Mouheeb, Naval Crown Headline Thursday’s UAE 2,000 Guineas

Thursday’s second classic of the Dubai season, the Group 3 $125,000 UAE 2000 Guineas, has drawn a solid sextet, led by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Jebel Ali Racecourse-based Mouheeb and Godolphin’s Naval Crown. The 1600m (one mile) affair goes as the evening’s third of six races.

Three weeks ago, Mouheeb valiantly battled leading local sophomore Rebel’s Romance to a short head in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over this one-mile layout. On the merits of such, he is the co-favorite in this, despite his 95 official rating landing nine pounds short of Charlie Appleby-conditioned Naval Crown.

A well-bred sort for these conditions, the son of Flatter is a brother to Swale (G3) winner and dual G1-placed Favorable Outcome. He commenced his career with a one-sided win up the Jebel Ali hill over a straight six furlongs before closing resolutely in his aforementioned runner-up effort on Jan. 14.

“Mouheeb has trained well,” trainer Nicholas Bachalard said. “He had a tough race last time, but I think he’s bounced out of it very well. It’s going to be a tactical race with a small field, which is not ideal, but I think he will run well. He finished up his race well last time over this distance, so maybe if he runs well, we will consider the UAE Derby going forward. On pedigree, it looks like he’s a miler, but sometimes it just depends on the competition.”

Naval Crown has more seasoning, with five starts in 2020, and is a son of UAE’s top sire of winners, Dubawi, who has already sired Saudi Derby-bound Rebel’s Romance and the winner of last weeks’ UAE 1000 Guineas (Listed), Soft Whisper. An impressive winner at Yorkshire Ebor at third asking and a respectable third to Chindit in July as a maiden, he exits a pair of thirds in G3 company in France. His placing in the Prix la Rochette (G3) was especially flattering, as runner-up Sealiway went on to win the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) and both he and the winner, Go Athletico, subsequently contested the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

“Naval Crown is a solid little horse,” trainer Charlie Appleby said. “We toyed with the idea of sticking to the turf, but his homework on our dirt (at Marmoom Stables) is very good. The question mark would obviously be the trip—it will be his maximum, this mile, but what he brings is a certain level of class off the European form and race experience. As a rule, he shows good gate speed, so he does tick a few boxes going into it. The question marks are the (Meydan) dirt and that trip, but there’s only one Guineas out there and we’ll have a crack at it.”

Appleby also gave an update on the barn’s leading dirt sophomore: “Rebel’s Romance is in good form and obviously the plan is for him to head to Saudi for the Derby on the 20th. He’s done well since his run and we’re looking forward to taking him over there.”

The remaining quartet in the Guineas is topped by one-sided maiden victor Meshakel, who is owned and trained by UAE’s leading conditioner Salem bin Ghadayer and cost $640,654 at auction. The Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained pair of Zhou Storm and Grand Dubai—who have three local wins between them—must be respected in here, as well, while trainer Doug Watson starts good-looking Tapiture maiden Uncle Hamed, who has a pair of seconds from three starts and should appreciate the up in trip.

Zhou Storm sparked the imagination with a pair of smart victories over the Meydan surface, but failed to match strides when third in the Trial by seven lengths. Grand Dubai, who races for his trainer, wheels back on one week’s rest after finishing 10th in the Al Bastakiya Trial over 9.5 furlongs. He owns a victory over this course and distance three starts back on Dec. 17. Adrie de Vries rides Grand Dubai, while Maxime Guyon, who recently brought his tack to Dubai for the remainder of the winter, rides Elbashir Salem Elhrari’s Zhou Storm.

Al Rayhi said, courtesy of a translator: “They’re doing very well. Grand Dubai is in good form. Zhou is doing well and won his two starts, but last time there was a strong pace in the beginning and he didn’t finish. This distance will suit him, hopefully, and with a smaller field, which should help him to get his position and then kick like he did (in his wins). We tried to get Maxime to ride for us a couple years ago for the season, but it didn’t happen, so when Connor decided to go back (to the UK) because of the lockdown situation, it seemed a good opportunity to give Maxime some rides, since he’s here now.

“Grand Dubai has come out of his run last week very well and has shown he is happy,” Al Rayhi continued. “Coming off a race, we’re coming in very easy this week, but he has not shown that he is tired. I think he will run well.”

Watson is confident that Abdul Mohsen Al Abdul Kareem’s Uncle Hamed will improve over a course more similar to the oval he trains on at home. All three of his starts have come up the hill at Jebel Ali over a straight sprint.

“We’re giving him the visor for the first time and I know there’s speed in the race,” Watson said. “It’s also a nice, small field and I think he wants this trip. I like our horse to run a big race if he likes Meydan and I think he will. We gelded him just before his last race and (jockey) Pat Dobbs said he’s been a different horse since then. He’s a neat little horse and I would love to see him run a big race in the Guineas.”

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