Lengthened to about six furlongs for Saturday’s renewal, the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) has become a veritable summit meeting between local hero Ertijaal and British invader Limato. But it’s hardly a two-horse race, for Hong Kong’s Amazing Kids is liable to jump up on the straightaway that plays to his strengths.
Ertijaal, Sheikh Hamdan’s Irish-bred son of Oasis Dream, has been nearly invincible on the Meydan strip. The winner of six of his last seven, only the valiant Australian Buffering broke his streak by denying him in last year’s Al Quoz. But the Ali Rashid al Rayhi flyer has returned arguably better this Carnival, and his utter dominance in the Meydan Sprint (G3) was reflected in a course-record :55.90 for about five furlongs.
That’s the rub, though, for Ertijaal has kept to that shorter trip since his course record-setting win over six here in 2015. No one has bettered that standard of 1:08.98, but it was set in a handicap. His blistering speed over the minimum distance has left at least a question about how well he’d carry it, against top-caliber international company, at an additional furlong.
Limato, on the other hand, prefers the longer sprint. Flashing talent for Henry Candy from his unbeaten juvenile campaign, the Tagula gelding earned a well-deserved Group 1 laurel when slamming them in Newmarket’s July Cup (G1) last summer. Limato couldn’t match the turbo of Mecca’s Angel when dropped to five in the Nunthorpe (G1), but was much the best at about seven furlongs in the Prix de la Foret (G1) on Arc Day. Next came a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), where the combination of a scorching pace around two turns proved too much, and he checked in sixth. The Al Quoz would be to his taste, if he’s ready to pack his best punch first up, without the benefit of a prep.
Amazing Kids doesn’t always have the luckiest of trips around Sha Tin’s turn, with the case in point being his troubled fifth to Chautauqua in the May 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1). But he’s usually thereabouts in a ferociously deep sprint division, and when getting his chance on the Sha Tin straight, the John Size trainee is two-for-two. Nabbing a loose-on-the-lead Amber Sky (the 2014 Al Quoz winner) in the October 1 National Day Cup (G3), Amazing Kids bested Golden Shaheen (G1) runner Not Listenin’tome in the January 8 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (G3). Given Sha Tin’s course configuration, the straight sprints are only five furlongs. Amazing Kids is a genuine six-furlong performer, though, suggesting that the straight simply gives him a better set-up. Hence the Al Quoz may present him with the optimal conditions.
Godolphin’s Jungle Cat, fourth in last year’s shorter Al Quoz and a game if futile second to Ertijaal in the Meydan Sprint, will appreciate the added ground. He came right back to blow the March 4 Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint apart over this trip, beating his Charlie Appleby-trained stablemate Baccarat, France’s Gr The Right Man, and progressive British handicapper Final Venture.
The 11-year-old Medicean Man, fourth when he last tried the Al Quoz back in 2014, turned back the clock to win an about five-furlong dash here in January. He probably would have preferred the former distance, but Jeremy Gask’s old soldier can still get involved on the right day.
Aidan O’Brien is represented by Washington DC, who’s arguably in search of his best trip. Third in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup (G1) and fifth to Limato in the July Cup at six, he appeared happier over five when missing in a photo in the King George (G2) and placing second in the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) on Arc Day. And he never made his presence felt down the hill in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). But having just turned four this season, Washington DC may be able to hone in on his specialty.
French shipper Finsbury Square was fourth in the l‘Abbaye. A multiple Group 3 winner at home, he prepped with a score over Chantilly’s Polytrack.
Bill Mott’s Long on Value and Peter Miller’s Richard’s Boy will try for an elusive U.S. win in the Al Quoz. Long on Value has back class routing, as the 2014 Twilight Derby (G2) winner who placed in the 2015 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1), but has since been rejuvenated in turf sprints. He rocketed to a half-length third in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint last out, and the straight could be a good fit for a horse who’s a closing sprinter running out of ground on American courses. Richard’s Boy, as an on-the-engine type, might be looking for the turn. Yet the Cal-bred gets marks for consistency and just missed in the Sensational Star last out.
Wednesday update: the post position draw.