sport

Dunaden chance for Bentley

Mikel Delzangles' globetrotting veteran Dunaden makes his return in the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan on Thursday.

The eight-year-old has earned his connections well over 5million during a career which has seen him clinch a Melbourne Cup, a Hong Kong Vase and a Caulfield Cup.

He has also been placed in numerous other Group One events and was last seen finishing a close third when aiming to regain his Hong Kong crown.

The Sheikh Fahad-owned entire makes his return over an extended nine furlongs in Dubai, with racing manager David Redvers keen to find out whether he should be aimed for the 10-furlong Dubai World Cup or the Dubai Sheema Classic over a mile and a half, in which he finished fourth last year.

Dunaden will be ridden by talented youngster Harry Bentley for the first time, with retained rider Jamie Spencer returning to Ireland to attend the funeral of Lucy Stack, wife of Fozzy Stack, the son of trainer Tommy.

Redvers said: "He's in very good form. As he always has I'm sure he'll come on for his first run, but Mikel is delighted with his condition.

"Harry Bentley is going to ride him for the first time as Jamie has flown home. He went to school with Fozzy and that obviously takes priority.

"I think Harry has the right style to suit the old horse and while we are not expecting him to be 100 per cent for his first run of the year, it will give us a better idea about his potential target on World Cup night."

Dunaden is one of 16 declared runners in the Group Two feature, with Mike de Kock's recent winner Zahee and Godolphin-owned trio Hunter's Light, African Story and Artigiano also in the line-up.

Sheikh Fahad is also represented in the UAE 1000 Guineas, with David Brown's Illuminating Dream carrying the owner's Qatar Racing silks.

"It's hard to know what to expect from her. We're running her to see where we stand," said Redvers.

"She's a bit of a madam, but a very talented madam and she has done well physically from two to three.

"This is a bit of a fact-finding mission."

Godolphin's Ihtimal sets the standard in the Listed contest, making her first appearance since finishing third behind Chriselliam in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.

Wedding Ring also lines up for the Dubai-based operation, while De Kock runs Magroora, Magrooma and Mensoora.

Irish trainer Mick Halford is no stranger to Meydan success and saddles three runners at the track's latest fixture.

Eastern Rules lines up in the IPIC Trophy, recent winner Certerach goes for the Nova Stakes and Banna Boirche makes his seasonal return in the Cepsa Mile.

Halford said: "Eastern Rules came out of his last run well and I thought he ran a good race that day from a wide draw.

"It was his first run in a good while, so hopefully it will have sharpened him up, but at the same time he had been working well and was pretty fit for his first run.

"You'd be hoping he'll be bang there again.

"Certerach has been in good form since his win there a couple of weeks ago and I think he'll enjoy the step up to a mile and six (furlongs).

"I'd be looking forward to him, to be honest with you.

"I know Star Empire has beaten us in Dubai in the past, but I think my horse is improving and he's stronger this year.

"Banna Boirche is having his first run of the year, but he's in good form and the other horses have all run well first time up, so hopefully he will as well.

"He's got a reasonable draw (stall nine) and he's run well at Meydan in the past without winning.

"It will be good to get him started again and hopefully he'll give a good account of himself."

The other Irish-trained runner on the card is David Marnane's Dubai debutant He's No Saint.

The Dundalk scorer takes his chance in the Meydan Classic Trial.

Marnane said: "He's settled in great and looks very well, so we're looking forward to getting him going.

"He has a good draw (stall two), the Godolphin horse looks as though he'll be hard to beat, so we'll see what happens.

"Our lad is a tall, good looking horse and I think there's plenty of improvement in him.

"I just want to see him run a nice race, as I think he could still do with a bit more help, mentally as much as anything."