The latest leg of the Dubai Carnival introduces a distant beam of sunshine to the petrified domestic scene – and could yet make a down payment towards the European summer. For it is not so much his name that summons Dubai Prince to centre stage today, as his untapped potential. After just four career starts, the fact that he returns in a trial for the Dubai World Cup suggests he could yet develop into a Godolphin flagship for the months ahead.
His trainer, moreover, finds himself in need of a tonic, after news yesterday that Blue Bunting, winner of three Group Ones last season, has been retired. Her recuperation from a leg injury will be too protracted to warrant missing the chance of an immediate start to her next career, and she will now be mated with Street Cry. Blue Bunting will always retain a cherished place in the memories of Mahmood Al Zarooni. Though modestly describing his first Classic winner as very easy to train, he said: "It is both sad and good that she is retiring to stud – sad because I will no longer be training her but good as, hopefully, I will train her babies."
As for Dubai Prince, he joined Al Zarooni after winning both juvenile starts for Dermot Weld, only to suffer a setback while being prepared for the Classics last spring. After blowing away the cobwebs at Newbury in September, he was fast-tracked to the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot but finished tailed off. He is palpably at a crossroads and Al Zarooni is eager to see him make up for lost time, switched to the synthetic track for the Maktoum Challenge.
Brian Meehan saddles two runners in the UAE 2,000 Guineas, and there is also British interest in a couple of valuable handicaps.
On the home front, the fires barely smoulder. Optimism for Taunton today proved misplaced, but Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy were pleasantly surprised by the state of the track beneath the frost blankets at Newbury, where a crucial card is scheduled for Saturday. Leopardstown seems well placed to stage the Hennessy Gold Cup on Sunday, albeit Jessies Dream misses his scheduled comeback after failing to sparkle yesterday. Gordon Elliott, his trainer, admitted: "With time against us, I'm not sure he will make the track at all this season."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Beneath (2.25 Wolverhampton) Due to go up 3lb after an unlucky defeat last week. Now dangerously handicapped and from a stable in good form.
Knowe Head (4.05 Wolverhampton) Not too many miles on the clock and again saw out his race well when caught wide round here last time.
One to watch
Our Monty (Willie Mullins) was running a blinder on his second start after a long absence when falling at Punchestown. Now eligible for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham.
Where the money's going
Sprinter Sacre is 4-5 from 5-4 with William Hill for the Betfair Super Saturday Chase at Newbury.