Power Blade will need to be at his best as he faces a stern examination in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge in the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan this Thursday night.
The 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner was an encouraging 3rd on his Dubai debut three weeks ago but steps up in both distance and in opposition for this week’s 1900M test. It’s the 2nd leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge and the top four place-getters from the first leg, run over a mile on the Carnival’s opening day on January 5th, all return.
The winner that day was Le Bernadin and the 8-year-old is set to be favourite here. Long River, Lindo Amor and Gold City ran 2nd to 4th and all three try their luck again. Fitzgerald ran poorly that day but prior to that won back to back non-Carnival races at Meydan while Second Summer is a Graded Stakes winner in the USA. Storm Belt showed little in his Carnival race three weeks ago but is a Meydan winner while Chile bred Furia Cruzada makes her Dubai debut but has solid form in Europe.
Despite being some way behind the winner and runner-up on January 12, Power Blade ran on very nicely for 3rd and hopes are high that he will at least be competitive once more as he becomes the first Korea-trained horse to compete at Group level at the Carnival. With the pattern of races on the deep Seoul and Busan sand being different to that on the Meydan dirt, the horses have taken some time to adapt and have tended to lose a bit of ground in the middle parts of the races, but with Pat Cosgrave, who has partnered most of the Korean runners so far this Carnival in the saddle once more, this can be overcome.
It’s now two weeks since Main Stay scored the breakthrough that Korea had been waiting for, comfortably landing a 1200M handicap. It wasn’t a strong race but crucially it was the first time a Korean horse was actually expected to win and with the pressure on, he delivered. It was a huge relief for all concerned and that hugely enjoyable evening – on which Triple Nine also ran a big race in 2nd over 2000M – helped to finally put to rest some nagging doubts, especially at home, as to whether horses from Korea really belonged at the Carnival. Now we know they do, if Power Blade runs to his best, another placed finish isn’t out of the question.
Seoul Bullet, 4th in Main Stay’s race, is recovering from a slight injury but the the other three Korea-trained horses are all likely to race over the next couple of weeks. Peter Wolsley’s Diferent Dimension, who ran well but weakened late on behind Power Blade on January 12 is expected to try his luck on turf while Main Stay and Triple Nine will return to the dirt within the next two weeks.
Power Blade runs in race 5, the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 at 20:50 Dubai time on Thursday evening. Click here for the full race card.