Darren Bunyan is convinced there is plenty of improvement to come from Hit The Bid in the EGA Billets Trophy at Meydan on Thursday.
Hit The Bid was beaten by Australian runner Faatinah on his Carnival return, but Bunyan’s five-year-old is 3lb better off for two and a half lengths.
Hit The Bid won on his second start at the Carnival last year and Bunyan is hoping lightning strikes twice in the desert.
Bunyan said: “We are 3lb better off, but I think the sharpness he picked up from running in that race is worth a lot more.
“He’s a whole different horse for his run. We knew he’d need it, but he’s a different horse mentally and physically now.
“We tend to need a run, whereas the Australian horse goes well fresh. I see him on a morning and he does look great, mind.”
He added: “There’s a lot of improvement to come from our lad. After this there’s a Group Two on February 14 for him, then after that there’s the Al Quoz or a race in Australia.
“The Al Quoz is six furlongs and I’m still not convinced he won’t get it, everything went wrong for him in it last year.
“He’s a very consistent horse, whenever he’s been beaten he’s had genuine excuses. There are not many sprinters at that level as consistent as him.”
Also in the race is David Marnane’s Alfredo Arcano, who was not far away in fourth behind Jamie Osborne’s Dream Today over six furlongs last time out and drops back down to the minimum trip.
“He ran really well first time and he’s a good old yardstick. He’s won seven times and four of them have been over five, so this might be more in his favour,” said Marnane.
“We’re under no illusions, those top two are going to be very hard to beat in this, but he’s got another couple of opportunities coming up.
“We’re glad to be over there with him, it’s a huge pot and he may as well run than stand in his box. He’s thriving and he’d earn nothing at home.”
Further European interest comes from Paul Midgley’s Orvar, fourth behind Faatinah and Hit The Bid, and Iain Jardine’s Marnie James.
One of the feature contests is the Group Two Al Rashidiya in which six of the nine runners are trained by either Saeed bin Suroor or Charlie Appleby.
Blair House, who was campaigned in Australia most recently, and Dream Castle, look the pick of the blue army, while David Simcock runs Arod.
Appleby told www.godolphin.com: “Blair House put up a couple of decent performances out in Australia and has had a little break since.
“He is a course and distance winner and any reproduction of that form will obviously make him very competitive. He is fresh and well.”
Of Dream Castle, Bin Suroor added: “Dream Castle won well in the Singspiel Stakes and came out of the race in very good order.
“This is a step up to a Group Two race, but I have been pleased with his work and I am looking for another good run.”
The other Group Two on the card, the Al Fahidi Fort, sees Marinaresco, a star in South Africa, make his debut for Mike de Kock.
Chris Waller of Winx fame runs Comin’ Through, with George Scott’s Another Batt, David O’Meara’s Intisaab and the Appleby-trained D’Bai others to to note.