Steeler and Shuruq represent Godolphin in the centrepiece of the opening meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, round one of the Longines-sponsored Al Maktoum Challenge, at Meydan this afternoon.
Steeler was one of the horses found to have been given banned steroids by ex-trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni and the colt missed his three-year-old career as he was prohibited from racing for six months by the British Horseracing Authority.
He returns from an absence of 439 days and is having his first run for Charlie Appleby, having been trained by Mark Johnston to win three races as a juvenile, as well as finishing third to Kingsbarns in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October 2012. “Steeler will probably want further than a mile going forward but he travels very well and shows plenty of natural speed at home,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com. “He is by Raven’s Pass and I am confident that he will be fine on Tapeta – he has trained on the surface and moves well on it. I am hoping for a nice performance but he will improve for the outing.”
Shuruq won the UAE Oaks at Meydan last February but her best effort after that came when she was third in the Group 3 Atalanta Stakes at Sandown in August. Her trainer Saeed bin Suroor said: “Shuruq enjoyed herself in Dubai last year but was disappointing in Britain afterwards. She has been training well and I am looking forward to seeing how she gets on.”
Steeler and Shuruq face eight rivals including Barbecue Eddie, who won this race last year. Irish hopes rest on the Ger Lyons-trained Brendan Brackan.
The main supporting race is the Listed Singspiel Stakes, in which Godolphin also run two – the Appleby-trained Artigano, who was another victim of the Al Zarooni case, and Do It All from the Bin Suroor stable.
At home, Jason Maguire sealed his 100th winner of the season at Doncaster as he continues to lead the pack in vain pursuit of the peerless Tony McCoy.
It was only last year that Irishman Maguire assumed the mantle from 14-times runner-up Richard Johnson, with whom he is closely matched again, but they are already more than 60 adrift of McCoy.
Maguire’s century came aboard Diamond King, who appears one of the smarter prospects for trainer Donald McCain.
While 2-5 favourite Diamond King won the Download The All New freebets.co.uk “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle with acute ease, his trainer was hesitant about the likelihood of the Diana Whateley-owned gelding being aimed at the Cheltenham Festival.
A three-and-three-quarter-length success, though, was an improvement on Bangor last month, where he lost his unbeaten record by stumbling through the final flight. “It’s great to do it for Donald and, if you’d said to me at the start of the season I’d get 100 by January, I’d take it,” said Maguire.
McCain said: “I’m pleased for Jason, he’s a huge asset to the yard as well as being a mate.”
A mild afternoon with the promise of good to soft ground drew runners from across the country, with David Pipe’s Western Warhorse justifying the journey from Devon.
The 2-1 shot has had a patchy career over hurdles and was withdrawn from Kempton on Boxing Day after bolting at the start, but he could prove far better over fences judgingd by the Check Out The All New freebets.co.uk Novices’ Chase. Sent off in front by Tom Scudamore, Western Warhorse jumped confidently but only just got home over two and a half miles, with Victor Hewgo closing to a neck. “He’s a bit of a fruit-loop, but he’s a fruit-loop that does jump and gallop,” said Scudamore.