Postponed winning the 2016 Dubai Sheema Classic.
Contested under a new moniker this year, the Group 1 US$ 6m Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, one of three highest-level turf races on the card, may only have attracted a field of seven but quality abounds among the septet.
First contested in 1998, no horse has won the race twice since but the Roger Varian-trained Postponed (IRE) looks certain to make a bold attempt to rectify that after his smooth success 12 months ago.
That was the fourth of six consecutive victories for Varian’s charge, four at Group 1 level but that run ended when only fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Also victorious on Super Saturday in 2016, landing the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold over the same course and distance, he was second in that race three weeks ago when denied a clear run early in the straight under regular partner, Andrea Atzeni.
“I arrived on Wednesday and was delighted with him,” said Varian. “He has come on a lot in the three weeks since Super Saturday and looks great. Saturday will tell us if he is as good a horse as he was last year.”
Godolphin’s Prize Money (GB) denied him on Super Saturday and trainer Saeed bin Suroor is hoping for a repeat with Adrie de Vries again in the saddle.
The handler, seeking to win the race for a third time but first since 2003, said: “This 2400m is his best trip and he is improving all the time. It is a strong race obviously but he should run well.”
Fellow Godolphin representative, Jack Hobbs (GB) represents the John Gosden/William Buick combination who won this in 2010 with Dar Re Mi.
Winner of the 2015 Irish Derby, he only ran twice in an injury-affected 2016 and will be wearing blinkers for the first time.
“The horse arrived on Saturday, travelled well and I am very happy with him,” said Gosden. “A galloping track over 2400m is ideal for him, though a bit softer ground might suit him even better.
“It is a small, elite, field and he more than merits his place in it; we know we are not favourite but we think he will run well.”
Another Group 1 winner in the field is Highland Reel (IRE), trained by Aidan O’Brien, who landed this race in 2013 with St Nicholas Abbey, and an old adversary of Postponed.
The mount of Ryan Moore, the pair were fourth in this last year and, when Moore was unavailable, second to the same rival at York in the Juddmonte International.
Highland Reel and Seamie Heffernan were second in the aforementioned Arc, ahead of Postponed, before the pair won the Breeders’ Cup Turf. On his most recent outing, and final one of 2016, Highland Reel and Moore were second in the Hong Kong Vase.
Heffernan partners stable companion, Seventh Heaven (IRE), also a Group 1 winner, in a fascinating clash.
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