Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
The anticipation is building and the excitement begins to increase as the Dubai International Racing Carnival draws ever closer, with Meydan preparing to open its doors for the first international fixture of the season on Thursday.
An international meeting which concluded last season with the ultimate victory for America, as Graham Motion's Animal Kingdom bounded to an unassailable victory, America will again be bidding for further riches throughout the premier stages of this hugely respected international affair.
However, Thursday's card is very much an opportunity for Sheikh Mohammed to showcase the abilities of both new and old equine stars none more so than the hotly anticipated return of the ex-Mark Johnson trained Steeler, who returns from an enforced absence last season in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge now in the care of Charlie Appleby.
Strongly fancied for victory if retaining anything close to his previous ability, Steeler will have to defeat the brave and consistent ten year old Barbecue Eddie if he is to return the riches of this Group 2 contest back to his owner and founder of this elite racing carnival.
On the under card Mike de Kock enters the duo of Mushreq and David Livingston to take on the returning Artigiano in the Listed-class Singspiel Stakes. Second to Steeler in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes in 2012, Artigiano was also delayed from returning to the track last season after being part of the hugely publicised scandal surrounding the disqualified trainer, Mahmood Al Zarooni.
Meydan is a playground, not least to Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin operation, but also to the internationally competitive trainers that continue to ply their trade against their foreign counterparts in a battle of ability, wits and cherished equine riches.
This is not the standard Thursday night level of racing that you would expect anywhere else in the world, these are continually exceptional events which delight in producing champions in front of the most awe-inspiring of backdrops that Meydan readily provides.
In 2013, Sheikh Mohammed exited his own Carnival with a stunning victory in the Dubai Duty Free thanks to the powerful performance of Saeed bin Suroor's Sajjhaa. With twelve months of considerably challenging circumstances following that victory, an overdue victory in his own World Cup at the end of his own carnival would seem to be the perfect tonic that his operation require as they bid to rebuild their reputation through the care of Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby.
Make no mistake, there is not an ounce of normality surrounding this season's Dubai International Racing Carnival and with Mike de Kock setting out to take on the Godolphin powerhouse with his strongest stable of thoroughbreds yet, this could be an important moment for the momentum to shift away from any British-based controversy and back towards the most utmost of competitive battles as Sheikh Mohammed bids to welcome the world back into his yard to take on the very best thoroughbreds he can muster to defend the riches on offer to the world.
Selections : R1 Bungle inthejungle, R2 El Estruendoso, R5 Steeler, R6 Complicate