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Godolphin's VALE OF YORK (Ire) (Invincible Spirit), last seen upsetting champion Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike) in the November 7 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), will make his much anticipated three-year-old debut in Thursday's $250,000 Al Bastakiya at Meydan. The middle leg of the Dubai Triple Crown, the about 1 3/16-mile Tapeta test is one of six Thoroughbred stakes on the program, dubbed "Super Thursday." These races serve as preps for the lucrative events on Dubai World Cup night, scheduled for March 27.
Vale of York had raced exclusively on turf when in Europe last season. Depending upon how he fares in the Al Bastakiya, which is itself a stepping stone to the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2), the Saeed bin Suroor pupil could either aim for the Kentucky Derby (G1), or set his sights on the European classics instead.
Successful in the Stardom S. at Goodwood last September, Vale of York subsequently placed in two major stakes. He finished third in the Royal Lodge S. (Eng-G2) at Ascot, then just missed by a neck in the Gran Criterium (Ity-G1) at Milan.
Vale of York made his synthetic debut in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride, where he was dismissed at odds of 30-1. After tracking the pace along the rail, he had to come around rivals in midstretch, and flew home late to deny Lookin at Lucky by a neck.
At Monday's preliminary entry stage, 23 horses were made eligible for the Al Bastakiya, but a maximum of 14 can start. Final declarations, along with riders and post positions, will be announced on Tuesday.
Godolphin has also pre-entered three other American Triple Crown nominees -- the undefeated MENDIP (Harlan's Holiday), the winner of an about seven-furlong allowance at Meydan on February 11; recent recruit TAHITIAN WARRIOR (Maria's Mon), who was privately purchased after his smashing debut maiden score at Gulfstream on January 3; and the multiple English stakes-placed BLACK SNOWFLAKE (Elusive Quality).
The Dubai Triple Crown is open to Southern Hemisphere-breds who are four years old by Northern Hemisphere reckoning, and the horse to beat in the Al Bastakiya, MUSIR (Redoute's Choice), fits into this category. Bred in Australia, the Mike de Kock trainee was a champion juvenile in South Africa before capturing both of his starts at Meydan this season. Musir posted a narrow victory in his February 4 debut, but moved forward considerably off that effort to win the first leg of the Dubai Triple Crown, the February 18 U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-G3), by 3 1/4 lengths.
Other Southern Hemisphere-bred contenders include Chilean Group 1-placed DELLA BARBA (Della Francesca), third to Musir in the Guineas; Brazilian Group 1 winner UNCLE TOM (First American), a closing second to Mendip last out; Godolphin's Argentinean Group 1 hero ENAK (Orpen), a well-beaten ninth behind Mendip and Uncle Tom; and Brazilian Group 1 victor TENARIN (Romarin [Brz]), who would be making his Dubai debut.