The Balanchine Stakes (G2) takes center stage in the penultimate meeting of the Dubai World Cup Carnival Feb. 24 at Meydan Racecourse, and With The Moonlight gets the spotlight in the Balanchine.
With The Moonlight, a 4-year-old Frankel filly, enters the Balanchine off a victory in her season-opener in the Cape Verdi (G2) Feb. 3. That followed a 2022 campaign that saw the filly bounce back from an 11th-place finish in the Oaks (G1) at Epsom to finish second in the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T) in July, win the Saratoga Oaks Invitational Stakes (G3T) in August and finish the year with a second in the Lake Placid Stakes (G2T).
That record roughly mirrors the 2022 exploits of Nations Pride , who won the Dubai Millennium Stakes (G3T) at Meydan Feb. 17. He also finished out of the frame at Epsom in the Derby (G1), then racked up two wins and a second in the New York Racing Association 3-year-old turf series.
Both With The Moonlight and Nations Pride are trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin, and both are likely to make a return stateside appearance this summer, all being well.
First things first, though, although it appears on paper With The Moonlight and jockey William Buick should have little trouble in the Balanchine, run at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on the turf, as stablemate Tranquil Lady appears the only real threat. The 4-year-old Australia filly starts her season after closing out 2022 with a group 3 victory on heavy turf at Saint-Cloud when trained by Joseph O’Brien.
Godolphin has won the last five runnings of the Balanchine, and the other six in this year’s edition have a lot to find if they’re to break that string.
“With The Moonlight has come forward since the Cape Verdi, and the step back up in distance is going to suit,” said Appleby, who has won this race four times. “She has a penalty to carry but is clear on ratings and has already won at the track this season. She looks the one they all have to beat.”
Appleby also isn’t counting out his new contender, Tranquil Lady, acquired by Godolphin at Tattersalls in December for 2.7 million guineas (US$3.4 million).
“This will be her first start for us, so we are on a slight learning curve,” he said. “But we are confident that she will run a nice race. We will potentially see her at her best over further, and this will be our first opportunity to get a handle on her ahead of the forthcoming season.”
With the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) and its glittering undercard running across the Arabian Peninsula in Riyadh, the Carnival program was pared down to just the single graded stakes. The seven-race card also includes the Jumeira Derby, won last year by Nations Pride, and the newly created Jumeria Fillies Guineas. Godolphin has top chances in both.
The Carnival concludes with Super Saturday on March 4, usually a dress rehearsal for locals aiming at the March 25 Dubai World Cup (G1) and its undercard.