Keen Ice preps for World Cup
Article via ESPN, Marcus Hersh, Daily Racing Form
The road to the Dubai World Cup card March 26 takes its final turn this week, with the last two major racecards at Meydan on Thursday and Saturday before the World Cup program itself.
The Saturday feature, Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, includes Keen Ice, the last of the three American horses that shipped early to Dubai to race and train at Meydan in preparation for the $10 million World Cup. Frosted won Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge last month and is being trained up to the World Cup, while California Chrome comfortably won a handicap race last week.
Next up is Keen Ice, the only horse in 2015 to beat Horse of the Year American Pharoah, having vanquished the Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes. Keen Ice has not won since the Travers, finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, fourth in the Clark Handicap, and most recently sixth in the Donn Handicap on Feb. 6 at Gulfstream Park. The Donn winner, Mshawish, will ship later this month to Dubai for a start in the World Cup.
Keen Ice drew post 11 in a 12-horse edition of the Group 3, $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, a 2000-meter race (about 1-1/4 miles) run around two turns on dirt, the same conditions as the World Cup.
International star Ryan Moore has picked up the mount on Keen Ice for Saturday's race.
Keen Ice faces Mubtaahij, who finished fourth behind third-place Keen Ice when the pair met last June in the Belmont Stakes. Mubtaahij made his first start since the Belmont in the Feb. 4 Firebreak Stakes at Meydan, finishing fifth in a race meant more than anything to shake off rest. Sharp improvement should be expected Saturday, and will be required to get Mubtaahij into the World Cup with anything resembling a real chance to win.
The Saturday card includes stakes preps for six of the seven Group 1 races on the World Cup card, while the Thursday program has a prep for the other World Cup night race, the Gold Cup, in the form of the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy over about 14 furlongs on grass.
There are no female-restricted stakes on the World Cup card, and the Thursday feature is the Group 2, $200,000 Balanchine Stakes over about nine furlongs on turf for fillies and mares. Heading that field is Euro Charline, who won the 2014 Beverly D. at Arlington and finished fourth in the race last summer. She makes her first start since September and could wind up again in the $6 million Dubai Turf, a race in which she finished fourth last March.
The Group 3, $200,000 UAE Oaks on Thursday should be little more than an exhibition, with just two rivals entered to face the local standout Polar River. The unbeaten Doug Watson-trained filly started her career in December and has won her three races, all on dirt at progressively longer distances, by more than 30 combined lengths. She should make short work of her two rivals Thursday, after which she will be considered for the UAE Derby on the World Cup card as well as a subsequent trip to the U.S. for American dirt racing.
The UAE Oaks goes as race 3 on Thursday, the Balanchine as race 4, with first post for the card scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern.