Newbury's Dubai Duty Free International Weekend to see a rivalry renewed
Newbury Racecourse has four more days of flat racing ahead - and the highlight could well be the renewed rivalry between Cardsharp and US Navy Flag in the £75,000 Group Two Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes on the second day of the Dubai Duty Free International Weekend (Saturday, September 23.)
The six-furlong contest boasts an excellent recent roll of honour, with the last two winners Ribchester (2015) and Harry Angel (2016) gaining five Group One prizes between them this year.
Cardsharp (trained by Mark Johnsto) and US Navy Flag (trained by the very in form Aidan O'Brien), clashed in Newmarket's Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket, with Cardsharp coming out on top by a length and three-quarters.
Cardsharp has since finished third under a penalty in both the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York, while U S Navy Flag posted a career-best last time out when taking the G3 Round Tower Stakes by six lengths at the Curragh last month.
US Navy Flag's trainer Aidan O'Brien, who is yet to win the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes, has also left in Declarationofpeace.
Locally trained Barraquero was to run in the Mill Reef Stakes following his one-and-a-quarter length victory in Goodwood's Qatar Richmond Stakes. But his Manton trainer Brian Meehan decided to send him straight to The Middle Park at Newmarket at the end of this month. Then he was found to have a small injury to a shin - and, sadly, will not race again this season.
One of the least experienced among the confirmations for Saturday's race is the Tom Dascombe-trained No I'm Easy. He was second to subsequent Listed winner Mythical Magic on his debut at Ascot in July before going one better on his next start in a six-furlong novice contest at Thirsk on August 21.
Dascombe's plan - at the moment - is to run him at Newbury on Saturday: "He is in good shape and, although he obviously needs to improve a lot, I think there is a lot of improvement in him. He is a nice horse with a future and I would not be running him if I thought he was going to finish out the back."
Another star turn at Newbury's two-day meeting should come from Caspian Prince - set to contest the £60,000 Group Three Dubai International Airport World Trophy over five furlongs on Saturday. Later in the year he may travel to the USA to make a tilt at the $1-million Group 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar.
Caspian Prince joined North Yorkshire trainer Tony Coyle earlier this year and, at the age of eight, is in the form of his life with a career-best rating of 115, the highest among the 24 entries for Saturday's race.
The five-furlong specialist landed his third Investec Dash Handicap at Epsom Downs in June and defeated Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes heroine Marsha by a short-head in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh on July 15.
His only start since then saw him finish fourth to Caravaggio on testing ground in the G2 Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh on September 10 - Tony Coyle said the ground was against him: "Caspian Prince definitely runs at Newbury on Saturday. He is in good order following his run at the Curragh and has not done a lot since. He does not take a lot to keep him ready. He has been out in the field and will have a couple of canters this week."
"We will get Saturday out the way first, but the Breeders' Cup could be on his agenda as the owner [Stephen Louch] is keen to give it a go. This would be his last run before then because he would have to go into quarantine."
"He has had a brilliant year. He is a bit of a freak as people forget that he is by Dylan Thomas and yet is so quick over five furlongs. He is an incredible horse."
Caspian Prince's opponents on Saturday could include Group 1 King's Stand Stakes fourth Muthmir (William Haggas), Grouip 2 Flying Five Stakes second Alphabet (Aidan O'Brien) and Cotai Glory (Charlie Hills), who was a place behind Caspian Prince at the Curragh and had previously finished third in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes.
Take Cover (David Griffiths), a two-time winner of the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood, is also engaged, along with Group 2 Temple Stakes heroine Priceless (Clive Cox).
Popular 10-year-old Take Cover, who likes to make the running, comes into Saturday's race on the back of a decisive success in the Listed Beverley Bullet on September 2, when he defeated Final Venture in characteristic fashion by a length.
Trainer David Griffiths said today: "Take Cover has come out of the Beverley Bullet well and it is all systems go for Newbury.
"I was bit worried going to Beverley because of the stiff finish but he pulled out plenty and Tom [Queally] gave him a great ride. I was delighted because, although he should really be winning Listed races given that he is a dual G2 winner, you have still got to get there right and well on the day.
"He can have a real go at these Listed and G3 races and he should be really competitive without the penalty. Hopefully, he can do the job on Saturday."
Day two of the Dubai Duty Free International Weekend also features the £60,000 Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup over 11 furlongs, which has 15 entries including My Dream Boat (Clive Cox), who captured the Group 1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot last year.
A total of 31 confirmations for the 10-furlong £75,000 Dubai Duty Free Handicap includes York handicap winner Fidaawy (Sir Michael Stoute).
The Dubai Duty Free International Weekend starts with a seven-race card on Friday, September 22, when the highlight is the Listed Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Cup over seven furlongs.
The going at Newbury is currently Good, Good to Firm in places.