Trainer Ahmed bin Harmash is cautiously optimistic Walking Thunder can take another step towards Classic contention when the colt lines up in the UAE 2000 Guineas trial at Meydan on Thursday.
Widely considered the leading local hope for the big race in February, the son of the leading US stallion Violence is unbeaten in his opening two starts and has been a wide margin winner on both occasions. His Dubai based handler reports the three-year-old to have come out of his most recent success well and is “looking great at home” as he prepares for his biggest challenge to date.
That last run saw Phoenix Ladies Syndicate’s unbeaten star get home by four and a half lengths, whilst carrying a penalty for his opening win, in a performance that impressed his trainer especially after not everything went to plan.
“So far he has done everything the right way and last time he got to experience another race scenario.” explained bin Harmash as he reflected on the December run. “He had to come from behind plus he didn’t the best trip around there, but still won very impressively. It was a very pleasing performance.”
It was a success that also caught the eye of many of the clock watchers as he recorded a time marginally slower than the more experienced horses in the listed race on the same night whilst he was carrying more weight and it appears that his connections are confident that there is still more to come.
“I believe he has improved since last run and is capable to go close on Thursday.” Said bin Harmash. “Last time, if you look at his time, he ran to a good level and that’s with no completion the last furlong. Last years edition of 2000 Guineas itself was won on 1.37.77. I believe he can do that time if necessary.”
Ridden once again by Connor Beasley it won’t just be the clock to beat this time around with the pair facing up to quality opposition from the international raiders for the first time and things will be made extra tough given the colt is drawn 15 of 15.
“We have no doubt he is a good horse but the draw definitely makes it more interesting, we’ll need some luck this time.” Is the note of cautious optimism from his trainer “If we do get that, if we don’t bump into too many traffic problems on the way I have no doubt he will be close. We have great respect for the competition, especially considering the draw we got and there is a big chance we will have to go on the outside of the ones we fear the most. There is a G1 winner in the race and also others with form, but we have the advantage that we have been around Meydan already and he loves the surface there.”
If he was to take his tally to three from three it would not only continue the fairytale start for Phoenix Ladies but would see him go into next month’s classic as a likely favourite. However the result isn’t everything when it comes to a possible push for Guineas glory.
“Absolutely not.” is the matter of fact reaction from bin Harmash when presented with a win or bust scenario. “As long as he runs a good race and comes out of the race well I don’t see why we should not aim for 2000 Guineas.”
The horse will be the first runner at the Dubai World Cup Carnival for the owners but we can expect more of their runners to take their chance against the World’s best in the coming weeks. Superior, a winner on his only start, was a possible runner for the 2000 Guineas trial but will instead be saved for the Al Bastakyia trail on the 24th this month with bin Harmash reporting he is also “doing well”.
While all eyes will be on Meydan this Thursday the Orange and White silks of Phoenix Ladies will also be seen for the first time at Jebel Ali on Friday. The son of Animal Kingdom, Golden Jaguar will makes his racecourse debut in the 1000m conditions race where he’ll be joined by once raced Lady Winslow.