Defoe in good form for Meydan feature

Defoe ridden by jockey Andrea Atzeni on the way to winning the Hardwicke Stakes during day five of Royal Ascot
Image: Defoe - in good form ahead of Meydan feature

Defoe is reported to be in excellent shape ahead of his long-awaited return in the Dubai City of Gold at Meydan on Saturday.

The six-year-old son of Dalakhani took his form to new heights last season, recording the first Group One victory of his career in the Coronation Cup at Epsom before going on to glory at Royal Ascot in the Hardwicke Stakes.

Although Defoe finished down the field on his final start of the season in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, trainer Roger Varian believes he will take plenty of beating in the Group Two prize, on his first start in seven months.

Varian said: "Defoe has been in great order since he got here. He did most of his work at home. Andrea (Atzeni) sat on him on Wednesday morning for a pre-race blow and he was pleased with the workout. I think he is in a good place.

"We would be expecting him to run well and hopefully run to a level that can book himself a ticket to the Sheema Classic.

"He is in stall two and we are happy coming out of that, but he is equally very straightforward. Andrea knows him very well and though it is a reasonable size field, hopefully there will be no excuses."

While Defoe had performed admirably at Pattern-race level in the past, his exploits on the track last season came as little surprise to Varian.

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He added: "He has always been a good horse, but he stepped up to another level last season in two prizes which are jolly hard to win.

"The Coronation Cup at Epsom has always been associated with top-class older horses and to win any race at Royal Ascot is hard, especially the Hardwicke against other Group One winners.

"If we go home and repeat that again, it would be great."

David Simcock expects dual Grade One scorer Desert Encounter to benefit from the 12-furlong trip after being given a pipe-opener over two furlongs shorter on his seasonal return.

Simcock said: "He will come forward for his first run, which he always does, so we are expecting a much better run, but it is still going to be very competitive.

"It is a track that doesn't really suit him as he has never performed terribly well there for some reason in the past, but that might be down to the time of year.

"Last time was stop-start, then they went fast and he got very tired, but that should have brought him on and this trip is much better than the mile and a quarter. We will give it our best shot before he comes back to England."

Charlie Appleby will be triple-handed in the race, with First Nation, who has finished fourth in all three of his starts this year, the choice of stable jockey William Buick.

Appleby said: "It was one of those choices, William sided with First Nation as he has been very consistent throughout his Dubai career.

"He has unfortunately always met traffic problems with his run style, but he has bounced out of every run well and we felt he deserved to have a crack at it and try to get placed."

While Jalmoud has been placed at the highest level in the past, Appleby feels he will need to produce that level of form if he is to figure on this occasion.

He said: "Looking at the form book, Jalmoud has been a bit inconsistent, but has got a fair level of ability when he channels it in the right direction.

"If he turns up with any part of his A game he will be an interesting horse, as he finished third to Japan and he is a proven Listed winner and Group One-placed."

Loxley may have shown little in two starts this winter, but Appleby reports the five-year-old to be in a much better place now.

He said: "He has been a bit disappointing in Dubai so far for some reason and he is a bit of a head-scratcher really.

"The only thing I would say is that he looks as well as I've had him out there, and he goes there in a bit better health than he has been in.

"If he rekindles his A game, he would be bang there."

The William Haggas-trained Pablo Escobarr completes the British interest in the race.

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