likes the warmer weather. When he won the Jebel Hatta his last quarter was very fast so he’s still able to produce a good finish given the right circumstances, but to do it he’s got to relax.” David O’Meara (trainer)
Naamoos: “Naamoos is a nice horse. He showed a lot of promise early in the season with Mark Johnston. He was struck into in his last win when I think he was rated 110. His rating has fallen since then to 104, so I think something was probably bothering him, but he seems to be feeling very well and fresh now. He’s been here around six weeks, so he has adapted to the conditions.” Fawzi Nass (trainer)
Penja: “She arrived in the stable six weeks ago in perfect condition. She travelled very well I couldn’t be happier with her – she looks very good in her coat and she loves the fast ground, which is why we decided to come here because we can’t find fast ground in Europe at this time of year. She is a high-class horse but of course it is hard against older Group horses.” Andreas Suborics (trainer)
Pogo: “He needs fast ground. It looks like there will be plenty of pace on and the track should suit him. He’s been third in a G1 and his last run placed in a G2 was as good as any. A lot of the track is downhill and if ever a horse is going to go a mile and a quarter, this is probably one of the tracks they should definitely do it on. It suits the speed horses – we ran Afaak here two years ago and he was fourth, and he was a miler really.” Charlie Hills (trainer)
Zakouski: “Zakouski has been a very competitive horse, mainly in Dubai. I think the conditions of the race could suit him. We should have two lively contenders. It’s a race we’re keen to support and they’d be similar sorts in that a mile and a quarter would be their maximum, but they’ll be suited by the track and the quicker ground.” Charlie Appleby (trainer)
• Visit the Bahrain Turf Club website