The eagerly awaited opening night of the $31million 2009 Dubai International Racing Carnival arrives on Thursday with a seven race card kindly sponsored by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate.

The night features the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I, two 1600m dirt contests, one for Purebred Arabians and one for Thoroughbreds, both of which have attracted the previous year’s winner.

The Group 1 Purebred Arabian race starts proceedings at 7.15pm with nine declared, headed by last year’s winner Kandar Du Falgas of whom a big run is expected by trainer Doug Watson who said: “The yard is going well and we know conditions suit him. He is in good form at home and will go well.”

His big danger, however, has to be Fryvolous who has twice beaten Watson’s second runner Paris Gagner over the course and distance, as well as winning Abu Dhabi’s National Day Cup.

His trainer Rod Simpson said: “He has gone from strength to strength this year but this is a big test for him.”

Happy Boy turned the thoroughbred race, a Group 3 contest, into a procession last year but will be having his first start for his latest trainer, Mubarak Bin Shafya, this time.

That said, lack of a run did not stop him last year and he would be hard to beat if in the same form this year.

Gloria De Campeao chased him home last year and is one of five who return for another crack at Happy Boy.

He has to be respected, as does Erwan Charpy’s Golden Arrow who was third in 2007 and is a course and distance winner this season.

Mike de Kock won the race in 2005 and his Royal Vintage would be hard to beat if returning to the level of form he showed on the Nad Al Sheba dirt last season when runner-up in the UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby, as well as winning the Al Bastakiya.

However, he has been gelded after a disappointing campaign in Europe and his trainer warned: “He will come on for the run and we are just hoping that a return to Nad Al Sheba revives his fortunes after his time in England.”

Jerry Barton saddled a double last week and Don Renato, third in last year’s Godolphin Mile, will be a big danger.

Assistant trainer Stephane Chevalier said: “We know he likes it here and he has been training well.”

Godolphin rely on My Indy, twice behind Royal Vintage last year, but trainer Saeed Bin Suroor said: “We are hoping for a big run as he has improved over the summer.”

Four turf handicaps, one restricted to fillies and mares, and 1400m conditions race on the dirt, the Nayef Fillies, completes the card.

That conditions race was won last year by Godolphin’s Fiesta Lady and Bin Suroor will be hoping that Sos Brillante can follow suit but she looks to face two serious rivals in India Tiberina (De Kock) and Esta Bailando (Barton).

Any race goer picking all seven winners in the Pick Six competitions stands to win outright, or share over AED100,000 if there is more than one winning ticket.

The breakdown for the Pick 6 and Tricast competitions are as follows:
Pick 7/7: AED100,520
Pick 6/7: AED10,000
Pick 5/7: AED6,000
Pick 4/7: AED4,000
Early Tricast: AED20,000
Middle Tricast: AED15,000
Late Tricast: AED43,000

Thursday’s meeting offers a number of hospitality options available to suit all tastes and budgets in both the Millennium Grandstand and the Maktoum Grandstand.

Entrance to the public area of the racecourse is free of charge and there are also complimentary transfers to and from Nad Al Sheba from Dubai Marina (by Spinneys), Arabian Ranches (Shopping complex), Wafi (in front of Pyramids) and Emirates Towers (Boulevard entrance by Cartier).

Buses will leave at 6.00pm from these locations, and return departures will be at 10pm from the racecourse.