The Meydan Maiden – “Certify”ably Perfect

Don’t be fooled by the title.  I’ve been anything but perfect at this Dubai Carnival meeting.  No, this post is an homage to Certify, who puts her undefeated record yet again on the line in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes, the highlight of the night.  She looks a strong selection for the race, surrounded by events with some immense depth in the fields.  Indeed, tonight’s card is full of imposing horses – not only do we have the marvelous Certify, but Cat O’Mountain returns in Race 4 after his eye-popping victory on the 16th, and Anaerobio wishes to go 3 for 3 in this year’s Carnival in the opener.

As for me, I will be attempting to tip a little better than I have as of late, although that might be asking a bit much from this Maiden!  Everyone has cold spells, though, and maybe a little desert heat – and the heat America’s Midwest has felt the past few days!! – will solve everything for me.

First up, we have a handicap over 1400m on turf.  With that distance and surface, people obviously expected Anaerobio to make an appearance, and indeed he is here!  He drew a cozy #4 hole in the field of nine and will likely go favored here.  There are several switching over from all-weather, however, that could be a threat.  Zahee is one of them; he’s bred for the surface, by Dylan Thomas and out of an Encosta de Lago mare, and has won three of five starts on the lawn.  He’s coming out of a fifth to Prince Bishop in the Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and could pose a threat.  Another to watch for is Eastern Rules; though not as accomplished on the surface, the gelding flew through two nice wins at the Curragh at this distance last summer.  He came off a week’s layoff to score on February 6 on all-weather, and will need to endure another relatively quick turnaround if he wants to be competitive here.  Many of these are experienced but inconsistent, especially as of late; my top three have already been listed, and in order, to boot!  Anaerobio – Zahee – Eastern Rules

Race 2 is a 1600m handicap over the all-weather.  The interesting story regarding this race was the withdrawal of Barbecue Eddie, which surely would have spiced things up a bit (pun definitely intended).  At first glance, this race is a little dull, even with a big field.  I’m having a hard time seeing any consistent all-weather form here.  My top choice in here, despite an unfortunate draw, is String Theory, who is 3 for 4 on the fake stuff and finished a strong second to Ottoman Empire last out.  Saudi Arabia sends the very nice Qatoomah; 6 for 10 lifetime, she is making her foray onto all-weather in the worst way – post 16.  If she can win from the stands, I’ll crown her queen of the world.  Mustaheel made a very attractive run from the tail of the field in his last 1400m start, but he’s yet to hit the board at 1600m, and that worries me.  Godolphin’s pair is lovely as always, with Dragon Falls likely to gobble up more money than his stablemate.  But Taylor Said is very intriguing; he ships in from a sharp win at Emerald Downs, and a win on Tapeta can be found if you dig through his form a bit.  Master of War also closed nicely against Eastern Rules last out, but not nearly as robustly as Mustaheel.  Well, it’s String Theory for me, and let’s hope he can overcome that nasty post position.  Where’s Barbecue Eddie when you need him?  Oh, right.  Sitting this one out.  String Theory – Mustaheel – Taylor Said

Onwards!  Race 3 is a speedy event, 1000m on turf which will go by rather quickly, as it seems to do always.  I’m a little surprised Alsaaeqah didn’t give this a shot; her last out was very nice, and she beat many entered here tonight.  Medicean Man, Abstraction, Racy, Monsieur Joe, Ahtoug, Dungannon, and My Propeller all come out of that thriller with the Saudi mare.  Of that group, I much prefer Medicean Man; he came on very strongly to finish a game third.  My Propeller is a horse that I fancied going into the Carnival, but he hasn’t delivered at all.  Maybe his third shot at it will be better, but I’m not holding my breath.  My affections lie with Hototo, who ran very well off a long layoff to finish second behind Ahtoug on the first night of the Carnival.  He should be even sharper for his run tonight.  Very intriguing is the French invader Catcall, who comes out of a second in a nice Group 1 last October.  If he’s prepared to run in his Meydan debut, he should have no problems flying down the course.  Ahtoug was unusually far back last out and was affected by it, finishing a dull eighth.  Which Ahtoug are we going to see tonight – the January 9 or January 30?  Hototo – Catcall – Medicean Man

This is the race in which Cat O’Mountain steps it up a bit, facing a tougher field than he did on January 16.  But could he have looked better doing it?  He drops down from 2200m to 2000m for this race.  Don’t be concerned by his lack of credentials at the distance – those races were on turf, and this handsomely-bred son of Street Cry absolutely relishes the all-weather.  He won’t have it as easy here, though.  The lovely Steeler is knocking on the door for a win at the Carnival, as is Mutajare and the hard-knocking Layali Al Andalus.  Alexandra Palace and Zain Shamardal are winners already at the Carnival, with the former stretching out to a distance beyond 1800m for the first time.  Elleval will probably enjoy the surface switch; he was second to Lines of Battle in last year’s UAE Derby, and can certainly stay the trip.  Start Right is a familiar name at this year’s Carnival, though he probably doesn’t have quite what it takes to handle this competition.  I’ve looked this form over and over to try to find a horse to beat Cat O’Mountain with, and I can’t.  Cat O’Mountain – Elleval – Mutajare

Next up is the Group 2 Balanchine, headlined by Godolphin’s super filly Certify.  Only five others have lined up to challenge her tonight, including Flotilla, the French classic winner who could do no better than fourth behind this favorite last out in the Cape Verdi, nearly seven lengths back.  L’Amour de Ma Vie was second to Certify that day, clearly outclassed by the awesome power of that filly.  (Can you tell I like Certify?  I like her a lot.)  Pearl of Africa was third in that same race.  Moment in Time is quite the globetrotter; she comes into this race out of a third to Tannery at Woodbine.  Banoffee has had a run at the Carnival this year – 6th to Windhoek on January 23 – and switches back to turf after going winless on all-weather.  Don’t fall off, Mickael Barzalona.  That’s the only way your filly could possibly lose this race.  Certify – Flotilla – Moment in Time

We’ve got the Dubai Millennium Stakes over 2000m on the lawn to close out the night, with a nice baker’s dozen ready to compete for a $200,000 prize.  Standing out here is Mujaarib, who made his Dubai debut a winning one in a thriller over Mushreq.  He was fanned rather wide in that race, coming home very strong and fighting off his rival to pull away.  Although winless at distances over 1800m, he seemed to be in fine flesh last out, and should have no problem tackling the added furlong with a better trip.  Godolphin’s Tasaway, who was ninth in that race behind Mujaarib, should improve dramatically with the added distance and second off the layoff.  Empoli comes out of a fourth to Meandre in a Group 1, who flattered him here by finishing second to Songcraft last Thursday.  Quick Wit won over this course and distance last year, and comes out of a second to Grandeur.  Burano will have to endure an outside trip but was a nice third to Saxo Jack last out.  It’s hard to look past Mujaarib here, so I won’t.  Two chalky favorites in a row – woo-hoo!  Mujaarib – Tasaday – Empoli

Did ya’ll know that we have FIVE. CARDS. LEFT?!  Five cards left in the Carnival!  What will the Meydan Maiden do with herself when this meet is in the books?!  (Focusing on school would be a good start.)  I sure hope we’ll see something special from Certify tomorrow, and that goes for the rest of the races, too.  Good luck to you all, happy racing, and enjoy your Thursday!

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