African Story wins $10 million Dubai World Cup
Photo credit: Neville Hopwood
DUBAI - They came from Europe and Asia, from South Africa and neighbouring Saudi Arabia, but the ruling Maktoum family of this desert emirate dominated the $10 million Dubai World Cup over 2000 metres at Meydan racecourse. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, saw horses in his colours finish first and third, courtesy of African Story and Cat O'Mountain respectively.
And his brother, Sheikh Hamdan, saw his silks carried into second place by Mukhadram. African Story was a revelation, stalking front-running Mukhadram from the outset before sweeping past with 200 metres left to run. The horse who finished fifth in this race 12 months ago looked a different proposition this time, stopping the clock in a new track-record time 2 mins 01.61 secs under jockey Silvestre De Sousa.
African Story won by two and three-quarter lengths from Mukhadram, with Cat O'Mountain a further four and a quarter lengths adrift. Side Glance and Akeed Mofeed filled the next two places but Military Attack and Ruler Of The World, which were both expect to feature prominently, finished 10th and 12th respectively. Red Cadeaux, which chased home Animal Kingdom in the race 12 months ago, again ran well to finish sixth.
Even though he had won the race five times previously, victory meant a lot to the winning trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor, who trains exclusively for Sheikh Mohammed and his family. "I hadn't trained the winner (of this race) for seven years and I felt a lot of pressure from a lot of people," Bin Suroor said.
"I thought African Story was the right horse for this race two years ago and I told that to the boss. He is a special horse and I am dedicating this victory to my mother. I am going to give her my winner's trophy." De Sousa, for his part, was celebrating his first winner in the world's richest race. Originally from Brazil, he was retained to ride for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin enterprise 14 months ago. This was the biggest victory of his career. "It's so special to win this race," an elated De Sousa said. "It's a dream come true; I'm over the moon. We had a bit of bad luck earlier in the evening but this has saved the night."
Mukhadram's jockey, Paul Hanagan, briefly entertained hopes of victory when he asked his mount to accelerate on reaching the home straight. "For a moment I thought we'd stolen it but we were beaten by a very good horse on the night," he said. African Story's bid to win the Dubai World Cup came after a flurry of runners owned by the Al Maktoum family failed to meet expectations in the previous seven races for Thoroughbreds.
In a cosmopolitan gathering of horses from around the globe, runners from Hong Kong and Japan won two races each, with horses from Britain, Ireland and South Africa also getting in on the winning act. In the World Cup itself, the South African runner, Sanshaawes, reared up and caught a front foot in the gates of the stalls before the race started. He was unloaded and inspected by on-site veterinarians, who cleared him to run, but he could only finish seventh.
As for African Story, he is unlikely to contest the major races in Europe when Bin Suroor transfers his string from Dubai to Newmarket next month. The seven-year-old is seen as a specialist runner on the synthetic surface at Meydan racecourse, where Jennifer Lopez closed proceedings with a live concert lasting 45 minutes.
Ron the Greek draws far outside post in Dubai World Cup
The Sports Network
Ron the Greek, winner of last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, has drawn the far outside post in a field of 16 international runners for Saturday's $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse.
Owned by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Ron the Greek will be ridden by Jose Lezcano who was aboard the horse when he won the Gold Cup at Belmont Park last Sept. 28 by 6 3/4 lengths.
Saturday's 1 1/4-mile race will be the 7-year-old's second start over a synthetic track.
"He ran fourth in an allowance race at Keeneland (April 3, 2011)," trainer Nicholas Bachalard said, "but the distance (1 1/16 miles) was too short and he's a better horse now than he was back then. The only way to find out (if he'll handle it) is to run on it."
Ron the Greek is the winner of 10 of 30 career starts for just over $2.7 million. The World Cup will be the second race of the year for the 7-year-old having won an allowance contest on Feb 15 in Saudi Arabia.
"The horse has been training very well," Bachalard said. "Lezcano has his work cut out for him. It's a long way around (from the outside)."
Ron the Greek, formerly trained by Bill Mott, began his 2013 campaign with a win in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on a sloppy track. Between that win and the Gold Cup, Ron the Greek finished fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap, third in both the Charles Town Classic and Stephen Foster and was fourth in the Whitney and Woodward.
His other major stakes wins came in the 2012 Santa Anita and Stephen Foster. Handicaps.
Here is the field for the 19th Dubai World Cup in post position order: Prince Bishop, Kieren Fallon; Belshazzar, Christophe Lemaire; Vancouverite, William Buick; Akeed Mofeed, Douglas Whyte; Sanshaawes, Christophe Soumillon; African Story, Silvestre De Sousa; Hillstar, Ryan Moore; Military Attack, Joao Moreira; Side Glance, Jamie Spencer; Surfer, Richard Mullen; Hokko Tarumae, Hideaki Miyuki; Ruler of The World, Joseph O'Brien; Mukhadram, Paul Hanagan; Red Cadeaux, Gerald Mosse; Cat O Mountain, Mickael Barzalona and Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano.
Last year's World Cup was won by 2011 Kentucky Derby champ Animal Kingdom.
World Cup Hopefuls Stretch Legs at Meydan
Several contenders for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), including last year's runner-up Red Cadeaux, took to the track March 24 at Meydan to stretch their legs before the world's richest race March 29.
British-based globetrotter Red Cadeaux, who was among 16 horses declared for the World Cup March 24, cantered on the all-weather track ahead of taking a second crack at the race after his fast-closing second to Animal Kingdom last year.
Trainer Ed Dunlop's traveling head man Robin Trevor-Jones said: "He worked on Saturday and then had an easy day yesterday. He had a normal canter this morning and is his usual self. He is very happy in himself and he loves this surface. He has been doing 12 furlongs (200 meters) for fun and does love the ground."
Former American star Ron the Greek, who is now based in Saudi Arabia, is likely to get acquainted with Meydan's all-weather surface for the first time March 25 or March 26, trainer Nicholas Bachalard said. The 7-year-old son of Full Mandate, a multiple grade I winner in the United States for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, won his first start in Saudi Arabia Feb. 15 after his sale last fall to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and sons.
Among other contenders for the World Cup:
Akeed Mofeed—"No problems from what I hear so far. He seems to be very happy in his new environment," trainer Richard Gibson said from Hong Kong. "I'll be there myself (March 25) but he did fast work at Sha Tin last week and we went out there very fit horse."
Belshazzar—The 2013 Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) winner walked and jogged for a lap and then cantered easily for another lap on the all-weather track March 24. Assistant Trainer Takumi Matsuda said: "Everything has gone well so far. He also looked well in condition."
Hokko Tarumae—Winner of five group 1 races, Hokko Tarumae worked for two laps on the all-weather track March 24. The 5-year-old horse trotted and was then ridden a bit harder in the home stretch. Said assistant Trainer Katsuichi Nishiura: "I am very happy that he could handle the grip on the all-weather track."
Military Attack—"We kept him to the quarantine area this morning. The travel from Hong Kong went OK," assistant trainer George Moore said. "My father (trainer John Moore) has just arrived and he will oversee the preparation from here on, but it's so far, so good."
Mukhadram—Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's multiple English group stakes winner arrived at Meydan early March 23 on a flight with other English-based competitors. Elizabeth Budden, an assistant to trainer William Haggas, said the 5-year-old son of Shamardal traveled well and enjoyed "a trot around the ring today" in the quarantine barn area. Mukhadram will be eligible to leave quarantine and resume training March 25.
Sanshaawes—Trainer Mike De Kock said: "We always thought he was capable of winning at the Dubai World Cup Carnival and he won well twice, but his Super Saturday run, when second in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (UAE-I), was his best effort. With a better draw he would have finished closer. Hopefully we get a good draw on Saturday, but he needs to improve again to be competitive."
Side Glance—The 2013 Dubai World Cup fourth-place finisher ran seventh in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (UAE-I) earlier in March on his return to Dubai. Andrew Balding's representative was not on the main track the morning of March 24.
Surfer—"This was the race we wanted to run in him so we were delighted to get the invitation. The 2,000 meter (about 1 1/4-mile) trip suits him better than the1,600 meters (about one mile) of the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II). Fingers crossed he gets a good draw," trainer Satish Seemar said.
Japanese contender Gentildonna preps for the Dubai World Cup race card March 24. Photo: Dubai Racing Club
Dubai World Cup 2014 Thoughts- Adam's Turf
The Dubai World Cup is quickly approaching. Many of the world's best are likely entrants for the March 29 Dubai World Cup race card.
Here are my thoughts on the Dubai World Cup races. Be sure to follow all the Dubai World Cup coverage on BloodHorse.com with previews, analysis and a live stream of the entire day!
As far as handicapping, I have two categories; sentimental picks and just normal picks. My sentimental picks have a shot at winning, but not every horse I pick with sentiment is a horse that has a great chance of hitting the wire; I pick the horse just because I like it! The Picks makes up for those emotional selections and takes into account more traditional handicapping of past performance, pedigree, and travel experience.
Dubai World Cup Analysis
Sentimental Picks: Military Attack (IRE), The Fugue (GB), African Story (GB)
Picks: Akeed Mofeed (GB), Hunter’s Light (IRE), Red Cadeaux (GB)
Out Matched: Ron The Greek
I enjoy watching The Fugue run, but with not much going on in 2014 for her, I have to say I don’t like her chances in this race. I still would place a bet, based on her talent and how much I like her. She's also my wife's sentimental pick, as she likes seeing the girls best the boys.
African Story has had two starts at Meydan this year and both in Al Maktoum Challenge prep races. He finished second in his first start of the year, but eighth in his second start. I like how he runs, but maybe he is taking a step back, thus probably won’t bet on him to win. He would be a good pick to round out the bottom of a ticket. It doesn’t hurt that he competed in the 2013 Dubai World Cup either.
Akeed Mofeed is a horse I like to win this race. He won at 1 1/8 miles and finished fifth in the Hong Kong Gold Cup with a talented field. His other stakes wins seem to show consistency, so I trust his current form. Though running much in the East at Shat Tin in Hong Kong with minimal travel of late, his talent on the turf will translate to the synthetic. Can I also say Akeed Mofeed’s dam Wonder Why (GER), has a pedigree stacked with proven talent?
"No problems from what I hear so far. He seems to be very happy in his new environment," trainer Richard Gibson said of Akeed Mofeed from Hong Kong. "He did fast work at Sha Tin last week and we went out there very fit horse."
Hunter’s Light is a proven winner in Dubai, winning two of the Al Maktoum Challenge races last year and finishing fourth in his only start his year in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2. A fourth place finish at a place where Hunter’s Light is proven, makes me think the race was a good prep to push into the Dubai World Cup. I would bet Hunter’s Light in exotics and to finish second or third. Remember, he also ran in the 2013 Dubai World Cup.
Red Cadeaux is a world traveler. I have to bet on this horse for sentimental reasons, for talent reasons, and for respect. I would like to see such a well-traveled horse with over $6.2 million in lifetime earnings and 42 lifetime starts across England, Australia, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Ireland, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates get a big win. In my opinion, he deserves it. Red Cadeaux has demonstrated that he prefers racing in England and Ireland, but with a second at Meydan in the 2013 Dubai World, this is his time to improve upon last year’s experience and get the win.
Trainer Ed Dunlop's traveling head man, Robin Trevor-Jones, said of Red Cadeaux: "He worked on Saturday and then had an easy day yesterday. He had a normal canter this morning and is his usual self. He is very happy in himself and he loves this surface. He has been doing 12 furlongs (200 meters) for fun and does love the ground."
Ron the Greek has the talent, but a dirt horse on the synthetic amongst turf specialists and past runners with success at Meydan. My opinion is this is a tall order for him, and he'll likely fall short. I would place a wager to show my appreciation of him attempting this race and being born in the USA, but I don't think he is a good fit. If he hits the board, even in fourth, it will still be a nice payday for his new connections.
Sentimental picks: Giovanni Boldini (USA), Long John (AUS)
Consider: Oklahoma City (GB), Paximadia (AUS), Safety Check (IRE)
Toast of New York could be a sleeper.
Al Quoz Sprint
Sentimental pick: Berlino Di Tiger (BRZ)
Picks: Shea Shea (SAF), Sole Power (GB)
I would like to see Shea Shea win this race again. I like Sole Power's chances to hit the board and finish second or third.
Shea Shea (SAF) wins the Meydan Sprint:
Dubai Gold Cup
Sentimental pick: Joshua Tree (IRE)
Pick: Calvaryman (GB),
Not sure: Seismos (IRE), Simenon (IRE)
Sentimental picks: Flotilla (FR), Soft Falling Rain (SAF), Surfer (USA)
Pick: Elleval (IRE), Capital Attraction (USA)
Capital Attraction is interesting, because he is by Speightstown and his pedigree fits this race. Being a one-mile professional, he has raced exclusively at Meydan this year and has hit the board, with one win, in all of five starts. This to me screams of comfort on the track’s surface. I think few know who Capital Attraction is right now, but he will be a bright spot in this race.
Trainer Mike de Kock says this about his contender Soft Falling Rain, "He has really improved a lot from that return to action. Ideally, I would have probably liked one more run but we plan to keep him busy in Europe this summer so we have to strike a balance."
My wife has picked Flotilla, she is a sucker for floppy ears.
Dubai Sheema Classic
Sentimental pick: Gentildonna (JPN), Dunaden (FR)
Picks: Cirrus Des Aigles (FR), Magician (IRE)
The 2012 Dubai Sheem Classic winner returns in 2014 in Cirrus Des Aigles . Magician had a solid racing year in 2013, including winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf. I think it will be match between Magician and Cirrus Des Aigles, although I would hope Gentildonna could beat them both. Unfortunately, I think Dunaden has taken a step backward, but would love to be proven wrong.
Dubai Duty Free
Sentimental pick: Logotype (JPN)
Picks: Dank (GB), Trade Storm (GB), Vercingetorix (SAF)
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Dank is on a roll and that roll will probably continue in the Dubai Duty Free. Asking her to start in a big race with none under her belt this year is a tall demand, but I think the shoe fits here. Dank’s competition will probably arise from Trade Storm who has ran four times this year, with her last time out being a victory in the Zabeel Mile at Meydan.
I am not sure what to make of Vercingetorix. The horse has had two wins, but had some assistance in the Jebel Hatta. I think this horse will hit the board, but might not have enough experience to win. Trainer Mike de Kock seems to think honestly of him. De Kock says, "As for Vercingetorix, we basically do not know how good he is; he is lazy at home and just does enough on the racecourse. He remains unbeaten and always looks like he will win easily, but then almost stops and waits for a challenge."
Dubai Golden Shaheen
Reynaldothewizard all the way. A favorite while running here in the states and doing very well abroad, I think Reynaldo is my sentimental pick, but is a definite play in this race. He is doing better than Krypton Factor (another sentimental pick), and Zee Bros from the USA, who I am not picking.
Probable Entrants for Dubai World Cup Card Released
There are 36 group I winners, including former American star Ron the Greek, among the fields taking shape for the eight Thoroughbred stakes on Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) card March 29. Three United States-based horses have shipped to Meydan Race Course to race on the $27 million card.
Sixteen horses are likely for the main event at Meydan, the $10 million World Cup, and 10 are group or grade I winners, including Ron the Greek. The three-time grade I winner is now racing in Saudi Arabia under the name of Wattani, for the sons of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
British-based globetrotter Red Cadeaux, who uncoiled a torrid late rally to take second behind United States-based Animal Kingdom in last year's World Cup, returns to take another crack at the world's richest race. Unlike last year, however, there are no American-based horses pointing to the 1 1/4-mile test on the synthetic Tapeta surface.
Overall, only three U.S.-based horses are listed among the remaining preliminary fields: West Point Thoroughbreds' multiple graded stakes winner Twilight Eclipse, trained by Tom Albertrani, is probable for the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I); Zayat Stables' listed stakes winner Zee Bros, trained by Seth Benzel, is aimed at the $2 million Dubai Gold Shaheen (UAE-I); and Stud Sampaio's grade III winner Berlino Di Tiger, a Brazilian champion currently racing at Gulfstream Park with Eduardo Caramori, is pointing for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-I).
For a full list of the fields, click here to download a PDF file.
Vercingetorix Keeps Unbeaten Record Intact W/ G1 Jebel Hatta Romp
Dubai Racing Club
Excellent Result lands Sheema Classic Prep for Godolphin
Meydan Racecourse’s Super Saturday dress rehearsal for Dubai World Cup night in three weeks concluded with the second Group 1 Thoroughbred contest of the evening, the 1800m Jebel Hatta and the Mike De Kock-trained Vercingetorix maintained his unbeaten record.
Winner of all his four starts in his native South Africa, De Kock’s charge made a winning local debut in a handicap over this 1800m turf course and distance, the same conditions as the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night.
Stable companion, Anaerobio made the running under Pat Cosgrave with Christophe Soumillon never far away on the eventual winner.
As the pair turned into the straight, Cosgrave’s mount drifted off the rail, with Soumillon steering his mount into the space. They hit the front going well but Cosgrave’s mount fought back, forcing Soumillon to resort to the whip.
It was only in the final 100m that victory was assured, with Anaerobio losing second close home to Vancouverite.
De Kock said: “He is a very useful horse but it is hard to know just how good because he only ever does enough. In all his races he has travelled really well and gone to the front easily before quickening.
“He then tends to stop and wait for some company – as Christophe discovered last time. It is great to win a Group 1 here with him and the Dubai Duty Free is the obvious target.
“He did not take the travel and quarantine well and we are delighted to have him back at his best.”
Soumillon and De Kock were completing a turf double, having earlier won the Meydan Sprint with Shea Shea.
Earlier, the Group 3 Dubai City Of Gold, over the same 2410m as the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night produced an Excellent Result for Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor with the horse of that name defeating stable companion, Songcraft in a driving finish.
Ridden by Kieren Fallon, Excellent Result led close home to deny Songcraft and William Buick by a head with Mount Athos just behind in third having perhaps been a bit unlucky with the gaps perhaps not appearing when his jockey, Jamie Spencer, would have liked.
A winner over 2810m on his previous start of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, Excellent Result was never going to be found out for stamina here and it was a hard fought effort from the winner.
Battle Of Marengo and Frankie Dettori set a modest early tempo before being swallowed up by numerous challengers 300m out. Meandre, Songcraft, Mount Athos and the eventual winner all held every chance 100m out.
Fallon said: “This fellow stays really well and his stamina has come to the fore. The early gallop was steady so I did not want to get too far back and we were lucky enough to get the breaks in the straight.
“He has the makings of a nice stayer but has the speed for this trip as well.”
Bin Suroor and Godolphin were completing a quick double having landed the proceeding Group 3 Burj Nahaar with Shuruq under Mickael Barzalona, while Fallon then partnered Bin Suroor’s Prince Bishop to win the Group 1 concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Vercingetorix lands the Dubai Duty Free prep race, the G1 Jebel Hatta under Christophe Soumillonm for trainer, Mike de Kock
Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins
Prince Bishop Snags Official Dubai World Cup Prep – G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3
Dubai Racing Club
Shuruq Becomes First Filly to Win Burj Nahar Trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor Claims Big-Race Treble
Rizaaq heads Purebred Arabian ranks in Dubai Kahayla Classic prep race
Saeed bin Suroor saddled Godolphin’s first Group 1 winner of 2014 when he landed the concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge for a tenth time with Prince Bishop in Super Saturday’s feature race.
In claiming the US$400,000 win, he emulated stable companion, Hunter’s Light who added victory in this 2000m all-weather Dubai World Cup trial to victory in the Group 2 1900m middle round of the series.
Ridden by Kieren Fallon, as he was four weeks ago in the middle round, Prince Bishop was settled in midfield before being asked for more as the runners swept for home.
The Satish Seemar-trained Surfer, third in this race last year, hit the front just over 300m out but was run out of it in the final 100m by Prince Bishop.
Sanshaawes, trained by South African Mike de Kock, ran on well to take second, with Surfer third in the race again.
A delighted Bin Suroor, completing a treble after the earlier victories of Shuruq in the Burj Nahaar and Excellent Result in the Dubai City Of Gold, said: “We have always really liked this horse and he seems to have improved this season. His win in the middle round was a good one but this was a better race and we are delighted with him.
“All being well, we will bring him back for the Dubai World Cup itself in three weeks.”
Bin Suroor has won this race with three subsequent Dubai World Cup winners – Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006).
The Group 1 third and final leg of the Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenge, also over 2000m on the all-weather, was won by the Majed Al Jahouri-trained Raaziq, produced to lead in the final strides by Frenchman, Olivier Peslier.
The pair headed the Erwan Charpy-trained Versac PY virtually on the line to maintain the trainer’s remarkable winning record in Group 1 races this season, and to continue a frustrating run of seconds in big races at Meydan Racecourse for Versac PY, owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Paul Hanagan tracked the pace on Versac PY with Peslier content to bide his time much further back in the field in a steadily run race.
Hanagan went for home about 500m out, with the pair shooting clear and the race looked over but Peslier sent his mount in pursuit and they snared Hanagan’s charge in the dying strides.
Al Jahouri trains the winner for HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayan, and has been responsible for the winners of every round of the Al Maktoum Challenge this season.
“We were very hopeful as we know he is a nice horse and has run well in both his previous UAE starts behind our very good horse, Rabbah De Carrere.
“That was a good performance and both this winner and Rabbah De Carrere will be here for the Kahayla Classic in three weeks, perhaps with one more.”
Peslier was a late jockey booking, replacing the suspended Silvestre De Sousa who also missed the winning ride on Godolphin’s Shuruq in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar. Mickael Barzalona was in the saddle for Bin Suroor and produced the filly to lead close home and deny favourite, Variety Club in the process.
The winner of last year’s UAE Oaks, Shuruq made history at the opening meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival when becoming the first filly to win the opening round of the Al Maktoum Challenge – over the same 1600m all-weather course and distance as this victory.
She is now the only filly to win the Burj Nahaar and is clearly a real favourite of Bin Suroor, who was winning this race for the fourth consecutive year.
The trainer said: “She is just a much better filly on this all-weather surface and all her best form has been here in Dubai at Meydan. We will bring her back in three weeks, probably for the Godolphin Mile.
Barzalona added: “She is a lovely filly and has beaten a very good horse there. I would think she would be a genuine Godolphin Mile contender.
“Silvestre De Sousa told me all about her and I have to thank him for his help.”
UAE Derby-Bound Asmar Breaks Maiden W/ $250,000 Al Bastakiya Win
Dubai Racing Club
Fawzi Nass Charge is Six-Length Winner of Three-year-Old Race Under Richard Hughes
The UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup day beckons for Asmar after his smooth victory in the Listed Al Bastakiya, the 1900m all-weather middle leg of the UAE Triple Crown.
Trained by Bahraini, Fawzi Nass and having only his fourth career start he was losing his maiden tag in the process under an excellent ride from dual UK Champion Jockey Richard Hughes.
For the first time in his fledgling career, Asmar broke out of the starting gates on terms with the field and Hughes was happy to settle him in midfield before. About 1400m out the jockey decided the early pace, set by Chord Chart, was not quick enough, and steered his mount to the front.
With about 700m to go, those chasing him were in trouble and Hughes sent his mount clear with fully 500m to go.
That proved decisive and the pair were never going to be caught, running out comfortable six-length winners from Emirates Flyer who ran on to take second with Najm Suhail, becoming another that stayed on far too late.
Nass, who owns and trains the winner, said: “That was a great performance but we knew he would relish this trip and it is a great effort to win a race like this with a maiden.
“We discussed the race in depth with Richard and the plan was to sit close to the pace and see how the race was panning out. If there was no speed we were happy to go on as the one thing we knew this horse would do was stay.
“It was a great ride and a wonderful result for a small yard. We will be back for the UAE Derby in three weeks but, obviously, that will be a stronger race.”
Asmar breaks his maiden tag with victory in the Al Bastakiya under a masterful ride from Richard Hughes
Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins
Shea Shea and Rich Tapestry Conquer Super Saturday Sprint Divisions
Dubai Racing Club
South Africa and Hong Kong Land Meyan Sprint and Mahab Al Shimaal
For the second year running, the Mike De Kock-trained Shea Shea won the Group 3 Meydan Sprint over the same 1000m turf course and distance while Hong Kong got onto the score board with the victory of Rich Tapestry in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal.
Shea Shea, the South African star sprinter will be defending his 2013 Al Quoz Sprint crown on Dubai World Cup day from a position of strength, after an ultra-confident performance in the official prep race, the Meydan Sprint.
The track record holder, having broken the existing mark in this race last year, before again lowering that time on Dubai World Cup night three weeks later, was initially held up well off the pace by an imperious Christophe Soumillon. At first the Belgian rider seemed keen to find cover before traversing the track to the nearside rail where Shea Shea was asked to quicken 300m out, responding well and hitting the front with about 200m to run.
The winning margin was only a head but he appeared to win a lot more comfortably than that would suggest, especially considering he was without a prep run this season.
De Kock said: “It was his first run since August and he should certainly improve for that run but we knew he was in good shape and fit enough to go very close.
“Christophe has given him a lovely ride and not been at all hard on him. Hopefully he is the one they have to beat back here in three weeks’ time.
“Waiting for Super Saturday was always the plan, followed by Dubai World Cup night and hopefully Royal Ascot in England.”
Soumillon, explaining his move across the track from stall six said: “He likes to follow the rail because he’s a horse who likes some cover. If he hits the front too soon or there’s no horse to follow then he can stop a bit.”
For 300m it appeared Reynaldothewizard would then repeat his victory of 12 months ago in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal, the 1200m all-weather trial for the Group1 Golden Shaheen.
Sent to the front at the top of the straight by Richard Mullen, the Satish Seemar-trained Reynaldothewizard opened up a gap on his rivals but could not withstand the challenge of Hong Kong’s Rich Tapestry.
Olivier Doleuze pulled the Michael Chang-trained runner out to challenge at the 200m pole, the pair soon leading and always holding the renewed challenge of Mullen’s mount.
A delighted Doleuze said: “A new surface is always a question mark but he is a very good sprinter and we have come here with him as there are no races in Hong Kong for him at the moment.
“The big advantage with this horse, apart from his speed, is he is so versatile tactically. I was happy to lead but then Gale Force Ten went to the front so I was just as happy behind him.
“I was always going well and he picked up in style. It is great to have another winner here in Dubai.”
Both Reynaldothewizard last year and the 2012 winner of this race, Krypton Factor, went on to win the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen over the same 1200m all-weather course and distance on Dubai World Cup night.
Shea Shea lands his second consecutive Meydan Sprint under a confident ride from Christophe Soumillon, for trainer, Mike de Kock
Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins
Rich Tapestry wins the Mahab Al Shimaal for Hong Kong trainer, Michael Chang and jockey, Olivier Doleuze
Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins
Three Group 1 Races Highlight US$1.8m Super Saturday Card Sponsored by Emirates
Dubai Racing Club
Vital Dubai World Cup Clues Available From Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3
Super Saturday has finally arrived at Meydan Racecourse, the second biggest meeting of the UAE season and the dress rehearsal for Dubai World Cup night in three weeks’ time.
All eight races that appear on the Emirates-sponsored card have a ‘mirror image’ race on Dubai World Cup, offering trainers a valuable opportunity to test their charges ahead of the world’s richest raceday.
The official feature is the Group 1 third and final round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, over the same 2000m all-weather course and distance as the $10million Dubai World Cup.
Fourteen have been declared, including the Saeed bin Suroor-trained pair of Prince Bishop and African Story, first and second respectively in the Group 2 middle round (1900m all-weather) of the Al Maktoum Challenge just over four weeks ago.
Bin Suroor has won this prestigious race on three occasions with subsequent Dubai World Cup winners and has landed nine Al Maktoum Challenge R3 races in total. The great Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006) have all won this race for Bin Suroor before going on to land the $10m race.
Kieren Fallon again rides Prince Bishop with William Buick replacing suspended stable jockey, Silvestre De Sousa, on African Story, winner of the Group 3 Burj Nahaar (160m all-weather) in each of the last two seasons on Super Saturday.
“Both are in good form and have come out of that race well,” said Saeed bin Suroor. “Prince Bishop looked better than ever winning that and I was really pleased with him. He has been working well since and Kieren Fallon gets on really well with him. “African Story needed that run a month ago and has improved a lot fitness-wise since. We think 2000m is his trip now and he loves the all-weather surface.
“Hopefully both will run well but it is a good race.”
Fellow Godolphin handler, Charlie Appleby, is saddling his first Super Saturday runners and relies on Cat O’Mountain in the feature. Ultra impressive when winning a 2200m all-weather handicap on his local debut, he then disappointed in a handicap over Saturday’s course and distance. Stable jockey, Mickael Barzalona rides.
“He was a disappointment last time but nothing really went right for him in the race so we will put a line through it and give him a chance to prove himself,” said Appleby.
“Obviously it is a big step up in class but hopefully he merits it.”
The Satish Seemar-trained Zambucca, third in the middle round of the three-race series when stable companion Surfer (third in this concluding round last year) was eighth, is one of three runners in the race for his trainer who also saddles Ottoman Empire.
South African, Mike De Kock, seeking a third victory in the race, saddles Alexandra Palace and Sanshaawes with stable jockey, Christophe Soumillon, on the latter, seeking a third consecutive Meydan Racecourse victory.
De Kock said: “They are both in good form but taking a big step up in grade. Hopefully they can at least be competitive in what is obviously a good race.”
Elleval, runner-up in last year’s UAE Derby, also won his most recent Meydan Racecourse outing and is another who seems to save his best for the all-weather. He is representing Ireland and trainer David Marnane who said: “It is very exciting to have runners at this meeting, especially Elleval in the big race of the night. He loves this all-weather surface and we were delighted with his win last time.
“To have a runner in the Dubai World Cup would be amazing and this is his chance to prove he merits a place in three weeks.
“We are really looking forward to it.
Joshua Tree, second to Opinion Poll in the Dubai Gold Cup, on World Cup night 2012, for Marco Botti, is now trained by Ed Dunlop and is another interesting contender. Winner of the Group 1 Canadian International in each of the last three seasons, he has also won in Ireland, England, France and Qatar.
Group 1 Jebel Hatta – 1800m, Turf Course
The second Thoroughbred Group 1 on the card is the Jebel Hatta, the final race on the card and over the same 1800m turf course and distance as the Dubai Duty Free.
Again 14 have been declared with South African, Mike De Kock, leading the way in terms of numbers, being responsible for four runners.
Stable jockey, Christophe Soumillon, partners Vercingetorix, winner of all five career starts to date, including a Group 1 in his native land and a course and distance handicap on his local debut.
Stable companion Anaerobio, the mount of Pat Cosgrave, is seeking a third 2014 Meydan Racecourse victory, while Mushreq, is another looking for a second Dubai World Cup Carnival win this year. He will be ridden by Paul Hanagan with Richard Hughes aboard the trainer’s fourth runner, Mars.
“It is great to have four horses good enough to contest this calibre of race,” said De Kock. “We think all four are capable of running well with Mushreq and Vercingetorix already course and distance winners. We were particularly pleased with Vercingetorix’s win as he did not travel well from South Africa through quarantine.
“The trip may stretch Anaerobio but he has been in good form and Mars has been improving in his work. We tried him on the all-weather but he should appreciate this return to turf.
“It is a good race, as you would expect, but hopefully all four can be competitive.”
De Kock has won the race on three previous occasions.
Godolphin trainer, Charlie Appleby introduces a fascinating new runner to the UAE in the shape of Vancouverite, previously with Andre Fabre in France and last seen when ninth in the Group 2 Prix Niel having previously won at Group 2 level.
Appleby said: “We hope he is a genuine Dubai Duty Free contender so this is the obvious spot for him. He is in good form at home, though not a flashy worker but has done everything we have asked of him.
“I am looking forward to getting him on the track.”
Fellow Godolphin handler, Saeed bin Suroor who has won the race four times, including last year with subsequent Dubai Duty Free winner Sajjhaa, relies on Quick Wit.
The trainer said: “He was a little disappointing last time but has been working very well and we are keen to give him a crack at a good race like this. Hopefully he will run well.”
Before winning this last year, Sajjhaa had won the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes over Saturday’s course and distance and this year’s impressive winner of that race, L’Amour De Ma Vie trained by French-based Swede, Pia Brandt, will try and emulate her.
Trade Storm, winner of last year’s Group 2 Zabeel Mile for David Simcock, was second in that same race this year and has to be feared, along with Australian Group 1 winner, Linton.
Other equine stars to look out for include Mount Athos, Heavy Metal, Penglai Pavilion, Battle of Marengo and Meandre, who clash in the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold over the same 2400m turf course and distance as the Dubai Sheema Classic.
With African Story, winner of the Group 3 Burj Nahaar (1600m, all-weather) taking his chance in the Al Maktoum Chalenge R3 III, all eyes will be on the Joey Ramsden-trained Variety Club in this year’s renewal.
The dual South African Horse Of The Year was impressive winning the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes on his local debut three weeks ago.
The Ernst Oertel-trained Capital Attraction, second in this last year, is among the opposition, as is this year’s Al Maktoum Challenge I heroine Shuruq, also winner of last year’s UAE Oaks, for Godolphin.
Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal, 1200m all-weather course
The Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal, over the same 1200m all-weather course and distance as the Dubai Golden Shaheen looks an absolute cracker with last year’s winner Reynaldothewizard again clashing with 2012 winner Krypton Factor (second in this last year).
Both went on to win the Golden Shaheen with Reynaldothewizard chased home on World Cup night last year by Balmont Mast (2nd) and Krypton Factor (3rd). Also in opposition again is United Color (5th).
Balmont Mast represents Ireland, as do Russian Soul and Jamesie.
Soft Falling Rain, winner of last year’s UAE 2000 Guineas and Godolphin Mile, is a fascinating contender for Mike De Kock.
The Mike De Kock-trained Shea Shea broke the 1000m turf track record in the Group 3 Meydan Sprint 12 months ago before again breaking the record in the Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night.
He will surely be hard to beat in this year’s Meydan Sprint.
The Listed Al Bastakiya, over the same 1900m all-weather course and distance as the UAE Derby, looks at the mercy of Emirates Flyer, second in the UAE 2000 Guineas for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor.
Ireland’s He’s No Saint looks the main danger.
Last year’s Kahaya Classic winner Al Mamun Monlau, a rare Purebred Arabian mount for Frankie Dettori, faces ten rivals in the Group 1 Purebred Arabian Chalenge III. These include Versac Py, runner-up in this race last year and Raaziq, representing the all conquering Majed Al Jahouri.
Prince Bishop was the winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge R2 is one of two carrying the hopes of Saeed bin Suroor in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3, the official Dubai World Cup dress rehearsal.
Credit: Dubai Racing Club//Andrew Watkins
Meydan: De Kock looks for big day on Dubai World Cup Super Saturday
Daily Racing Form
Huge fields – if not horses especially well known in North America – abound on the so-called Super Saturday card March 8 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.
The eight-race card, drawn Tuesday, includes preps for all the major races on the March 29 Dubai World Cup program and is headlined by the Group 1, $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, the final local stepping-stone to the $10 million Dubai World Cup.
The Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, contested at about 1 1/4 miles on Meydan’s Tapeta main track, rematches the top three finishers from the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2: Prince Bishop, African Story, and Zambucca. Also in the 14-horse field are Side Glance, who was seventh in the 2013 Dubai World Cup, and world traveler Joshua Tree, who last raced at Meydan in 2012.
Undefeated South African import Vercingetorix heads a field of 14 entered in the Group 1, $300,000 Jebel Hatta, a prep for the Dubai Duty Free, and could be part of a big night for trainer Mike de Kock. De Kock has three other runners in the Jebel Hatta as well as prominent former South Africans for the Mahab Al Shimaal (Soft Falling Rain), a prep for the Golden Shaheen, and the Meydan Sprint (Shea Shea), a prep for the Al Quoz Sprint.
Variety Club, a South African champion trained by Joey Ramsden, is the deserving favorite in the Burj Nahaar, the local prep for the Godolphin Mile.
Cavalryman Marches Into Dubai Gold Cup Reckoning With Stellar Nad al Sheba Trophy Victory
Dubai Racing Club
Godolphin Stayer Destroys Classy Field for Group 3 Victory
Godolphin’s Cavalryman will surely be hard to beat in the US$1m Dubai Gold Cup day on Saturday March 29 after bolting home by a five-length margin in the Group 3 Nad al Sheba Trophy at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
The Saeed bin Suroor-trained star who will be defending his 2013 crown on Dubai World Cup day is described as ‘better than ever” by his jockey, Silvestre de Sousa.
The 2810m turf contest, looked a very strong renewal on the Meydan Sobha sponsored card, with proven high-class stayers such as Simenon in the field. But Cavalryman and De Sousa were far too good, accelerating smoothly away from the chasing pack with minimum effort.
He was chased home by Star Empire, on whom Christophe Soumillon had switched to the nearside rail 500m out but they never looked like catching the winner.
The Gold Cup, a 3200m contest, has been elevated to Group 2 status this year.
De Sousa said: “We were very confident coming into the race as he had been working very well at home and we knew he was fit for this seasonal return. For a stayer he has a great turn of foot and he really quickened when I asked him.
“He stays the 3200m so hopefully will be a serious contender trying to win the Gold Cup again.”
Trainer and jockey were completing a double after landing the 1400m all-weather handicap with Free Wheeling.
There was drama at the start in when the strongly-fancied Tamarkuz appeared to trip as the gates opened, unseating his jockey, Paul Hanagan.
In the race itself, Godolphin’s Well Acquainted took them along at a decent gallop before crying off about 300m out while several of his rivals threw down a challenge.
At this point De Sousa swept past on the Bin Suroor-trained Free Wheeling, second in this race last year and who held on well to go one better this time.
Bin Suroor said: “He ran really well on this surface two starts ago and we were keen to get him back on the all-weather which he also works really well on. He quickened well to win that nicely.”
The opening 2000m all-weather handicap produced something of a surprise result with Samurai Sword, the only one of the six runners not to have previously won in the UAE, opening his local account at the sixth attempt.
He was one of two runners in the race for rookie trainer, Ahmad bin Harmash, who was saddling his eighth winner in an excellent first season. He was ridden by Mickael Barzalona.
With Paul Hanagan setting a very steady gallop on Tanfeeth, Barzalona held his mount up before the pair closed in rapid fashion about 300m out. They dashed up the rail to lead 200m and win comfortably.
Bin Harmash said: “He is a horse we have always really rated as he shows so much ability at home and has a really good turn of foot. We ran him in the Al Maktoum Challenge two starts ago and we really think he is at least Group 3 standard.”
For the second year running Kavanagh and Christophe Soumillon won the 1200m turf handicap for South African Mike De Kock.
It was a fourth 2014 Meydan Racecourse outing for the winner, but first under these conditions which clearly suit him well.
Settled in mid division by Soumillon, the pair made smooth progress to throw down the gauntlet to Dux Scholar who looked the likely winner when hitting the front 400m out.
Soumillon was at his strongest on the eventual winner finally, heading Dux Scholar in the very last strides to secure a narrow, and hard-fought victory.
Soumillon said: “He really travelled strongly to carry me into the race but the runner-up really battled hard and made it very tough. I thought we had just made it as my horse had his head down on the line. We thought a lot of him at the start of the season but were a little disappointed with him. I had to be quite strong on him at the end and it’s good to get a win with him.
“It is nice to see him back to form and he clearly likes this straight track.”
Trainer and jockey completed doubles with the victory of Sanshaawes in the finale, a 2000m turf handicap.
Runner-up in last year’s Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday, Capital Attraction bounced back to winning ways with a smooth success in a 1600m all-weather handicap, the same course and distance as his previous victory in January of last year.
Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea looked keen to lead but was then content to let the overly keen Energizer cut out the early running, settling his mount just in behind. Capital Attraction appeared to be caught flatfooted with about 600m to run but they hit the front 300m out and were always holding off the challenge of Disa Leader.
Significantly, Capital Attraction represents Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel, moving him to 29 winners for the season, just two behind Musabah Al Muhairi.
Oertel said: “He is such a nice, game horse and it is great to see him back to form. He is so tough and we might step him up in trip. We will be back next Saturday but will enter in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, as well as the Burj Nahaar.
“I would love to run him over 2000m at some stage but we will look at the enties before deciding.”
Cavalryman cruises home in the Group 3 Nad al Sheba Trophy
Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins
Godolphin’s Ihtimal Completes Classic Double With Easy 10-Length Oaks Romp
Dubai Racing Club
Mshawish Lands Zabeel Mile For First Delzangles Carnival Win
Godolphin’s Ihtimal (pictured left) became the fourth filly to win the UAE fillies’ Classic double when destroying seven rivals by a 10-length margin in the Group 3 UAE Oaks at Meydan Racecourse’s last night (Thursday).
Photo Credit: Mark Cranham, RacingPost.com
A Group 2 winner in England, where she was also third in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile, she had previously proved far too good for 10 rivals in the 1600m UAE 1000 Guineas three weeks ago, winning by just over three lengths. And she was even more impressive in winning the 1900m UAE Oaks, storming clear 300m out and passing the line ten lengths clear of seven toiling rivals.
The daughter of Shamardal is trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who was winning the race for a ninth time, and ridden by Silvestre De Sousa.
“That was very impressive. The pace was not very fast early on and she was a little bit keen but soon settled into a lovely rhythm.
“I did not want to get stuck in any traffic so was happy to be quite wide and she just took me to the front really travelling before quickening well,” he said. “It was a big win.”
Bin Suroor added: “She has always been a real favourite and we must think about the UAE Derby now.”
Bin Suroor’s 2011 UAE Oaks winner, Khawlah is the only filly to follow up in the UAE Derby.
Trainer and jockey completed a double a little later with the victory of Tha’Ir in the concluding 2200m all-weather handicap.
Frenchman Mikel Delzangles saddled his first UAE winner with the ultra smooth victory of Mshawish in the Group 2 Zabeel Mile, a 1600m turf contest. Given a canny ride by British Champion Jockey, Richard Hughes, Mshawish was settled in just behind Mustaheel who set a modest gallop out in front.
About 400m out, Hughes pulled his mount clear of the leader’s slipstream and the pair powered clear, opening up a clear advantage that the 2013 winner, Trade Storm running on under Jamie Spencer, could not breach.
Fourth in both the French Derby and St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Mshawish is clearly a classy performer, an opinion confirmed by Hughes who said: “His European form was there for everyone to see and that was a very good performance. The pace was slow so I was keen to make sure I was never far away and then we really quickened nicely. I was certainly impressed by him.”
Satish Seemar has enjoyed a good season and his string remain in top form, as highlighted by the easy victory of Gold City in the opening 1400m all-weather handicap. With stable jockey, Richard Mullen suspended, apprentice, Marc Monaghan was in the saddle and the pair pulled away 400m out to record an easy success and a first Dubai World Cup Carnival winner for the young jockey.
Monaghan said: “He ran very well last time and I was always going particularly well this evening. He quickened nicely at the 400m pole and then ran on strongly and it was pretty comfortable.
“It is great to ride a Carnival winner and the horses are in really good form.”
The Jeremy Gask-trained Medicean Man made it two wins in eight days when landing the 1200m all-weather handicap under Martin Lane. A winner last Thursday over 1000m on turf, a course and distance over which he also won last year, he was arguably more impressive this time.
Settled in rear by Lane, the pair made smooth progress to lead 200m out and won snugly. The last time Medicean Man won on an all-weather surface was in March 2010, when he beat subsequent Prix de L’Abbaye winner, Gilt Edge Girl.
Lane said: “I was delighted to be offered the ride and you have to be impressed with the way he did it. Everything went smoothly with a fast early pace really suiting him. As the leaders tired he has been able to run on strongly.”
Gask added “We will miss Super Saturday next week and wait for the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night, a race in which he was ninth last year.”
He was chased home by fellow UK raider Racy, trained by Brian Ellison and ridden by Silvestre de Sousa.
My Catch made it third-time lucky since joining Doug Watson when scoring in the Listed Meydan Classic, a 1400m turf race restricted to three-year-olds. Never far off the early pace set by stable companion, Make It Reel, Pat Dobbs eased the winner to the front 300m out and they ran on too strongly for the fast finishing Jallotta.
Dobbs said: “I was always pretty happy sitting in second and out of any possible trouble in behind. He took me to the front going really strongly and has then run all the way to the line.
“He has appreciated the return to the turf, though he ran very well first time on the all-weather and he was a Group 3 winner in France last season so the form was in the book.”
Watson added: “We will think about the Mahab Al Shimaal next Saturday but there is a race in Singapore that I would really like to aim him at as he is a decent turf sprinter.”
Trade Storm Back to Defend 2013 Group 2 Zabeel Mile Crown
Dubai Racing Club
Fillies In Group 3 Action on Oaks Day
The Group 2 Zabeel Mile, one of three black-type events on a six-race card this Thursday is the feature at Meydan’s eighth meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival and last year’s winner, Trade Storm, is back to defend his title, while Godolphin’s Ihtimal bids for a UAE 1000 Guineas – Oaks double.
The entire card, worth in excess of US$1m in prize money, is sponsored by Meydan Pillar Partner, The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.
Trained in England by David Simcock, he was very impressive winning this 1600m turf feature 12 months ago, having his third start of the campaign. This year he arrives in the starting gates with one run under his belt, when finishing tenth in the Group 2 Al Rashidiya over the longer trip of 1800m.
“He needed that first run badly,” explained Simcock. “He has come out of that in great form and is exactly where we want him to be weight wise. He improved an awful lot from his first run last season and we expect him to do so again.
“All being well, he will run a big race and then we will get him back out next week for Super Saturday.”
He faces seven rivals, including a trio trained by South African, Mike De Kock, who is seeking a fourth win in the race.
Mushreq, owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, won the Listed Singspiel Stakes on the opening night of the Carnival. He then found stable companion, Mujaarib too strong in the Al Rashidiya.
The owner’s retained jockey, Paul Hanagan, rides.
Stable companion, Anaerobio, also won on the first night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, in his case a 1400m handicap, before following up in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort – also over 1400m.
A close fifth in a handicap last week under Pat Cosgrave, he has Christophe Soumillon back in the saddle here with Cosgrave aboard stablemate, Gale Force Ten. Cosgrave’s mount, winner of the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot last year for Aidan O’Brien, he is having a third start for his new yard.
De Kock said: “All three are in good form at home and arrive here with chances in what appears an open contest. Anaerobio has the worst of the draw and may not quite be up to this challenge as he has to give weight away.
“Mushreq should certainly go well, while Gale Force Ten has improved with each run so far and should be spot on now. Hopefully all three will run big races.”
Gabrial was a first UAE winner for trainer Richard Fahey when winning a handicap on his penultimate start, having previously chased home Mushreq in the Singspiel Stakes.
When Anaerobio won the Al Fahidi Fort, he was chased home by Mshawish, representing French trainer, Mikel Delzangles. That horse is in opposition again with Richard Hughes replacing Frankie Dettori in the saddle.
Meanwhile, in the fillies ranks, Godolphin’s Ihtimal, winner of the UAE 1000 Guineas three weeks ago, will attempt to emulate Satin Kiss, Folk and Cocoa Beach by following up in the Group 3 UAE Oaks. She faces eight rivals in the 1900m all-weather contest, restricted to three-year-old fillies, all of whom finished behind her in the UAE 1000 Guineas.
She is trained by Saeed bin Suroor who has already saddled the winner of this race on eight occasions. “She is a very nice filly,” said the trainer. “Her form in England was very good and she switched that level of performance to the all-weather in the Guineas. Her work since has been good and I think the extra 300m will suit her. She should go very close.”
Again De Kock has three runners, arguably headed by Mensoora, runner-up to Ihtimal three weeks ago but the trainer sounds hopeful, rather than confident.
“Ihtimal has proven Group race form in Europe and obviously coped with the all-weather surface well in the Guineas. She is going to be very hard to beat but it is a horse race and anything can happen.
“Mensoora would be our main hope.”
Third in the UAE 1000 Guineas was Feedyah, trained by Charlie Appleby who said: “It was always the plan to go straight to the Guineas and then here. She has improved with that run behind her and the extra 300m will suit but Ihtimal is going to be hard to beat.”
Ten have been declared for the Meydan Classic, a 1400m Listed turf race for three-year-olds. The Pat Shanahan-trained Dolce N Karama was fourth in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy on the second of his three career starts. He was eighth in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial on his sole local outing, six weeks ago, but the return to turf should suit.
Winner of his only start in England, Wednaan made a very promising local debut when third in the UAE 2000 Guineas. He is trained by De Kock, as is Jallota, ninth in the same race and the trainer said: “Both our two are big runners and going very nicely in the mornings.
“Wednaan is the form choice but ignore Jallota at your peril – he has really improved over the last two weeks.”
Trade Storm was successful in the 2013 Group 2 Zabeel Mile and he returns to this Thursday defend his title
Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins
Twilight Eclipse Proves Best in Mac Diarmida
After tracking pacesetter Alpha
and Bingo Bango Bongo
from third, the 4-year-old Purim
gelding surged off the turn to get the lead and cruised to a one-length win over the late-running Amen Kitten
. He was timed in 2:15.18 from 1 3/8 miles on firm turf.
"I got a very good trip," winning rider Jose Lezcano said. "I got the position that I wanted behind the two horses with speed. I waited as long as I could and when I asked him he gave me a strong run."
Trainer Tom Albertrani was impressed with his runner's effort as the 7-5 choice in the field of nine older horses.
"Did you see when he came back?" he said. "He (Lezcano) couldn't pull him up. This horse, just never gets tired. The longer the better."
Twilight Eclipse has won six of 15 career starts with earnings of $712,786. Albertrani said the winner will be pointed to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) undercard March 29 at Meydan Racecourse. The Dubai Sheema Classic is run at 2,410 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) on turf.
"We were talking about going to Dubai with him. We got the invite to go, depending on the outcome today. I think that's what we're going to do," Albertrani said. "He seems like he's matured quite a bit. He's filled out some this year. Hopefully, we can have another big year ahead of ourselves."
Fourth in last year's edition of the Mac Diarmida, Twilight Eclipse rebounded to set a world record time of 2:22.63 for 1 1/2 miles in the Pan American Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream. The bay gelding was making his season debut in the Mac Diarmida following a wire-to-wire seven-length romp in the off-the-turf W. L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 28 at Calder Casino & Race Course
. He also won the 2012 McKnight.
Making his turf debut, former classics starter Alpha took the lead soon after the start and set easy fractions of :25.43, :49.85, 1:15.79 and 1:40.18 through a mile, with Twilight Eclipse tracking in a good rhythm.
"We were thinking Alpha might go and we knew (Bingo Bango Bongo) might kind of put a little pressure on him. We were in a good spot," Albertrani said.
Twilight Eclipse paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.40 while keying a $28.50 exacta with Amen Kitten, who paid $5.20 and $3.40. Biding his time in fourth throughout, Slumber
gained late to finish third, a neck behind Amen Kitten, paying $2.80.
Spent from his front-running efforts, 2012 Travers (gr. I) and Woodward Stakes (Gr. I) winner Alpha finished fifth, 1 1/2 lengths behind fourth-place finisher Suntracer
. Mucho Mas Macho
, Bingo Bango Bongo, Cozy Kitten
, and Dashing David
completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Epona Thoroughbreds. John Langemeier purchased Twilight Eclipse out of the Select Sales consignment at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale for the bargain price of $1,000. An earner of 712,786, he is out of the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer.
Twilight Eclipse raced in honor of the eight Thoroughbreds killed in a barn fire Feb. 9 in Georgetown, Ky. The horses belonged to Langemeier and Clara Fenger, from whom West Point Thoroughbreds acquired Twilight Eclipse in June 2012.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/83376/twilight-eclipse-proves-best-in-mac-diarmida#ixzz2tzqsjaA1
L’Amour De Ma Vie Wins the Group 2 Balanchine to Lead a Bevy of International Wins at Meydan
Dubai Racing Club
There was a truly international flavour to Thursday’s seventh meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival with Europe dominating proceedings, highlighted by the victory of L’Amour De Ma Vie in the featured Group 2 Balanchine Stakes.
Trained by Mme Pia Brandt, she had finished second on her local debut, behind Certify in the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes three weeks ago but, with that rival disappointing, she opened her UAE account in style.
It was also a first local winner for her jockey, Maxime Guyon, who took her to the head of affairs 400m out with the pair soon opening up what, it transpired, was an unassailable lead.
A delighted Guyon said: “I am so pleased to ride my first Dubai winner in such a big race and she really deserved that win after a brave effort in defeat last time. She quickened well and ran all the way to the line.
“I think she is improving.”
The only winner not representing a trainer from Europe was Tasaday, winner of the inaugural running of the Listed Dubai Millennium Stakes, over 2000m on turf. This went to Godolphin handler Saeed bin Suroor and his stable jockey, Silvestre De Sousa.
As was the case in several races, the winner was never far off a steady gallop before quickening clear early in the straight. She hung on well to the delight of De Sousa who said: “She is a very nice filly who ran well enough first time, three weeks ago but had certainly improved for the run.
“She has a touch of class and a nice turn of foot – both have proved crucial and it is great to win a race named after a true Godolphin legend.”
Racing opened with a 1400m turf handicap which went to Ireland, courtesy of Eastern Rules, recording a fourth 2014 Dubai World Carnival Cup victory for trainer Mick Halford and jockey Shane Foley.
A winner over 1400m on the all-weather two weeks ago, Foley’s mount picked up well from the rear to lead 200m from home and won nicely.
Foley said: “That is the fourth week running we have had a winner and it has been a great run. He won well last time but this was a better race and he is probably better on the turf.
“Hopefully we can continue in this kind of form.”
Norway were next, landing the following 1600m all-weather handicap with Avon Pearl, a first UAE winner for trainer Rune Haugen who was saddling his fifth runner locally.
Settled well off the pace by Pat Dobbs, the winner made smooth progress 400m out, tracking the leaders 200m from home before surging to the front and winning in style.
Dobbs said: “The fast gallop really helped us and turning for home I was travelling really well and just hoping for a bit of luck in running. Fortunately the gaps appeared and he won well.”
International domination of the card continued with the hard fought victory of the UK raider Medicean Man, trained by Jeremy Gask, in the 1000m turf handicap. A course and distance winner at last year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival, he was ridden here, as he was when winning then, by Harry Bentley.
The jockey said: “They did not go as fast as you would have expected but it is not an issue with this horse because he settles so well. I was happy tracking the speed and I know he quickens.
“Once we hit the front he has had to battle with the runner-up getting to our girths but he then responded again. He loves a battle!
Ireland were back in the winner’s enclosure after Elleval, runner-up in last year’s UAE Derby, won the 2000m all-weather handicap, ridden by Fergal Lynch for trainer David Marnane.
The pair were combining to record their third win of this year’s Carnival.
A frantic early gallop persuaded Lynch to set his mount in mid-division, on the rail, before asking him to close 400m out. When a gap opened 300m from home, they shot through it, running on strongly to deny Start Right.
Lynch said: “They went so quickly that I was happy to settle him in and give him a breather down the far side. He then quickened really nicely to record a good victory in what had appeared a hot handicap.
“Hopefully he is still improving.”
Variety Club Romps to Easy Group 3 Victory in the Firebreak Stakes
Dubai Racing Club
Long John Makes Short Work of UAE 2000 Guineas Field on Night Full of World Cup Clues
On a Dubai World Cup Carnival night that featured three Group 3 contests, Australian galloper Long John and dual South African Horse of the Year, Variety Club emerged as serious Dubai World Cup day contenders..
With just seven weeks until the world’s richest day of racing, trainers are beginning to lay down markers as to the likely port of call for their charges on Saturday March 29.
South African jockey, Anton Marcus was last seen in Dubai when he won the 2008 Dubai Duty Free on Jay Peg and he also made his second visit count last night, when partnering Variety Club to an impressive victory in the Group 3 US$200,000 Firebreak Stakes over 1600m of the all-weather track for trainer, Joey Ramsden.
Grp 3 Firebreak Stakes winner, the two-time South African Horse of the Year, Variety Club has been earmarked for a possible tilt at the Dubai World Cup
Credit: Dubai Racing Club//Andrew Watkins
Marcus can fully expect to be in action on another Dubai World Cup night following the eye-catching performance of his mount.
“This is great for me and South African racing and it’s a relief as well,” he said. “He is a superstar at home and well done to connections for bringing him here. There was a vision for this horse and it’s fantastic that the first leg of this plan has come to fruition.
“Hopefully he will turn out to be a serious Dubai World Cup horse – though we could always go back to turf if need be. He is versatile, classy and has a big heart.”
Trainer Joey Ramsden, saddling his first UAE runner, was present to greet his winner who quickened away from his field early in the straight and was in control from a long way out – posting a fast time in the process.
Last week it was Godolphin’s Ihtimal, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, in the UAE 1000 Guineas, this week it was the Charlie Appleby-trained Long John who impressed with Classic victory, easily winning the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas, over 1600m on the all-weather.
Winner of the 2013 Group 1 Caulfield Guineas in his native Australia, Long John stormed clear 500m out under Mickael Barzalona, who was winning the race for the third time in four years.
The gelding showed an impressive burst of speed, making short work of the rest of the field and a clearly impressed Barzalona said: “I was happy to commit for home as this horse will certainly stay further and he has proved himself a Group 1 horse in Australia.
“We were hopeful but I do not think we expected a win quite like that.”
The 1200m Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint was dominated by Irish connections, with the Mick Halford-trained Russian Soul hanging on grimly under the urgings of Shane Foley to deny Jamesie, trained by compatriot David Marnane. It was a third consecutive week that Halford and Foley have enjoyed Dubai World Cup Carnival success.
“It has just been brilliant and all ours have run well but improved for their first run, as has this fellow. He loves the all-weather and travels so strongly,” said Foley.
“All being well he will be back on Super Saturday and then Dubai World Cup night – be it on the turf or the all-weather.”
The concluding 2435m turf handicap went to Godolphin’s Songcraft, trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by Silvestre De Sousa.
The opening all-weather handicap, over the same 2000m as the Dubai World Cup, was won smoothly by the Mike De Kock-trained Sanshaawes, opening his local account at the second attempt.
Having his first race on the all-weather, he travelled well under Christophe Soumillon and the pair hit the front 300m out, running on far too strongly for their 13 rivals.
Soumillon explained: “We knew that if he handled the surface as well as he does in training he would be hard to beat and he has really enjoyed it.
“Hopefully he can go on from this.”
Trainer and jockey completed a handicap double with Vercingetorix maintaining his unbeaten record in the 1800m turf handicap. Soumillon was happy to bide his time in mid division, before making smooth progress 600m out taking his mount to the front almost 400m out.
They ran on strongly to make it five wins from five starts and Soumillon said: “He is a lazy work horse so I was not really sure what to expect on this his local debut. I was impressed with him and I would guess he will be a Dubai Duty Free contender.”
Prince Bishop & Ihtimar Land Al Maktoum Challenge R2 & UAE 1000 Guineas For Bin Suroor
Dubai Racing Club
Triple-Winning Trainer Claims Both Dubai World Cup Carnival Features at Meydan
Godolphin trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, was the man to follow at Meydan’s fifth meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival on Thursday, winning both Thoroughbred features, highlighted by Prince Bishop’s victory in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2.
A tenth winner in the 1900m race for the trainer, Kieren Fallon rode Prince Bishop who was chased home on Meydan’s all-weather track by fast-finishing stable companion, African Story, the mount of Silvestre De Sousa.
Fallon, who won on Prince Bishop in England last year, sent his mount for home about 600m out and the pair hung on well from the closing African Story, breaking the track record in the process.
Fallon said: “I like this horse and I think he has more to offer. I really thought I went for home too soon and he was getting a bit tired and a bit lonely but luckily we hit the line in time.
“It was a good performance and a great result for the yard.”
Earlier Bin Suroor won the UAE 1000 Guineas for a seventh time after the ultra smooth victory of Ihtimal under De Sousa. Drawn one, De Sousa settled the filly in midfield before asking her to close as the runners swept for home.
She eased into contention before sweeping past toiling rivals to win easily.
Winner of last year’s Group 2 May Hill Stakes before an excellent third in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile, De Sousa was impressed.
“She has a bit of class and her only defeats have been behind very good fillies. She was a bit keen early on but I was always happy.
“When I asked her to win her race she did so in a matter of strides. You have to be impressed.”
Godolphin, Bin Suroor and triple-winning De Sousa also enjoyed an Excellent Result in the 2810m turf handicap when the horse of that name led close home to deny Star Empire, winner of the race last year.
De Sousa said: “They went very slowly which did not really help me as I had to get him settled but he certainly finished well and I was confident of getting there close home.”
Ihtimal’s win completed a big race double for De Sousa after the 2200m Group 1 Purebred Arabian version of the Al Maktoum Challenge R2, also on the all-weather, went to the Majed Al Jahouri-trained, Rabbah De Carrere.
The jockey said: “I was pretty confident before the race and he travelled really well. I went to the front going strongly and he quickened away nicely.
“He stays well but also has a turn of foot.”
Irish trainer, Michael Halford and jockey, Shane Foley doubled their tally for the campaign with the victory of Eastern Rules in the 1400m all-weather handicap. A good third on his local debut last week, he was produced to lead about 200m this time and held on grimly.
Foley said: “That was a great run last week and all ours have been running well. That was a good effort in an ultra competitive handicap.”
Fellow Irishmen, David Marnane and Fergal Lynch then repeated the dose, with He’s No Saint providing their second 2014 Meydan Racecourse winner in the 1400m Meydan Classic Trial, over 1400m on turf.
The pair won the same contest last year with Elleval, subsequently second in the UAE Derby and both horses are owned by Damien Lavelle.
Lynch said: “This has been the plan all along and he was impressive. I was really travelling well on him but had to wait for a gap – when it opened he quickened nicely.”
Racing concluded with a 1600m turf handicap and William Buick produced UK raider, Mont Ras to lead close home and provide trainer, David O’Meara with a first UAE winner.
Buick explained: “This was his third run here at Meydan but first on turf and he has really appreciated the switch of surface. I am delighted for everyone as there is a great bunch of owners here with the horse.”
King of the World: Animal Kingdom claims the Cup for USA
By Michele MacDonald/Dubai Racing Club
With effortless looking but ground devouring strides, Animal Kingdom crushed his competition in the 18th running of the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 30 while staking claim to the title of Horse of the World.
Now owned in partnership by Australia’s Arrowfield Stud and the Team Valor International racing partnership based in the United States, Animal Kingdom stunned even his owners with his remarkable victory by two lengths over late running Red Cadeaux in the world’s richest race at Meydan.
“That was shocking,” exclaimed Team Valor Chief Executive Officer Barry Irwin. “I thought he could win but I didn’t think he could win like that. He proved that not only is he a top horse, but that he is one of the top horses in the world.”
“It’s unbelievable,” said a beaming jockey Joel Rosario, who waved his whip to cheers and applause as Animal Kingdom strode into the winner’s circle. “He’s a very good horse; he’s very quick.”
Rosario steered Animal Kingdom to loom outside two-time American champion filly Royal Delta, who had set fractions of :26.59, :50.02 and 1:13.63 under Mike Smith, before they swooped to the lead coming out of the far turn. In just a few steps, Animal Kingdom opened up several lengths—and the race was over.
Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) off a stakes victory on the synthetic Turfway Park track, crossed the finish line in 2:03.21 for the 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles), earning $6 million for his efforts. Trained by English-born Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom now has a career record of five wins in 11 starts with earnings of $8,387,500.
The victory by the five-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux marked the first by an American-based and –trained runner in the Dubai World Cup since Meydan opened with an all-weather surface in 2010, replacing the dirt track at the old Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on which American runners frequently prevailed.
Red Cadeaux unleashed a strong rally from ninth after 1600 meters (about a mile) to gain the runner-up prize. “This horse never ceases to amaze me. To run second in the Dubai World Cup and get within two lengths of Animal Kingdom, I’ve got to be happy with that,” said jockey Gerald Mosse.
Planteur, recently acquired by Qatar’s Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, finished third, 4 3/4 lengths behind Red Cadeaux. “He was third last year, third this year. I was happy enough with his run,” said jockey Ryan Moore.
The remaining order of finish was Side Glance, African Story, Meandre, Hunter’s Light, Treasure Beach, Kassiano, Royal Delta, Dullahan and Capponi.
Godolphin’s Hunter’s Light, the early favorite in the race off his victory in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (G1) at Meydan on March 9, raced in second early but could not keep up in the latter stages.
“He had every chance. He just wasn’t good enough at this level,” said jockey Silvestre de Sousa.
Royal Delta “just didn’t seem to care for it,” Smith said of his mount’s performance on the track surface. “Every time she had to pick it up, she struggled.”
Animal Kingdom’s win was the ninth in the Dubai World Cup by an American-based horse out of the 18 runnings. The earlier winners were Cigar, Silver Charm, Captain Steve, Pleasantly Perfect, Roses in May, Invasor, Curlin and Well Armed.
Dubai World Cup History Could be Rewritten
By Michele MacDonald
With more than 40 Grade/Group 1 winners set to race, the 18th Dubai World Cup (G1) program on March 30 undoubtedly will be memorable—and could easily rise to the level of historic.
Besilu Stables’ champion Royal Delta seeks to become the first filly or mare to ever win the world’s richest race as she goes to post for the $10 million World Cup with Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the saddle. A victory by Royal Delta, or Animal Kingdom or Dullahan, would give the United States a further record of nine winners, three more than second-placed United Arab Emirates, home to Godolphin.
Royal Delta's trainer Bill Mott also would become notable as the trainer of the first horse to win the Cup, Cigar in 1996, and of the first female winner.
One of a dozen runners that will try to stop Royal Delta is Godolphin’s Monterosso, who also would make history with a victory as he would become the first horse to repeat as a winner. The son of Dubawi captured last year’s World Cup with a dramatic stretch run following a third-place finish in 2011; Mickael Barzalona is back in the irons for the third time.
First post for the World Cup program is at 9:10 a.m. EDT, with the World Cup slated to be run at 2:05 p.m. EDT.
In contrast to Barzalona, who was the youngest jockey to win the World Cup at age 20, Gary Stevens would become the oldest rider to win if he steers home Dullahan. Stevens, 50, also would equal Dullahan’s trainer, Dale Romans, with two Cup triumphs, as the jockey rode Silver Charm in his narrow 1998 win while Romans saddled Roses in May in 2005.
Last year’s Eclipse Award winner as America’s outstanding trainer, Romans has a chance to become the first American trainer to win two races on the $27 million World Cup program. He also sends out multiple Grade 1 winner Little Mike in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) after boldly becoming the first American trainer to send his runners to Dubai for Super Saturday prep races run on March 9.
Meanwhile, Little Mike would make his own history as America’s first winner of a turf race on the World Cup program. European-based runners have won most of the turf events, but runners raced in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and South Africa also have been victorious.
The aforementioned Silver Charm currently is in the record books as the only Kentucky Derby (G1) winner to prevail in the Dubai World Cup, but that will change if Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Derby victor and American champion three-year-old male, is in front at the finish line.
This year’s World Cup program will be the first in history to yield a Derby winner if either He’s Had Enough or Dice Flavor emerge from $2 million UAE Derby (G2) with enough qualifying points to enter the Run for the Roses and then prove victorious in Louisville.
Master of Hounds has the best record in both Derbys, finishing second by a nose to Khawlah in Dubai in 2011 and then fifth behind Animal Kingdom while running for Coolmore. Now raced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Master of Hounds will be back in action on this year’s Dubai World Cup program as one of 16 runners in the Godolphin Mile (G2) after finishing eighth in the 2012 World Cup.
Hunter’s Light, Royal Delta Favored in Dubai World Cup
By Michele MacDonald
Godolphin’s Hunter’s Light, strong winner of his last three starts including the Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (G1) at Meydan on March 9, is the early 7-2 favorite in Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) following Wednesday’s post position draw.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor chose post four for Hunter’s Light in a selection process in which the names of the 13 horses in the field were chosen randomly and then the connections opted for stalls in the starting gate. Bin Suroor got the sixth choice in the field.
“He is a horse who is improving and a tough performer. He will be there at the end because he has a big heart,” bin Suroor said of Hunter’s Light, a five-year-old son of Dubawi. “A mile and a quarter is the best trip for him, and he has pleased me in the run-up to this race—his biggest test. He really likes this track.”
American Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, given the third choice, selected post eight for Besilu Stables’ two-time champion Royal Delta, who is bidding to make history as the first female winner of the world’s richest race. The daughter of Empire Maker is the second choice on the morning line at 4-1.
“We wanted to be somewhere in the middle to give the mare a chance to break well and settle. The rest is up to (jockey) Mike Smith,” said a delighted Mott, who won the inaugural World Cup in 1996 with Cigar, who started from post eight.
Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Animal Kingdom’s connections were not as lucky; with the next-to-last choice, they got post 12 but are rated a close third choice at 5-1.
“It’s not what I would have chosen,” said trainer Graham Motion while adding that he was more concerned about being on the inside. “Hopefully (jockey) Joel Rosario will have him in a good spot. Our tactics won’t change and he’s capable of coming from off of (the pace) if he has to. After all, we won the Derby from post 16.”
The other American entrant, Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, will start just to the inside of Hunter’s Light from post three and is the early fourth choice at 6-1.
“Post three is all right—it’s a good spot,” said trainer Dale Romans. “We’d rather not be outside. He’ll probably settle and come running. (Jockey) Gary Stevens and I will study the race and come up with a strategy.”
Also likely to be plotting strategy is the Godolphin camp since there are five runners in the race that will be carrying the stable’s royal blue silks. Ironically, last year’s winner Monterosso and runner-up Capponi both are listed at 20-1 in the field and will start from posts ten and five, respectively.
In addition to that pair and Hunter’s Light, the stable has entered 2012 Godolphin Mile (G2) winner African Story (10-1 from post 11) and 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival star Kassiano (12-1 from the outside post).
Large, competitive fields are the order of Dubai World Cup day. In the other races:
· Japan’s reigning Horse of the Year Gentildonna, last year’s Filly Triple Crown winner, is the strong 9-5 favorite in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) over 2410 meters (about 1 ½ miles) on turf. She will be making her first start since winning the Japan Cup (G1) in November and her main competition is expected to come from Coolmore’s 5-2 St Nicholas Abbey, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner who finished second in last year’s Sheema Classic.
· Priscilla Vaccarezza’s Little Mike, a three-time Grade 1 winner last year who capped his season by taking the Breeders’ Cup Turf, is the 3-1 morning line choice in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) over 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on grass. Trainer Dale Romans said the game and speedy Little Mike will be sent to the lead; from there he will have to fend off 9-2 Ocean Park, last year’s Cox Plate (G1) winner in Australia, and Godolphin’s course record-setting mare Sajjhaa.
· Sherry Parbhoo’s American champion sprinter Trinniberg takes on a dozen rivals as the 5-2 early favorite in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) at 1200 meters (about six furlongs) on the all-weather track. Defending champion Krypton Factor, 8-1, will try to run down Trinniberg but Godolphin’s Australian Group 1 winner Mental is given the better chance at 7-2.
· Two American speedsters, 6-1 Varsity and 8-1 Great Attack, are entered in field of 14 for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) over 1000 meters (about five furlongs) on turf. South African Group 1 winner Shea Shea, another course record setter, is the early choice at 5-2, with last year’s runner-up Sole Power at 5-1.
· Godolphin’s UAE classic winner Secret Number, a son of Raven’s Pass, heads the $2 million UAE Derby over 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the all-weather track at 3-1 over 11 rivals. Reddam Racing’s He’s Had Enough, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), will run for qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby (G1) while starting from the outside post at 8-1 on the morning line.
· Coolmore’s French Group 1 winner Imperial Monarch is rated a 3-1 chance in the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) over 3200 meters (about two miles) on turf as he tries the distance for the initial time in his first start since October. Godolphin’s Cavalryman, a close third in the Dubai City of Gold (G2) on March 9, is given the best shot of the other nine runners at 7-2.
· Lightly raced South African-bred Group 1 winner Soft Falling Rain, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) in February, will challenge older rivals as the 4-1 early favorite in a competitive, 16-runner edition of the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2). Last year’s Travers Stakes (G1) winner Alpha, who did not impress in a previous effort on the all-weather track in Dubai, is rated 15-1 from the rail.
Hunter’s Light Brilliant in Landmark Maktoum Challenge Win
By Michele MacDonald
The Dubai World Cup Carnival’s rich Super Saturday program is designed to prepare horses for the globe’s most valuable day of racing and to provide fans a sharp view as to which could be the best on the Dubai World Cup (G1) card.
Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Godolphin’s Hunter’s Light stamped himself as the clear favorite for the $10 million World Cup on March 30 when he turned back a dozen challengers—including Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Little Mike and 2012 World Cup winner Monterosso—for a convincing win in the $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (G1).
The victory at Meydan on March 9 also gave Godolphin its landmark 200th Group/Grade 1 triumph, which was followed quickly by No. 201 when Sajjhaa won the concluding Super Saturday race, the $300,000 Jebel Hatta (G1), to become a strong contender for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1).
“He’s a great horse. He’s done nothing wrong and he’s just improving and improving,” exulted jockey Silvestre De Sousa after piloting Hunter’s Light, who gave the Brazilian-born rider his first European Group 1 win in the Prix Roma (G1) in November and now has provided him with his first Dubai Group 1 win as well.
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite following a similarly powerful romp in the Maktoum Challenge Round II (G2) on February 7, Hunter’s Light seems to relish the all-weather track at Meydan and has been sailing on an upward curve since August, when he won the Rose of Lancaster Stakes (G3) at Haydock. The five-year-old has won three of his four starts since then and finished second in the Prix Dollar (G2) to France’s Horse of the Year Cirrus des Aigles, winner of the 2012 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup day.
“It’s a fantastic result for the whole team,” said trainer Saeed bin Suroor after leading Hunter’s Light to the winner’s circle and celebrating the stable's 200th Group/Grade 1 victory. “Hunter’s Light won really well and he deserved another big race like this. Now we can look to run him in the Dubai World Cup.”
“He is thriving here and is going to run a really big race in the Dubai World Cup,” added Godolphin Racing Manager Simon Crisford. “It depends on what else is going to turn up (from possible international runners), but, if he is running against the same horses as tonight, I would fancy him to win.”
In another significant feat, bin Suroor swept the first three places in the Maktoum Challenge, as his trainees Kassiano, 5-1, and Prince Bishop, third in the race last year but dismissed at 22-1, took home the second- and third-place prizes with genuine performances.
Little Mike broke well from the rail in the Maktoum Challenge with Kieren Fallon in the irons but let 2012 UAE Derby (G2) winner Daddy Long Legs speed to the front, rating just off his fractions of :25.70 and :49.90 as Hunter’s Light bided his time in fifth.
When Daddy Long Legs came off the rail on the far turn, Little Mike grabbed the lead, but he was overcome first by Surfer and then by Prince Bishop as Hunter’s Light rallied with smooth strides on the outside to ultimately prevail by 2 ¾ lengths. Making his first start on an all-weather track after arriving at Meydan eight days before the race, Little Mike finished eighth with Monterosso, who was making his first start since July, ninth.
Monterosso’s trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni said: “The main thing today with ‘Monty’ was to have a run and then see after that. We will see how he is over the next two days and hopefully we can get him ready for the Dubai World Cup.”
Both Hunter’s Light and Monterosso are by Dubawi, a son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s beloved but ill-fated Dubai Millennium, who won the 2000 Maktoum Challenge Round III and Dubai World Cup but succumbed to grass sickness after completing only one partial season at stud. Prince Bishop also is by Dubawi and could also start in the World Cup, as he did last year when seventh.
Hunter’s Light is Godolphin's 12th winner of the Maktoum Challenge Round III. Three of those winners—Street Cry in 2002 and Electrocutionist in 2006 in addition to Dubai Millennium—went on to win the World Cup. Last year’s Round III winner, Godolphin’s Capponi, finished second to Monterosso in the big race.
Sajjhaa Sinks Jebel Hatta Rivals With Stretch Rally
By Michele MacDonald
Going into the $300,000 Jebel Hatta (G1), trainer Mike de Kock seemingly was so loaded that he could afford to use last year’s winner of the race, Master of Hounds, as a pacemaker for his other Group 1 winners, highly regarded mare Igugu and The Apache.
But when the turf event had reached its conclusion, neither de Kock’s runners nor any others in the field of ten could keep up with Godolphin’s Sajjhaa, who barreled through the pack to nab her third consecutive Dubai World Cup Carnival stakes victory—and the first Group 1 triumph of her career.
“Sajjhaa deserved to win a Group 1 race and I was delighted with her tonight,” said trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who also celebrated three other victories on the Super Saturday program. “She has been running very well at Meydan so far this year.”
Sajjhaa will advance on to the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1), run on the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program over the same course and distance as the 1800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) Jebel Hatta, bin Suroor said. Jockey William Buick, who was riding the six-year-old King’s Best mare for the first time, is looking forward to the occasion.
“She picked it up really good when I asked her to. She could be a good horse for the Duty Free,” Buick declared.
Sent off at 7-1 against male rivals and the 6-5 favorite Igugu, a six-year-old daughter of Galileo who reigns as South Africa’s Horse of the Year, Sajjhaa already had shown she was superior to members of her own gender in Dubai by winning the Cape Verdi (G2) and Balanchine (G2) at 1600 meters (about a mile) and 1800 meters, respectively. Igugu had finished third in the Balanchine after setting rapid early fractions.
During her mostly European-based career, Sajjhaa has butted heads with the likes of champions Snow Fairy and Midday and has held her own. She finished second in the Middleton Stakes (G2) last May at York to multiple Group 1 winner Izzi Top and in front of third-placed I’m A Dreamer, who went on to win the Beverly D. Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park.
Sajjhaa crossed the Jebel Hatta finish line in 1:48.96, not far off the course record of 1:48.58 she set in the Balanchine.
The Apache and Godolphin’s City Style, who both gained short-lived leads in the stretch, finished second and third, with Master of Hounds fifth and Igugu sixth.
Sajjhaa’s record now stands at seven wins in 16 starts with four seconds, and she improved her earnings to $665,292.
African Story Wins Burj Nahaar as Poor Start Compromises Dullahan
By Michele MacDonald
The starting gate had barely sprung open when the chances of Donegal Racing’s multiple American Grade 1 winner Dullahan began to vanish in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (G3), his Super Saturday prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 30.
After jumping around in the gate, the strapping chestnut colt missed the break and jockey Kieren Fallon had to scramble to get Dullahan in contention early, which is not his typical running style. Since they had come out of post two in the 14-horse field, they got locked down on the rail, and while Dullahan ranged up to be fifth down the backstretch, he began to retreat from his efforts coming out of the far turn.
So, instead of an American runner breaking through for the first time in history on Super Saturday, Godolphin Racing’s African Story made a little history of his own, thundering up the rail to become the first back-to-back winner of the Burj Nahaar over 1600 meters (about one mile) on the all-weather track. But whether he will try to repeat his victory in the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) over course and distance on World Cup day is unclear; his connections may have bigger plans for the six-year-old Pivotal gelding.
“We will keep our options open now whether to run him in the Godolphin Mile or the Dubai World Cup,” said trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
While Dullahan, a three-time Grade 1 winner on synthetic tracks, was sent off the 5-2 favorite, he had never won at a mile, whereas African Story is a horse for the Meydan course and distance, having scored his major career wins in last year’s stakes. The early pace set by Royal Ridge and Capital Attraction, with a first 400 meters in :25.60, was relatively fast for Meydan and helped 3-1 African Story.
“He liked the strong pace tonight—I was confident after the first couple of furlongs—and Mickael Barzalona gave him a good ride,” bin Suroor said after Barzalona had steered to the rail after rounding the far turn in the middle of the pack. He pounced on Capital Attraction and cruised home in 1:36.89, nearly a full second off his winning time in 2012.
Capital Attraction, dismissed at 75-1, hung on well for second, 2 ¼ lengths back and 1 ¾ lengths in front of Godolphin’s 4-1 Moonwalk in Paris. Unbridled Ocean, who runs for champion Royal Delta’s owner, Besilu Stables, finished sixth following a winning handicap effort on February 21, and Dullahan faded to 11th.
With Dullahan in the field, the Burj Nahaar was a focal point of the Super Saturday program after the Group 1 races, the Al Maktoum Challenge Round III and Jebel Hatta, both of which were won by bin Suroor-saddled runners, Hunter’s Light and Sajjhaa, as the trainer succeeded in four of the seven program stakes.
In the $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (G2), global galloper Jakkalberry rallied from just behind a pace announcer Terry Spargo described as “the slowest I think I’ve ever announced” to claim a half-length victory following a three-horse stretch battle. Await the Dawn, the 3-5 favorite, finished second, a neck in front of pacesetter Cavalryman, who got away with fractions of :31.48 and :58.78 on a turf course rated good.
Trained by Marco Botti, Jakkalberry was highweighted in England last year at 14 furlongs and up and finished third in Australia’s Melbourne Cup (G1) over two miles. The seven-year-old son of Storming Home who was a Group 1 winner in 2010 and third in last year’s Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup day, also won the inaugural American St. Leger at Arlington Park last August.
Jakkalberry likely will try the Sheema Classic again; that race is run over the same course and distance as the City of Gold, a 2410-meter (about 1 ½-mile) event that was completed in 2:35.36, which surprisingly after the early dawdling is the second fastest of the race’s four runnings at Meydan.
“My horse traveled very well in the race,” praised Jakkalberry's jockey Ryan Moore. “He's been all over the world and knows what he is doing.”
With the win, his 11th in 28 career starts, Jakkaberry pushed his career earnings over the $2 million mark to $2,034,684.
The other turf winner on the program, South African Group 1 winner Shea Shea, dominated a field of 16 in the $175,000 Meydan Sprint, a prep for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on World Cup day, and set a course record. Both Meydan and the Al Quoz Sprints are run over a straight 1000 meters (about five furlongs), and Shea Shea stopped the clock in :57.02.
Ridden by Christophe Soumillon and sent off at 9-5, Shea Shea broke alertly, rated close off the pace set by Ballista and then exploded clear by 2 ½ lengths over fellow Group 1 winner Sole Power. Russian Soul was a length back in third and just a head in front of a game Russian Rock, who just the previous day had won the Jebel Ali Sprint at Jebel Ali Racecourse in Dubai.
“He won very impressively,” said Soumillon of Shea Shea while declaring that he was “not very surprised—he was doing very well in the mornings.
“A race like today will make him think he is the champion of the world,” the jockey added.
In the biggest upset on Super Saturday, former American-based runner Reynaldothewizard prevailed at 11-1 in the $200,000 Mahabl Al Shimaal (G3), the prep over course and distance for the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) sprint at 1200 meters (about six furlongs) on the all-weather track. The win was the first in a stakes for the seven-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Speightstown.
Rating kindly just off the early pace set by Ganas and August Rush, Reynaldothewizard was sent to the lead in the stretch by jockey Richard Mullen and jetted away from 1-2 favorite Krypton Factor, who won both last year’s Mahab Al Shimaal and Dubai Golden Shaheen.
“He breaks very quick; he’s an American horse and they’re very quick to start,” Mullen said of his excellent early position in the race, adding that trainer Satish Seemar had conditioned the former Eoin Harty trainee “to perfection.”
Seemar indicated that the Golden Shaheen probably would be next for Reynaldothewizard, as it will be for Krypton Factor. Third to Godolphin’s crack sprinter Mental in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) on February 28, Krypton Factor was making just his second start since finishing a close sixth in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot won by undefeated sensation Black Caviar.
Another who likely will be back in action on World Cup day is Godolphin’s Secret Number, a colt from the first crop of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Raven’s Pass who convincingly won the Al Bastikiya, middle jewel of the UAE Triple Crown, in only his second career start. The next target for the half-brother to Godolphin’s Group 1 winners Dubai Destination and Librettist will be the $2 million UAE Derby (G2).
“It was only Secret Number’s second start,” noted jockey Kieren Fallon. “He won his maiden at Kempton and really stepped up here and there is a lot more to come. He is a strong galloper and stays well—he is going to get further and be stronger and better, I think.”
After breaking slowly from the outside in the field of 11, 4-1 Secret Number raced wide and greenly but left his rivals behind in the stretch, winning by two lengths over the older New Zealand-bred Zahee with the more experienced Godolphin runner, Snowboarder, second in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3), 1 ¾ lengths further back in third.
Secret Number’s time for the 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) was 2:01.35, the slowest since the race has been run at Meydan.
American Stars Challenge the World on Rich Super Saturday
By Michele MacDonald
For the first time in the history of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, American stars will take on the world during the Super Saturday program of seven rich stakes.
Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans has taken the bold initiative of entering Little Mike and Dullahan, both three-time Grade 1 winners, in a pair of key group stakes on the Super Saturday, March 9, the primary prep day for the Dubai World Cup program on March 30. Only two-time Horse of the Year Curlin previously raced in Dubai prior to World Cup competition, and even he did not run on the very competitive Super Saturday card.
“I just want my horses to go over there and run like they’re capable of,” Romans said before flying to Dubai to oversee final preparations for Little Mike’s race in the $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (G1) and for Dullahan’s start in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (G3). Both horses arrived in Dubai last week and have been in light training over the Meydan all-weather track since Monday.
First post on Super Saturday will be at 8:05 a.m. EST, with Dullahan’s race at 10:25 and Little Mike’s at 11:00. Average number of runners in each race is a dozen, and average purse value of each contest is over $250,000.
Other American connections on the program include Besilu Stables’ Unbridled Ocean in the Burj Nahaar. Former Todd Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel will saddle South African Group 1 winner August Rush in the Mahab Al Shimaal (G3), a prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1).
Romans hopes that Little Mike will perform well enough in the Maktoum Challenge, run over 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on the all-weather track, to gain an invitation to the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1), which will be contested over the same course and distance.
A six-year-old gelding by Spanish Steps, Little Mike has drawn the rail and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line as he faces a field of 13 that includes a four-horse Godolphin juggernaut led by 2012 World Cup winner Monterosso, making his seasonal debut at 6-1 on the line, and Maktoum Challenge Round II (G2) winner Hunter’s Light, the early 7-2 favorite.
Little Mike already has been invited to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) and the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1), both on turf, at about 1 ½ and 1 1/8 miles, respectively, and can be directed to either spot if he does not like the all-weather track. Kieren Fallon will ride both Romans runners on Super Saturday.
Dullahan, who has collected all three of his Grade 1 wins on synthetic surfaces, already is set to run in the World Cup, and thus his race in the Burj Nahaar at 1600 meters (about one mile)—a distance at which he has never won—appears intended mostly as a sharpener. “I’d like him to win, but this isn’t the big one,” Romans noted.
A competitive field of 14 has been entered for the Burj Nahaar, with Dullahan rated a 9-2 third choice behind Godolphin’s recent Firebreak Stakes (G3) winner Moonwalk in Paris, 7-2, and, African Story, 4-1. Making his first start since May, African Story won last year’s Burj Nahaar handily and followed up with a victory in the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) on the Dubai World Cup program.
Super Saturday will conclude with the second of two Group 1 races, the $300,000 Jebel Hatta, a stepping stone to the Dubai Duty Free run over the same course and distance, 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf. A high quality group of ten, including three Group 1 winners trained by leading South African conditioner Mike de Kock, is set to run with the trio among the top four in morning line odds.
Reigning South African Horse of the Year Igugu, a six-year-old Australian-bred by Galileo, is the early choice at 3-1 although she finished third in the Balanchine (G2) on February 21, her first race in more than a year. She will be reunited with jockey Anthony Delpech, with whom she had won her previous seven starts, after tugging hard on Christophe Soumillon and setting what proved to be suicidal fractions in the Balanchine, won by Sajjhaa.
Soumillon rides 4-1 The Apache, on whom he won the Al Rashidiya (G2) on January 31, while Pat Cosgrave returns on 10-1 Master of Hounds, the 2011 UAE Derby (G2) winner who was second in his seasonal debut, Al Fahidi Fort (G2), on February 21. Master of Hounds won the 2012 Jebel Hatta in front-running style before finishing eighth in the ’12 Dubai World Cup on all-weather.
Godolphin sends three runners in search of the Jebel Hatta prize, with Al Rashidiya runner-up City Style at 9-2; Sajjhaa, also winner of the Cape Verdi (G2) against her own gender during the Carnival, at 5-1, and Sharestan, an allowance winner and third in the Al Rashidiya, at 6-1.
In other Super Saturday stakes:
· Last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor will prep for a title defense in the $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal at 1200 meters (about six furlongs). He is the heaviest morning line favorite on the card at 7-5 in a ten-horse field.
· Godolphin’s Masterstroke, third in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), and Jakkalberry, a Group 1 winner in 2010 and third in last year’s Melbourne Cup (G1) after winning the inaugural American St. Leger at Arlington Park, are the class of the $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (G2) over 2410 meters (about 1 ½ miles) on turf. The City of Gold is a launching pad for the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) at about two miles on grass.
· Eleven sophomores including Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby (G1) nominee Fortify, who finished third to champion Shanghai Bobby in last year’s Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, will contest the $250,000 Al Bastikiya, the middle jewel of the UAE Triple Crown, over 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the all-weather track. Fortify finished sixth in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) on February 14 in his synthetic track debut. With Guineas winner Soft Falling Rain staying in the barn to wait for shorter distances, runners-up Snowboarder and Zahee are the 3-1 and 9-2 top selections on the morning line for the Al Bastikiya.
· In the $175,000 Meydan Sprint, a prep for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) over the same course and distance of 1000 meters (about five furlongs) on turf, a balanced field of 16 has been entered. Sole Power, an English-based six-year-old gelding who was second in last year’s Al Quoz Sprint, is rated 4-1 with de Kock’s South African Group 1 winner Shea Shea at 7-1.
Trade Storm Impressive in Zabeel Mile, Ahzeemah Takes Trophy
By Michele MacDonald
Weaving his way through traffic with jockey Jamie Spencer giving a cheeky nod to defeated colleague Christophe Soumillon, Trade Storm surged to victory over Musir in the $250,000 Zabeel Mile (G2) on the March 2 Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan.
The handy win, the second consecutive rallying triumph on the Dubai grass for Trade Storm, sets the British-based five-year-old up to be a contender in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) on the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program.
Godolphin’s Ahzeemah also earned a World Cup program appearance with a determined win in the $200,000 Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) on turf, digging deep under Kieren Fallon to defeat Certerach by a neck in the 2810-meter (about 1 3/4-mile) test. The $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) could be next.
A rags-to-riches story, Trade Storm was not sold on a bid of $2,620 as a yearling at Tattersalls in 2009. With the Zabeel Mile under his girth, the son of Trade Fair conditioned by David Simcock has now earned $371,983.
“You have to be impressed by that,” Spencer said. “I wanted to track Musir, but we missed the kick so I was further back than I intended but he was always going well. As we turned for home, I was looking for a gap and when we found one, we were able to get through and he showed a great turn of foot.
“David (Simcock) has really done well with this horse, who seems to be improving and has thrived in the Dubai weather,” he added.
Spencer looked over at Soumillon as 5-2 Trade Storm was passing 3-2 favorite Musir because he related that his colleague frequently does that when he is winning.
“I gave him a bit of his own medicine,” said a smiling Spencer, who declared that Trade Storm was “very, very impressive.”
Trade Storm stopped the clock in 1:38.74 on a course rated good. The win marked his fifth in 21 starts.
In the Nad Al Sheba Trophy, 6-1 Royal Diamond set a very slow pace early and led out of the turn into the stretch, but could not withstand an onslaught from closers Ahzeemah, Certerach and Star Empire, all of whom had a chance to win and all of whom have proven to be well matched in abilities.
Fallon got Ahzeemah to the front early in the drive and the four-year-old gelding by Dubawi refused to be passed throughout a heated battle to the wire. In a race over the same course and distance on February 8, Star Empire prevailed by a neck over Ahzeemah with Certerach a head back in third.
“There was not as much pace on so I was happy to hit the front early in straight and he was very game. He will certainly stay further,” said Fallon.
“He will be better over further,” agreed trainer Saeed bin Suroor, “and I will talk to Sheikh Mohammed, but I think the Dubai Gold Cup (at about two miles) would be an ideal race for him on World Cup night. He is still a young horse and is hopefully still improving.”
Fallon and bin Suroor, who took the lead in a tight race for the Carnival training title, doubled up with the equally brave victory of Quick Wit in the concluding 2000-meter (about 1 ¼-mile) turf handicap. Bin Suroor now has 13 winners.
Mike de Kock, just behind bin Suroor with 12 winners at the end of the day, registered two wins with Soumillon aboard both winners. Soumillon seemed highly confident on the de Kock-trained Kavanagh in the opening 1200-meter (about six-furlong) turf handicap and the 3-2 favorite won by a length over Ballista.
Runner-up in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) last out, Kavanagh won a Group 2 stakes in his homeland of South Africa last year. “I was always going best and it was just a case of timing the challenge right,” Soumillon said of Kavanagh’s win.
The jockey followed that performance with a win on Rerouted, co-owned by professional golfer Lee Westwood, in a 1400-meter (about seven-furlong) all-weather handicap to register a second course and distance victory this year.
Stewards gave Soumillon and Fallon suspensions, relating to the first and second races, respectively, but they will be able to ride on Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup day. Fallon, who was aboard second race runner-up Free Wheeling, has been engaged to ride multiple American Grade 1 winners Dullahan and Little Mike on Super Saturday in prep races for Dubai World Cup day.
Zabeel Mile Next in Musir’s Comeback; Royal Diamond Aims for Trophy
By Michele MacDonald
Musir, a Group 1 winner who has done his best running in Dubai, returns to headline the $250,000 Zabeel Mile (G2) in his second start after experiencing fertility problems at stud as he tries to earn a berth on the Dubai World Cup (G1) program in four weeks.
A turf event that has drawn a field of eight, the Zabeel Mile is the featured event on the six-race March 2 Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan, which begins at 9:50 a.m. EST. The race is a prep for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) on World Cup day, March 30.
The co-featured $200,000 Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) over 2810 meters (about 1 ¾ miles) on turf, which is a stepping stone to the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) on World Cup day, has drawn 11 runners, including Group 1 winnersRoyal Diamond and Kidnapped.
Trainer Mike de Kock said Musir ran well in his first race back when fourth in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) on February 21, giving way in deep stretch after gaining the lead in his first start in eight months. The Australian-bred son of Redoute’s Choice “has come on for it, but is not at his peak yet,” de Kock said of the homebred racing for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum.
Musir, who will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon from the rail, has been made the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Zabeel Mile. Beginning in 2010 as a three-year-old following his champion juvenile season in South Africa, Musir has won five group stakes at Meydan, including the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) and last year’s Al Rashidiya (G2). Overall in his career, Musir has won eight of 18 starts, has placed six times and banked $2,446,815.
Another one of de Kock’s entries, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Royal Ridge, has earned the trainer’s salute as one expected to perform well after three strong efforts in Dubai this season.
“He’s made marked improvement and should go close,” de Kock said of the South African stakes winner, rated as a 6-1 chance with Paul Hanagan aboard from post six. In seven runnings of the Zabeel Mile, de Kock runners have taken down the top prize three times.
Godolphin’s highweighted Fulbright also has run creditably during the Carnival, notching a third in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G2) and a second in the Firebreak Stakes (G3), both on the all-weather track, but the 4-1 English Group 2 winner hasn’t yet found a winning kick at Meydan. The switch to grass may help as Mickael Barzalona rides from post four, but his 131-pound impost is not an advantage as he is required by race conditions to give three pounds to his rivals due to his victory in the Dubai Challenge Stakes (G2) at Newmarket in October.
“He has perhaps not enjoyed a lot of luck so far (in the Carnival) so hopefully everything can fall into place this time, but it is a good contest and that penalty makes the task more difficult obviously,” said trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni.
In the Nad Al Sheba Trophy, a competitive group of distance specialists will line up as Godolphin sends three into the fray, led by 5-1 French stakes winner Tenenbaum, a four-year-old Authorized gelding who has won half his six starts. He finished third in the Qatar Prix Chaudenay (G2) on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) Weekend last October in his most recent start. Barzalona will ride Tenenbaum, who has the lightest impost at 123 pounds, from post three.
Balladry, previously trained by Eoin Harty and sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2) on dirt, is given a 20-1 chance for the blue squadron as he starts in post two with Hanagan. Handicapper Ahzeemah, coming off two narrow misses, is 8-1 with Kieren Fallon from post seven.
Last year’s Irish St. Leger (G1) winner Royal Diamond, 9-2, will be making his 2013 debut from post six and is 9-2 on the morning line. Saddler’s Rock, 6-1, a multiple Group 2 winner and a close third in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot last year, carries high weight of 131 pounds and gives from three to eight pounds to the field as he starts from post ten after the scratches of Averroes and Jakkalberry.
Many graded/group stakes winners and horses familiar to North American players are entered for the March 2 card. They include 2012 UAE Derby winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) starter Daddy Long Legs; Sham Stakes (G3) winner Out of Bounds, another former Harty trainee, and 2011 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) runner-up Arthur’s Tale. That trio is set for the third race, a $150,000 handicap at the World Cup distance of 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on the all-weather track.
Bin Suroor Collects Eighth Oaks with Shuruq, Now Spun Prevails
By Michele MacDonald
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor clearly excels at developing fillies for the classic races in Dubai.
Bin Suroor dispatched his eighth winner in 13 runnings of the $250,000 UAE Oaks (G3) when Shuruq trumped more fancied runners from the same operation and 9-5 Argentine-bred Emotif with a dominating stretch run in February 28 Dubai World Cup Carnival program feature.
“Shuruq gave me a great buzz. She stays all day and has a great temperament,” said winning jockey Paul Hanagan, who picked up the mount due to the suspension of regular rider Silvestre De Sousa.
A Kentucky-bred daughter of Elusive Quality making her fifth career start, Shuruq bided her time in the early going as stablemate Mar Mar paved the way on the front end. Turning for home, Hanagan asked Shuruq to get the jump on Godolphin’s other fillies, UAE 1000 Guineas winner Lovely Pass and Guineas Trial winner Music Chart, and the bay flew home for a four-length triumph.
Lovely Pass collected second, 2 ¼ lengths in front of Music Chart as the fillies exchanged positions from earlier efforts.
Time for the 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the all-weather track was 1:58.72. While Godolphin’s 2011 Oaks winner Khawlah went on to win the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) over colts, bin Suroor did not indicate the Derby would be a goal for Shuruq, whose name means “sunrise” in Arabic.
“Shuruq put up a very good performance. The longer trip suited her tonight as did the pace set by Mar Mar,” he said. “(Shuruq) is a very tough filly who tries hard and she deserved this victory. There are no running plans and we will take her to England in April.”
Bred by Darley, Shuruq scored her maiden victory in October on Kempton Park’s all-weather track and now sports a record of 2-2-1 in five career efforts. She has earned $215,139.
In the co-featured $150,000 Meydan Classic, Godolphin again took home the top prize with a promising sophomore as Now Spun—a colt by Hard Spun, who like Elusive Quality stands at Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky—caught pacesetter Deauville Prince. In only his third career start, Now Spun had to weave through some traffic to gain the victory in a good effort as the 7-5 favorite.
“Now Spun was very green tonight but he has very little experience. He has only run twice before and the maiden he won in Britain was weak, so we couldn't judge how good he was from that effort,” said trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni.
“I thought he showed that he is a horse with a little bit of class. I hope that he improves for this run and we will see how he comes out of the race before making any plans."
Now Spun crossed the finish line in 1:38 for the 1600 meters (about one mile) on turf rated good and was 1 ¼ lengths clear of 7-2 Deauville Prince, an English stakes winner who finished a good fourth in Italy’s Gran Criterium (G1) behind UAE Derby candidate Law Enforcement. Tarbawi, a 33-1 shot, finished third in the eight-horse field.
Bred in Florida by Hickstead Farm, Now Spun was sold for $290,000 as a yearling at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale.
“He ran very well and I was surprised he won so easily,” said jockey Mickael Barzalona. “We knew he was a nice horse at home and today confirmed what we thought.”
In other races on the program, Godolphin’s Kassiano became the first horse to win three races during this year’s Carnival when he rolled away with ease from nine rivals to win a $120,000 handicap over 2200 meters (about 1 3/8 miles) on all-weather by 6 ½ lengths under Barzalona.
“Kassiano was very impressive tonight. He has done really well out here and loves racing on (Meydan’s all-weather track),” said Godolphin Racing Manager Simon Crisford. “He is on an upward curve and I would think that he is out of handicap company now.”
Barzalona agreed, saying: “He can win a better race than this.”
A $215,094 acquisition at the 2012 Arqana Arc de Triomphe sale, German-bred Kassiano could find himself with a Super Saturday and/or Dubai World Cup (G1) program target, but it will not be the $10 million World Cup, Crisford said.
In other significant performances, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Mufarrh, runner-up in last year’s Godolphin Mile (G2) but winless in two Group 2 starts at the Carnival, returned to the winner’s circle in a $120,000 handicap at a mile on all-weather.
Hanagan rode Mufarrh to the victory.
Also, Anaerobio, Argentina’s champion three-year-old male in 2011 and a multiple Group 1 winner, finally broke through in the UAE, winning a $175,000 handicap at 1400 meters (about seven furlongs) on turf. Trainer Mike de Kock said the son of Catcher in the Rye appreciated a cutback in distance while winning for the first time in 11 starts in the Middle East.
Lovely Pass Runs for Classic Double, ‘Prince’ Tops Meydan Classic
By Michele MacDonald
Lovely Pass, a filly from the first crop of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Raven’s Pass, will go to the gate on the February 28 Dubai World Cup Carnival program seeking her second classic triumph at Meydan as she tops a field of nine in the $250,000 UAE Oaks (G3).
A rallying winner of the UAE 1000 Guineas over 1600 meters (about one mile) on February 7, Lovely Pass will be asked to run an extra 300 meters in the Oaks as she tries 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) for the first time in her second race on the all-weather track.
That extra distance is a question mark in the mind of her trainer, Godolphin’s Mahmoud Al Zarooni.
“I can see a little bit of improvement in Lovely Pass since she won the Guineas and I was pleased with her latest piece of work. My concern with her is the step up to 9 1/2 furlongs, but we won't know whether she stays the distance until we run her,” Zarooni said.
Lovely Pass is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line and will start from the rail. She will be ridden by Kieren Fallon as her Guineas partner, Ahmad Ajtebi, is serving a suspension.
Godolphin has three fillies entered in the Oaks, and Zarooni’s go-to jockey, Mickael Barzalona, has been assigned again to Music Chart, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Exchange Rate. While Music Chart has been defeated by Lovely Pass in both their previous meetings, she gets a positive nod from Zarooni.
“I think that Music Chart has the chance to beat Lovely Pass this time over this trip. She ran well in the Guineas and I hope that this step up in distance can see her run well,” he said.
Music Chart, who drew post four, won the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial, an allowance on January 17, and finished third in the Guineas, with Godolphin’s third Oaks entrant, Shuruq, finishing second in that classic. Music Chart is 5-1 on the morning line.
Shuruq, a Kentucky-bred by Elusive Quality who also was second in the Guineas trial, finished strongly in the Guineas and has earned praise from trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who has saddled seven winners in 12 runnings of the Oaks.
“Shuruq has run well to finish second on both her starts this year and she is in good form. The step up in distance will suit her and she is a tough filly who tries very hard all of the time. She is in good form and I am hopeful of another good effort,” bin Suroor said.
Paul Hanagan takes the reins on Shuruq, who is rated a 7-2 chance, as her former rider, Carnival leading jockey Silvestre De Sousa, also is serving a suspension for riding infractions.
All nine fillies in the Oaks also raced in the Guineas. One who could show improvement is the only Southern Hemisphere-bred in the race, Emotif, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway bred in Argentina and racing for trainer Mike de Kock, who is tied with bin Suroor and Zarooni for the lead among Carnival conditioners with nine wins.
A strong winner in South Africa on her debut, Emotif had some problems in the long travel and quarantine process during the transition to Dubai. She finished fifth in the Guineas in her first start in more than eight months.
“She is still short of full fitness,” said de Kock. “She was a month behind our other horses having been very ill and missing a lot of work. She is fitter now and will stay the trip no problem, but she will again improve from this run.”
Under conditions of the Oaks, Emotif will carry 131 pounds and give ten pounds to her younger, Northern Hemisphere-bred rivals.
In the co-feature on the program, well-traveled English stakes winner Deauville Prince is the class of the $150,000 Meydan Classic for three-year-olds at 1600 meters on turf. The Holy Roman Emperor colt finished fourth in the Guineas in his Dubai and all-weather track debut and switches back to turf, a surface on which he finished a good fourth in a Group 1 juvenile contest in Italy in addition to winning the Ripon Champion Two-Year-Old Trophy Stakes.
Trained by Tom Dascombe, Deauville Prince is 6-1 on the morning line and will start from post seven in the eight-horse field with Richard Kingscote in the irons.
Elleval, who rallied to win a 1400-meter (about seven-furlong) Carnival turf contest on February 7 for trainer David Marnane, is the 2-1 early choice in the Meydan Classic. The Irish-bred Kodiac gelding is reunited with regular rider Fergal Lynch and breaks from post three.
The six-race Carnival program begins at 9:45 a.m. EST. Post time for the UAE Oaks, the fifth race on the card, is 12:05 p.m.
Mushreq Rises to Al Fahidi Fort Occasion, Igugu Upset in Balanchine
By Michele MacDonald
Trainer Mike de Kock, long a dominant force during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, didn’t get the win he hoped for on February 21 from South African Horse of the Year Igugu in the $200,000 Balanchine (G2), but he made up for it in the $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort (G2).
Mushreq, sent off at 7-2, stormed down the stretch to garner his first career stakes victory, defeating stablemate and Group 1 winner Master of Hounds by 3 ¼ lengths. Another de Kock runner, Group 1 winner Musir—who was making a comeback following a season of stud duty at Coolmore Australia in which he experienced fertility issues—was a good fourth, a short head behind third-placed Iguazu Falls.
Godolphin’s even-money favorite Mandaean, a Group 1 winner in France who was coming off a Carnival victory over course and distance, finished sixth in the ten-horse field after lagging at the rear early.
“He’s been a real revelation in the Carnival,” de Kock said of Mushreq, who gave the trainer his fifth win in the Al Fahidi Fort, which is a 1600-meter (about one-mile) turf prep for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1). “The harder we are on him, the better he’s gotten. He’s almost actually got me baffled.”
Mushreq, who crossed the finish line in 1:36.60, has raced five times since the Carnival began on January 10 and now has two wins to his credit.
De Kock indicated that the $300,000 Jebel Hatta (G1) over 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on Super Saturday could be next prior to the Dubai Duty Free at the same distance. Bred and owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, Mushreq is a five-year-old Australian-bred gelding by Flying Spur whose previous stakes best had been a second in the 2011 Golden Horseshoe (G1) in South Africa.
Master of Hounds and Musir, both of whom have done much of their best running at Meydan, also earned praise from de Kock.
“He was gutsy and put his head down and stayed there,” the trainer said of Master of Hounds, who won last year’s Jebel Hatta before finishing unplaced in the Dubai World Cup on the all-weather track.
Meanwhile, the trainer told racing fans not to give up on Igugu, who finished third in the Balanchine behind Godolphin’s winner Sajjhaa, who set a course record of 1:48.58, and runner-up Prussian.
“She’ll be back,” he vowed of Igugu, noting that the six-year-old Galileo mare had not raced for about 13 months while enduring extreme quarantine protocols in shipping out of South Africa and thus was “fresh” under jockey Christophe Soumillon. Igugu pulled against her rider and sped through the second 400 meters (about two furlongs) in a blistering :22.42, getting the first 800 meters (about a half-mile) in :47.87, believed to be the fastest sectional time ever on the Meydan turf.
“She set quick fractions early and got tired,” stated de Kock. Igugu, who is co-owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and Andre MacDonald, defeated males in both of South Africa’s premier races and can be expected to advance to Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup day as long as she remains healthy.
Sajjhaa, who made her mark in Europe while winning two stakes in England and running against champions like Snow Fairy and Midday, will be aimed at North American races in the second half of 2013, said Godolphin’s racing manager Simon Crisford.
“She’s been fantastic,” Crisford added of the six-year-old King’s Best mare who was bred by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley. “She’s really thrived since she’s been in Dubai.”
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who like de Kock saddled two winners on the program to move into a three-way tie for the Carnival training lead with Godolphin’s Mahmoud Al Zarooni, said a Super Saturday race could be possible for Sajjhaa.
Bin Suroor’s other winner on the program was Con Artist, who dictated a moderate pace and never was threatened while taking a $110,000 handicap over 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the all-weather track in 1:57.87.
“He did it very easily,” said jockey Silvestre De Sousa, whose two wins on the card elevated him into the Carnival lead among riders with eight.
There were three other remarkable winners on the day, all of which have American connections.
Besilu Stables’ Unbridled Ocean, an $875,000 Keeneland yearling in 2009, bulled his way past free-running early leaders in the stretch and refused to yield while capturing a $110,000 handicap over 1600 meters on the all-weather track in 1:36.81.
Sent off at 15-1, Unbridled Ocean claimed the initial score for Besilu in Dubai; the stable owned by Benjamin Leon plans to send two-time champion Royal Delta back to Meydan for a second try at the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 30.
“If Mr. Leon is watching, congratulations,” beaming trainer Satish Seemar told the international simulcast audience after the race.
“They went a strong pace and that plays to these American horses’ style of running,” said winning jockey Richard Mullen.
A five-year-old son of Unbridled Song, Unbridled Ocean raced only once last year. The big gray, trained earlier in his career by Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott, could be pointed to a Super Saturday race if he is ranked high enough off his win by the Dubai handicappers to gain entry.
In the finale, Dux Scholar emerged from a 13-horse throng to prevail in a $175,000 straightaway handicap sprint over 1000 meters (about five furlongs) on turf and score the first Carnival win for former Todd Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel. The five-year-old horse by Oasis Dream has been a global traveler, competing in six countries to date with multiple stakes achievements at a mile and more, but Benzel may have found his niche in sprinting.
“From the first time I saw him, my impression was he was built to be a sprinter,” Benzel said, adding that the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) over the same course and distance on Dubai World Cup day would be a primary goal.
Dux Scholar, at 7-1, defeated 2-1 favorite Russian Soul, who finished second for the fifth consecutive start, by 1 ¼ lengths, with Medicean Man third. Owned by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Dux Scholar paid $16.80.
In the first race on the card, Await the Dawn—the former Aidan O’Brien trainee who finished seventh in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) won by stablemate St Nicholas Abbey—turned in his best performance since winning the Hardwicke Stakes (G2) in June 2011. Bred in Kentucky by Juddmonte Farms, the six-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway cruised down the stretch as the 8-5 favorite to defeat So Beautiful by 2 ¾ lengths.
Await the Dawn now is trained and co-owned by de Kock; carrying 132 pounds, he gave weight to all six of his rivals, including ten pounds to the runner-up.
“He had a lot of problems when he came (to Dubai) and he has improved and improved,” said jockey Pat Cosgrave, who indicated that the horse had some attitude problems.
“It’s just a case of getting him in the right frame of mind and hopefully he’s there now and will keep improving,” Cosgrave said.
Igugu tops Balanchine, Ten Ready to Run in Al Fahidi Fort
By Michele MacDonald
Few international runners have flown in for the Dubai World Cup Carnival with anywhere near the reputation of Igugu, the reigning South African Horse of the Year who defeated males in that nation’s most prestigious events, the J & B Met (G1) and the Durban July (G1).
It is a measure of the six-year-old Galileo mare’s feats that she has been established as the 4-5 morning line favorite in the $200,000 Balanchine (G2), an 1800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) turf test for fillies and mares, even though she has not raced in about 13 months.
Trained by Mike de Kock, Igugu will have top international jockey Christophe Soumillon aboard for the co-feature on the February 21 Dubai World Cup Carnival program. De Kock also will saddle three runners in the $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort (G2) at 1600 meters (about one mile) on turf, led by Group 1 winners Musir, 2-1, and Master of Hounds, 6-1.
The six Thoroughbred races on the Carnival program at Meydan Racecourse are worth more than $1 million total and feature an average of 10 runners. First post will be at 10:15 a.m EST.
Igugu has drawn post six in the Balanchine, with only Godolphin’s stakes-placed Spellwork, outrun in the Cape Verdi (G2) on January 24, to her outside in the field of seven. The winner of her last seven starts and of 10 of 12 career efforts with two seconds, Australian-bred Igugu has won from an extended seven furlongs to 1 ½ miles.
De Kock has described the champion as “gutsy and courageous,” and even though she has not started in more than a year while enduring challenging quarantine protocols after leaving South Africa, he said he expects her to be competitive.
“Igugu’s had a good, steady preparation. She’s never been a great work horse, but she’s happy and sound and we’ve had no issues with her. The race will show if she still has her competitive spirit. We’ve done what we can to get her fit and now it’s up to her. We’re hoping she’ll produce what we know she is capable of,” de Kock said.
Godolphin’s Sajjhaa, winner of the Cape Verdi who has raced in top distaff company in Europe, is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line with Silvestre De Sousa riding for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. The six-year-old daughter of King’s Best will carry high weight of 129 pounds due to her Cape Verdi score under conditions of the race, giving three pounds to her rivals.
“Sajjhaa won her first start of the year nicely and came out of the race sound and healthy. She is in good form and ready to go again,” said bin Suroor. “The step up in distance will suit her, although she is coming up against a very good South African filly, who looks the one to beat.”
Godolphin also has entered French stakes winner Dark Orchid, and that 10-1 chance will break from post three with Kieren Fallon in the irons. Dark Orchid set the Cape Verdi pace before finishing fifth.
In the Al Fahidi Fort, a stepping stone to the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) on the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program, a field of 10 talented runners will vie for the top prize. The De Kock runners are the standouts, with the trio accounting for the top three by morning line odds, including 4-1 second choice Mushreq, already a Carnival winner.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum’s Musir is returning to competition after experiencing fertility problems during the Southern Hemisphere breeding season while with Coolmore Australia. The seven-year-old son of Redoute’s Choice has won half his ten starts at Meydan, including the 2010 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) and UAE Derby (G2) and the 2012 Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G3) and Al Rashidiya (G2).
Versatile as well as consistent, Musir has won on all-weather and turf during his 17-race career that features eight wins and six placings as well as earnings of $2,434,315. The question with him clearly will be whether his focus has shifted following his sojourn at stud.
“He and Master of Hounds will need their runs,” said de Kock, who centered his praise on Mushreq, calling him a “serious contender” who has improved greatly. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Australian-bred gelding by Flying Spur already has raced four times at the Carnival.
Master of Hounds, a five-year-old son of Kingmambo, is another entrant who has done his best running at Meydan. Last year, Master of Hounds finished third in the Al Fahidi Fort after running in tight quarters and then captured the Jebel Hatta (G1) before being unplaced in the Dubai World Cup (G1).
Two other Group 1 winners in the field also could be tough: Godolphin’s Mandaean, who defeated Al Fahidi Fort rivals Don’t Call Me and Iguazu Falls over the course and distance in a January 24 event, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum’s Le Drakkar, a rallying winner in his sole Carnival start this season on January 10.
“Mandaean won his race nicely last time but he is stepping up in class now,” said trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni. “He seems to be showing more speed rather than stamina at the moment, so we have decided to keep him over a mile for the time being before going any further. … This seems to be a nice trip for him. I am hopeful of another good run.”
The first event of the program, a $175,000 handicap over 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on turf, showcases a very competitive group of seven including former Ballydoyle star Await the Dawn, now trained by de Kock, who is rated a 4-1 chance.
Last year’s Dubai City of Gold (G2) winner Mikhail Glinka is the early 2-1 choice in the race. Ramzan Kadyrov’s six-year-old Galileo horse is now trained by former Todd Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel and will be ridden by Chechen-born, Russian-based jockey Khamzat Ulubaev.
Rain Storms the Guineas, Godolphin Sweeps Other Stakes
By Michele MacDonald
At least four strong candidates for Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup (G1) day found the spotlight on the February 14 Carnival program at Meydan, with Soft Falling Rain, Moonwalk in Paris and Mental notable in strong Group 3 stakes wins.
Soft Falling Rain kept his record perfect, scoring impressively in the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) for his sixth career win at the longest distance he has raced, 1600 meters (about one mile), on the all-weather track.
Owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum and trained by Mike de Kock, the South African juvenile champion lathered up a bit before the start but was cool once the race was underway, cruising to a 2 ¼-length victory over Godolphin’s Snowboarder in 1:36.70. The time was the fastest in the four runnings of the Guineas on the synthetic surface at Meydan and marked the fifth win in the classic for de Kock.
“I was always pretty comfortable,” said winning rider Paul Hanagan.
De Kock, who celebrated his 49th birthday on the previous day, had some concern about the distance of the race. “But (Soft Falling Rain) has seen it out well and we will have to think about his next race,” he said.
The $2-million UAE Derby (G2) over 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the March 30 Dubai World Cup program was not ruled out for the National Assembly colt, but Sheikh Hamdan indicated that the mile is a better distance, raising the possibility of the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2). Royal Ascot and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1), a sprint on turf, could be a key longer-term goal.
“This 1600 meters really seems to suit him on this surface and we could stick to this trip (while the colt is in Dubai). The UAE Derby is possible, but he has a lot of speed,” Sheikh Hamdan said. “We are keen to take him to England, and Royal Ascot could be a possibility.”
Godolphin’s Snowboarder, a son of Raven’s Pass, showed that he could be a UAE Derby horse with a fine runner-up effort from off the pace that took him three-quarters of a length ahead of third-placed Zahee, a de Kock-trained New Zealand-bred.
“Snowboarder ran a very good race and will appreciate going further than a mile,” said trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni, who saddled three winners on the program.
The disappointment in the Guineas was Fortify, third in last year’s Champagne Stakes (G1) and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) to champion Shanghai Bobby. The Distorted Humor colt loomed in the stretch drive but had no closing kick.
“Fortify was disappointing in sixth, being one-paced. I didn't think he travelled well during the race,” Zarooni said. “We will give him another chance as some good horses do not perform on their first start back from a break.”
Zarooni and Godolphin swept the other two stakes, with Australian Group 1 winner Mental a strong winner of the $200,000 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3), covering the 1200 meters (about six furlongs) in 1:10.59 after overcoming a tardy start in his first all-weather effort. The five-year-old son of Lonhro could be on his way to the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on the World Cup program; among those he defeated was 2012 Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor, who was a good third in his first start since June.
“(Mental) was a very good horse today. When I asked him to go, he answered very well,” said jockey Mickael Barzalona, who rode a pair of winners on the program.
“The way he won suggests that Mental is a good horse,” Zarooni said. “He was too far back at the beginning and I thought that he had little chance. Usually in a sprint, if you are that far back, then you cannot win, but they went a nice pace for him. He was giving weight (about five pounds) to the rest of the field and I think that we will have some fun with him.
“I wasn't sure about him on Tapeta, but he showed that he is fine on it. We could have kept him on grass but I like doing things differently and thought we should try him on Tapeta because of the Golden Shaheen on World Cup night.”
Perhaps the most exciting race of the program was the $200,000 Firebreak Stakes at 1600 meters, a stepping stone to the Godolphin Mile. Jockey Ahmad Ajtebi steered Godolphin’s Moonwalk in Paris—a $404,116 purchase at Arqana’s Arc sale—up the rail after a sluggish start to prevail by two lengths over more fancied stablemate Fulbright. Barbecue Eddie, winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G2) on January 10, finished just a neck back in third.
“Moonwalk in Paris was slow into his stride,” Zarooni noted. “I thought the horse had no chance after that, but he surprised me tonight by the acceleration he displayed. He has not shown that kick at home and looks a nice prospect now. Fulbright ran a good race and will do better over a longer trip."
“I didn't want to be too wide, so I sat next to the rail and waited for the gap to open. Moonwalk in Paris has some gears when he gets going—he is unbelievable,” said Ajtebi, who won a stakes for the second consecutive week after his victory on Lovely Pass in the UAE 1000 Guineas.
Out of Bounds finished tenth in his second Dubai start and last year’s UAE Derby winner Daddy Long Legs was 13th in the 14-horse field while running for the first time for de Kock.
Godolphin’s Anatolian captured the last race of the day, a $175,000 handicap over 2435 meters (an extended 1 ½ miles) on turf in course record time of 2:32.14, prompting a delighted Zarooni to declare him a prospect for the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) at 3200 meters (about two miles) on the World Cup program.
“He is a very nice horse,” said winning rider Barzalona. “He’s improved and is very tough.”
Fortify Versus ‘Rain’ in 2000 Guineas on Three-Stakes Card
By Michele MacDonald
Godolphin’s Triple Crown nominee Fortify will take his first step on what could be an international classic campaign during the February 14 Dubai World Cup Carnival program as he faces South African champion Soft Falling Rain in the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3).
The Guineas will be the first of three group stakes on the six-race card at Meydan that also features former American stars Out of Bounds and Barbecue Eddie in the $200,000 Firebreak Stakes (G3) and 2012 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Krypton Factor in a field of 14 contesting the $200,000 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3).
First post will be 9:45 a.m., with the Guineas, the first of the stakes (all of which will be run on the all-weather track) at 10:55. Purses for the six races total $1.12 million, and there is an average of 11 runners in each event.
Fortify comes into the Guineas after finishing fourth to champion Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park. The son of Distorted Humor won his debut handily at Saratoga Race Course and then was second in the Hopeful (G2) and third in the Champagne (G1) Stakes, both won by Shanghai Bobby, prior to the Juvenile while trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.
Now conditioned by Mahmoud Al Zarooni, Fortify will be ridden by Mickael Barzalona and will break from post four in the field of eight. He is rated the 5-1 second choice on the morning line for the 1600-meter (about one-mile) contest; his ultimate goal in Dubai probably will be the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) on the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program as his connections consider the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“Fortify has settled in well and is in good form at the moment,” Zarooni said. “You can see in his work that he is a horse with class, although he may come on for his seasonal return.”
Zarooni, who cautioned that it remains unclear how Fortify will handle the synthetic surface, also will be represented by the Raven’s Pass colt Snowboarder, 6-1, and by the Hard Spun colt Filfil, 10-1, as the trainer bids for third consecutive Guineas win. Both colts were bred in Kentucky by Fares Farm and both have had a race over the tack.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Soft Falling Rain is the even-money favorite after his dominating victory in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over 1400 meters (about seven furlongs) on January 17. The son of National Assembly, trained by Mike de Kock, will carry 131 pounds under conditions of the race as an older Southern Hemisphere-bred and will give ten pounds to most rivals and 13 to the sole filly, Pure Excellence, an English stakes winner.
“The extra 200 meters has to be a concern, but my gut feeling is he will stay and he is certainly a lot fitter than he was three weeks ago. We’re confident of a big run,” de Kock said of the unbeaten colt.
Zahee, a New Zealand-bred who won three of five starts in Australia and was fourth in the Guineas Trial, also carries 131 pounds and also is trained by de Kock for owner/breeder Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum. Christophe Soumillon will ride the Dylan Thomas colt and they are rated at 10-1 on the morning line.
In the Firebreak Stakes, also at 1600 meters, the venerable Barbecue Eddie will try for his second consecutive group stakes victory following his smart triumph in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G2) on January 10 at the same distance. Trained by Doug Watson for Sheikh Hamdan, Maryland-bred Barbecue Eddie has won his last four starts and would become a millionaire if he wins the Firebreak, which is a stepping stone to the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) on the World Cup program.
Barbecue Eddie is the 7-2 early favorite with Paul Hanagan back in the irons. They will start from post four.
Out of Bounds, who won the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park last year while trained by Eoin Harty, set the pace in the Maktoum Challenge Round I and finished gamely for second, although unable to hold off Barbecue Eddie. Silvestre de Sousa returns to ride the son of Discreet Cat out of Breederes’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Unbridled Elaine for trainer Saeed bin Suoor, and Out of Bounds is the early 5-1 second choice.
Although not a favorite at 15-1 for his first start since September, Daddy Long Legs will be an intriguing entrant to watch in the Firebreak. Winner of last year’s UAE Derby on the all-weather track who then raced in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on dirt and subsequently was a good fourth on turf in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) on turf, Daddy Long Legs will race for the first time for de Kock and Soumillon, although the Scat Daddy colt is still owned by a Coolmore partnership.
“He has had a few problems, but we are very happy with him now, he is sound and moving as well as I have seen him. He will definitely improve with the run under his belt but this looks the perfect slot to get him back on the track. He is a Dubai World Cup hopeful,” de Kock said.
The very international field for the Firebreak also includes 2012 Italian 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Malossol (30-1); Macau Gold Cup winner Elderly Paradise (10-1); Swedish and Norwegian star Silver Ocean (30-1); French and English group stakes winners Moonwalk in Paris (8-1) and Saamidd (20-1), and locally-based Treble Jig (12-1), winner of his last three at Jebel Ali Racecourse.
Also on the program, Krypton Factor will make his 2013 debut in the Al Shindagha Sprint, a prep for the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on World Cup day. Last year, the Kyllachy gelding lost the Al Shindagha by a nose to rival Hitchens, but gained revenge with victory in the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) and then the Golden Shaheen for Bahraini owner and trainer Fawzi Nass.
Paired again with regular rider Kieren Fallon, Krypton Factor is the early 5-2 favorite in the 14-horse field. They will start from post three.
Hitchens will break from post nine and is 12-1 on the morning line after a lackluster eighth in an allowance on January 24, his initial effort this season.
Expected to be a force during the Carnival is Godolphin’s Australian-bred Mental, a five-year-old Lonhro gelding who won the Patinack Farm Classic (G1) in his last start in his homeland on November 10. Barzalona will ride for Zarooni from post four; Mental is rated a 4-1 chance.
The many other intriguing runners on the program include last year’s Dubai City of Gold (G2) winner Mikhail Glinka, who in his most recent start was unplaced in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and who now races for former Todd Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel. A six-year-old son of Galileo owned by Ramzan Kadyrov, Mikhail Glinka is set to run in race two on the card, a $175,000 handicap over 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf.
Hunter’s Light Shines in Challenge, 1000 Guineas is Lovely
By Michele MacDonald
Godolphin’s Hunter’s Light, already a well-traveled Group 1 winner, showed that he might be a Dubai World Cup (G1) candidate when he thrashed 11 tough rivals including Travers Stakes (G1) winner Alpha in the $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round II (G2).
Ridden confidently by Silvestre De Sousa, with whom he has never been defeated, Hunter’s Light shared the February 7 Dubai World Cup Carnival program spotlight with Godolphin’s Lovely Pass, who won the $250,000 UAE 1000 Guineas. With her victory, Lovely Pass becomes the first classic winner for Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Raven’s Pass.
“Hunter’s Light has improved from last year when he won a Group 1 in Italy, a Group 2 in Turkey and a Group 3 in England. He has improved physically, too, and is doing really very well. He has handled the (all-weather track) nicely in the mornings and has a touch of class,” said trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who recorded his ninth win in 20 runnings of the Maktoum Challenge Round II.
“The natural next target is Round III (G1) (on Super Saturday, March 9) and maybe the Dubai World Cup. The plan will made by (Godolphin chief) Sheikh Mohammed (bin Rashid al Maktoum),” he added.
From his first start as a juvenile, when he was second on an all-weather surface at Kempton Park in England, Hunter’s Light has excelled on such tracks, winning a listed stakes at Lingfield in 2011 and capturing the Anatolia (G2) over Veliefendi’s Polytrack in Istanbul, Turkey, by five lengths over Group 1 winner Zazou last September. Zazou had finished a close fifth in the 2012 Dubai World Cup, in front of prominent runners such as Game On Dude, Royal Delta and Eishin Flash.
“Saeed brought the horse here in great form,” said Brazilian De Sousa. “He should improve after this run.”
Hunter’s Light has an exceptional pedigree; by Dubawi, sire of last year’s World Cup winner Monterosso, he is out of the Barathea mare Portmanteau. His second dam is a full sister to European champion and noted sire Darshaan and a half sister to the great producer Darara, dam of five Group 1 winners including Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) conquerors Dar Re Mi and Rewilding.
Sent off at 5-1, Hunter’s Light broke well in the Maktoum Challenge Round II and tracked a dawdling early pace of :27.2 and :53.4 set by 13-1 stablemate Prince Bishop, who was pressed by 20-1 Surfer. Coming into the stretch, Hunter’s Light pounced and drew off to win by 3 ¼ lengths from Surfer in 1:58.19 for the 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles), slowest of the four Round II runnings on the Meydan surface. Prince Bishop finished third, a half-length further back.
As has been the case with the three World Cups run at Meydan, closers did not fare as well as the frontrunners; Godolphin’s 9-5 favorite Saint Baudolino made up the most ground to be fourth. Last year’s Round II winner Mendip finished fifth.
Hunter’s Light paid $12.20 and the $1 trifecta (6-11-1) returned $860.80.
Alpha proved the biggest disappointment of the race. After running along the rail in the early going, he dropped back and struggled home last.
In the 1000 Guineas, former camel jockey Ahmad Ajtebi kept Lovely Pass—allowed to start at a very generous 9-1 considering trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni said weeks ago that she could be his best in the Guineas—third early behind pacesetter Mar Mar. When the field sprinted into the stretch, Lovely Pass got to the front and could not be caught by other Godolphin runners Shuruq, who finished a half-length back in second, and third placed Music Chart.
Time for the 1600 meters (about one mile) was 1:38.99, also the slowest in four runnings of the race over Meydan’s all-weather surface. Zarooni notched his second consecutive win in the 1000 Guineas after saddling Gamilati last year.
Tthe $250,000 UAE Oaks (G3) at 1900 meters on February 28 could be next for Lovely Pass and Music Chart, Zarooni said.
"She is a talented filly undoubtedly but has her own ideas at times,” Ajtebi said. “When she won on her debut she turned left as the stalls opened and did amazingly well to win. I won on her at Ascotm so have now won both races in which I have ridden her.”
Lovely Pass paid $21.80, while 7-5 favorite Emotif finished fifth after breaking slowly.
In other races on the program, South African-based trainer Mike de Kock sent out two winners: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Royal Ridge, ridden by Paul Hanagan, in a $120,000, 1600-meter handicap on the all-weather track, and Mohammed Khaleel Ahmed’s Star Empire, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, in a $150,000 handicap over 2810 meters (about 1 ¾ miles) on turf.
De Kock, who has said he plans to run South African Horse of the Year Igugu in the Balanchine (G2) on February 21, now is tied with bin Suroor and Zarooni for the lead among Carnival trainers.
Godolphin Sends Four, Led by Alpha, to Maktoum Challenge
By Michele MacDonald
With sights set firmly on another $10-million Dubai World Cup (G1) victory, Godolphin has entered four strong contenders led by Travers Stakes (G1) winner Alpha in the $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round II (G2), the featured event on the February 7 Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan.
The stable also will send out three accomplished fillies in the co-featured $250,000 UAE 1000 Guineas on a card that features an average of 13 runners per race in the six events. First post will be at 10:15 a.m. EST.
Alpha has been working at trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s Al Quoz base in Dubai following his last race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), in which he was eased by regular rider Ramon Dominguez. English-based William Buick has won the assignment on Alpha for the Maktoum Challenge, and they will break from post three in the World Cup prep at 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the all-weather track.
In 11 career starts to date, Alpha has won five, including the Jim Dandy (G2) and Withers (G3) Stakes, and he battled gamely to his dead-heat win with Golden Ticket in the Travers. The Darley-bred son of Bernardini has earned $1,270,000 and is the 6-1 third choice on the morning line for his first start on an all-weather track.
“Alpha displays a very high level of form in the USA, but he never shows a great deal in the mornings,” bin Suroor said. “I think this is a nice distance for him, although he will improve for the run.”
The Maktoum Challenge series of three races has been a meaningful path to the World Cup, with two of the last three Cup winners—Godolphin’s Monterosso last year and Gloria de Campaeo in 2010—having contested at least one race in the series.
Godolphin’s French classic-placed Saint Baudolino, easy winner of the Prix de Guillaume d’Ornano (G2) at Deauville in his most recent start last August, is the 7-2 early pick in the Maktoum Challenge Round II, with the stable’s Italian Group 1 winner Hunter’s Light the second choice at 5-1.
By Pivotal, Saint Baudolino has won three of seven starts and never failed to hit the board, including a runner-up effort in last year’s Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1). Mickael Barzalona rides from post four for trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni.
Hunter’s Light, a son of Dubawi, won the Premio Roma (G1) in November and also prevailed in group stakes in England and Turkey last year. Silvestre De Sousa is back aboard for bin Suroor, who also sends out Group 2 winner Prince Bishop, another son of Dubawi who was third in the 2012 Maktoum Challenge Round III (G1) and seventh in the Dubai World Cup.
Other intriguing entries are former Ballydoyle campaigner Await the Dawn, who has been brought along after a 10-month break by new trainer and co-owner Mike de Kock, and Carnival stalwart Mendip, who since 2010 has triumphed in four significant Carnival stakes including last year’s Maktoum Challenge Round II. Bin Suroor trains Mendip for Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum.
In the UAE 1000 Guineas at 1600 meters (about one mile), Godolphin’s Music Chart will try to win again after claiming the 1000 Guineas Trial under Barzalona on January 17. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Exchange Rate defeated Godolphin’s Shuruq by three-quarters of a length that day and is the early 5-2 favorite in the all-weather track classic.
Zarooni, who trains Music Chart, said immediately after the Trial that he had another filly waiting in the wings who could be competitive, and he has entered that daughter of Raven’s Pass, named Lovely Pass. She will be ridden by Ahmad Ajtebi from post eight and is 4-1 on the morning line.
Emotif, an Argentine-bred daughter of Giant’s Causeway who won her only start in South Africa, is the early 3-1 second choice with her connections, de Kock and jockey Christophe Soumillon, coming off a big day on last week’s Carnival program. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Emotif will have to give ten pounds to the nine other fillies, however, as a Southern Hemisphere-bred.
“Emotif is a very smart filly and we think a helluva lot of her,” de Kock said. “She had a problem when she arrived in Dubai after travelling from South Africa, suffering from azuturia or ‘tying up,’ which kept her out of training for a while. We’ve done as much as we can do with her though, she’s showing us a lot and we’re expecting her to be a huge runner.”
A mixed group of 16 colts, fillies and geldings has been entered for the $100,000 Meydan Classic Trial, a 1400-meter (about seven-furlong) turf prep for the Meydan Classic on February 28. Some of the more notable entries include Hototo (4-1), winner of the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot last year; Stasio (15-1), a Kentucky-bred Street Boss colt who has won and finished a close second in two career starts, both on all-weather tracks in England, and another Argentine-bred by Giant’s Causeway, El Estruendoso (5-1), a maiden winner in South Africa for de Kock.
The Apache Leads De Kock Raiders with Al Rashidiya Win
By Michele MacDonald
Multiple South African Group 1 winner The Apache showed no signs of rust after a year on the sidelines and led a three-race raiding party for trainer Mike de Kock while capturing the $200,000 Al Rashidiya (G2) on the January 31 Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan.
Jockey Christophe Soumillon displayed his usual flair in the saddle, sending The Apache between a tiring Derbaas and Godolphin’s French Group 1 winner Aesop’s Fables in the stretch. With another Godolphin runner, City Style, trying to rally on his outside, Soumillon patted his mount's neck and waved his right index finger in the air as he crossed the finish line.
“He was working very well in the morning; we were all quite confident,” Soumillon said. “It was a test run (against a high-quality field) and it’s a good sign for the future.”
The Apache was “nowhere near peak fitness,” said a delighted de Kock, who racked up his fifth win in the Al Rashidiya. “I actually thought he would need that, so it is very pleasing and hopefully he can build on this.”
Time for the 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on a turf course rated good was 1:49.68.
Owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and Winston Chow, The Apache improved his record to seven wins in 16 starts and increased his earnings by $120,000 to $392,780. The six-year-old son of Mogok (a Storm Cat stallion who is a half brother to Street Cry’s sire Machiavellian) could be on his way to the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) on the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program.
De Kock’s 2004 Al Rashidiya winner Right Approach scored a dead-heat victory in the Dubai Duty Free.
City Style finished three-quarters of a length behind The Apache and 2 ¼ lengths in front of another Godolphin runner, Sharestan, who was the 1-2 favorite after his easy win in the Al Rashidiya Trial. Aesop’s Fables was a one-paced fourth.
Sent off at 5-1 in the field of ten, The Apache paid $12.60 for the win, and the 6-5 exacta returned $61.50.
De Kock and Soumillon also teamed up to win a 1400-meter (about seven-furlong) handicap worth $120,000 on the all-weather track with 3-1 Rerouted, a Kentucky-bred son of Stormy Atlantic who is co-owned by professional golfer Lee Westwood. Also an owner of Right Approach, Westwood hoisted Rerouted’s trophy in the winner’s circle after earlier shooting a 67 to make the first-day leaderboard in the $2.5 million Dubai Desert Classic tournament.
Rerouted had to run down Godolphin’s 9-2 Van Ellis, who stole off to a big lead in the stretch under Mickael Barzalona, to gain the victory.
“It was not easy,” said Soumillon, whose mount had to overcome a little traffic delay before prevailing by one length in 1:24.20. “This is lovely—all the owners are here and I am very happy for them.”
Bred in Kentucky by Juddmonte Farms, Rerouted paid $8.80, and the $1 trifecta with Van Ellis and Free Wheeling (5-9-4) was worth $695.50.
De Kock set the tone for the day when his charge Mushreq, a 6-5 favorite after not having much room to run while finishing fourth in a January 24 race, scored convincingly in the opening $150,000 handicap over 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on turf in 2:01.93.
“It was a bit of a nightmare the last time I rode him,” said Paul Hanagan, stable jockey for owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum. “I think he’ll improve off this run. He just pricked his ears out there.”
Mushreq, an Australian-bred son of Flying Spur, defeated Godolphin’s 3-1 Royal Empire in the very formful race and returned $4.60.
Godolphin did take home two race trophies on the program, capturing the second race, a $110,000 handicap at 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the all-weather track, with 8-5 favorite Kassiano, and the closing 1400-meter dash on turf with 7-2 second choice Time Prisoner.
Kassiano is trained by Saeed bin Suroor, while Mahmoud Al Zarooni conditions Time Prisoner. Each Godolphin trainer has five wins for the Carnival season to date to top the trainer standings, with de Kock now just one behind at four wins.
In the other race on the January 31 program, a $175,000 turf sprint at 1000 meters (about five furlongs) that is a stepping stone to the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on the World Cup card, British-based Medicean Man sprang a 31-1 upset, paying $64.80 and topping a 4-13-7-3 $1 superfecta payoff of $18,206.40.
De Kock-trainee Shea Shea, another South African Group 1 winner, had every chance in the late running of the race but dropped back and was pulled up quickly by Soumillon after finishing seventh in the 12-horse field.
Sharestan Favored Over Group 1 Winners in Al Rashidiya
By Michele MacDonald
The powerful Godolphin team of Group 1 winner Aesop’s Fables, multiple Irish stakes winner Sharestan and Group 1-placed City Style will take on an intriguing group of challengers in the $200,000 Al Rashidiya (G2) on the January 31 Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan.
With first post at 9:30 a.m. EST, the program offers six races with an average of 14 horses per race and purses averaging $155,000.
Aesop’s Fables comes in to the Al Rashidiya—a stepping stone to the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) on the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program—after not racing since last August, when he was second to stablemate Saint Baudolino in the 1 ¼-mile Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (G2) at Deauville. In his previous start, the Kentucky-bred four-year-old son of Distorted Humor won the Prix Jean Prat (G1) at Chantilly.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Aesop’s Fables will be ridden by Kieren Fallon from post three. The colt, who has won two of eight starts and placed five times, carries top weight of 130 pounds, giving from one to five pounds to his nine rivals.
Sharestan, bred and raced by The Aga Khan prior to his acquisition by Godolphin, has never before raced as high as the Group 2 level, but if his debut in Dubai is any indication of his ability and fitness, he will be tough to beat. The five-year-old by Shamardal cruised away from an allowance field on January 10 at the Al Rashidiya course and distance (1800 meters, or about 1 1/8 miles, on turf) and won as he pleased in a sharp 1:47.79.
Reunited with top Carnival jockey Silvestre De Sousa, Sharestan starts from the rail and is the 5-2 morning line favorite off that impressive introduction to Meydan.
City Style enjoyed his best-ever season in 2012 at the ripe age of six, finishing second in the Jebel Hatta (G1), second in the Al Rashidiya and third in the Dubai Duty Free. The Kentucky-bred son of City Zip is the leading earner in the field with $1,095,519 amassed while winning seven of 21 starts, and he gets hot rider Mickael Barzalona.
Two intriguing international contenders are Light Heavy, a multiple group stakes winner in Ireland who was third in last year’s Irish Derby (G1), and multiple South African Group 1 winner The Apache.
“He has not been a straight-forward horse to train and he is not at his best, but we’ve done as much as we can to get him to race fitness and we’re expecting a decent run from him. He’s another who needs the outing to improve,” said trainer Mike de Kock of The Apache, a six-year-old who has not run in a year.
De Kock will send out seven runners on the program, including another multiple Group 1 winner in South Africa, Shea Shea, who tops a field of 15 in a 1000-meter (about five-furlong) dash on turf that leads to the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on March 30.
“Shea Shea has shown us a lot of ability, he is a talented horse. This is a good race to start his campaign, he has a chance, but he will need the run,” de Kock said of the six-year-old gelding. “The race will bring him on and he will be giving plenty of weight to his rivals. We expect major improvement to come.”
Christophe Soumillon will ride both Shea Shea and The Apache. Shea Shea will have to tote 132 pounds, giving away from ten to 15 pounds under conditions of the $175,000 handicap, and is the 7-2 morning line choice in what otherwise is a wide-open affair.
The opening race on the program is a true international mélange, with runners including multiple Swedish stakes winner Bank of Burden, who is on a four-race win streak; Brazilian Group 1 winner Energia Davos; South African Group 1-placed Mushreq; Argentine classic winner Anaerobio, and Irish stakes winner Paene Magnus.
Godolphin’s lightly raced Royal Empire, winner of half his six starts, is the early 9-2 favorite in the 2000-meter (about 1 ¼-mile) race on the turf.
In the second race, former Todd Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel begins his sojourn in Dubai by saddling 2011 Canadian juvenile champion Maritimer in a 1900-meter (about 1 3/16 miles) handicap on the all-weather track. Soumillon will ride the four-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic owned by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
Other runners in that 13-horse field include Not A Given, winner of three consecutive races at Monmouth Park last summer for Kiaran McLaughlin; 2012 Firebreak Stakes (G3) winner Sandagiyr, and Farrier, a half brother by Tapit to Grade 1 winner Pyro who has won two of four starts.
Talented Sajjhaa Bulls Her Way to Cape Verdi Victory
By Michele MacDonald
Godolphin’s Sajjhaa demonstrated why the company she has been keeping defined her as a strong favorite when she powered away from the field to win the $200,000 Cape Verdi (G2) during the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan on January 24.
The six-year-old daughter of King’s Best has run with champions Snow Fairy and Midday during a judiciously spaced career, and last year she finished second ahead of Beverly D. Stakes (G1) winner I’m a Dreamer while second in a Group 2 event.
Ridden cleverly by Silvestre De Sousa, Sajjhaa stalked the early Cape Verdi pace of stablemate Dark Orchid while third as South African Group 1 winner Amanee also galloped in close pursuit on the rail. Turning into the stretch, De Sousa ranged up closely beside Amanee, hemming her in as Dark Orchid dropped back.
In close quarters with Sajjhaa giving him no ground, Christophe Soumillon checked Amanee and was forced to move to the outside, where 2012 Cape Verdi winner First City also was offering a strong run. It was too late, however, as Sajjhaa had gone clear and could not be caught in the 1600-meter (about one-mile) race for fillies and mares.
“She is a nice mare who never runs a bad race, and we thought she would be hard to beat as she had been working very well and has thrived in the Dubai weather,” said trainer Saeed Bin Suroor. “We will be back in four weeks for the Balanchine Stakes (G2) (at 1800 meters on February 21).”
De Sousa reported that he had been somewhat concerned about Sajjhaa after she became “very worked up and excited” before the race, but that she was determined.
Sent off at 3-5, Sajjhaa crossed the finish line in 1:36.68 on a firm course and was 3 ¾ lengths in front of Amanee and Soumillon, whose request for the stewards to review the stretch run led to no change in the order of finish.
First City, who had every chance to win, finished third, another 1 ¼ lengths back, with 2012 UAE Oaks (G3) winner Falls of Lora fourth.
Improving her record to five wins in 14 starts, Sajjhaa increased her bankroll to $365,292 while returning $3.40. She was bred in Britain by Darley and is out of the Darshaan mare Anaamil.
In other races, former American campaigner Reynaldothewizard, a $775,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida juvenile purchase, delighted his backers when he proved game at 24-1 in winning a $100,000 allowance race under Richard Mullen, holding off Balmont Mast by a half-length. His time for 1200 meters (about six furlongs) on the all-weather trck was 1:11.21.
The five-year-old son of Speightstown won his career debut at Churchill Downs, was third in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) and raced against the likes of Blame, Pioneerof the Nile, Warriors Reward and Munnings.
His victory yielded a $50 payoff as well as a $1 trifecta (10-3-5) return of $832.30 and a $1 superfecta (10-3-5-11) payout of $33,993.70.
The win was one of a pair on the program for Mullen and trainer Satish Seemar of Zabeel Stables as they virtually stole a $110,000 handicap over 2200 meters (about 1 3/8 miles) with Bay Willow, who set a dawdling pace of :28.2 and :55. “They’re not out to break records,” commentator Terry Spargo noted wryly in calling the race.
Bay Willow, who won by a half-length over rallying stablemate Layali Al Andalus, was timed in 2:20.85, more than five seconds off the track record.
Godolphin accounted for half the events on the six-race program, including a smart win by French Group 1 winner Mandaean in a $120,000 handicap at a mile on turf. Trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni indicated he had erred in trying the four-year-old Manduro colt at longer distances in Europe.
“We dropped him today (in distance) and it worked,” Zarooni said. Jockey Mickael Barzalona added that Mandaean has a good turn of foot after he stopped the clock in 1:36.65, faster than the Cape Verdi distaffers.
Mandaean went off at a generous 5-1 and paid $13.20.
Bin Suroor and De Sousa teamed up again for the other Godolphin win when 7-5 favorite Masteroftherolls moved strongly to the lead in midstretch and then had to battle to prevail over 23-1 Burano in a $150,000 handicap. Masteroftherolls, a five-year-old son of Refuse To Bend, crossed the finish line in 1:49.36 for 1800 meters on the turf.
In the spirit of the Carnival, a truly international group contested a $150,000 handicap over 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on the all-weather track, with runners from Macau and Hungary joining those from England, Ireland and France.
Australian-bred Elderly Paradise, who won last year’s Macau Derby by 12 lengths, took the lead not long after leaving the gate and lulled the opposition with a slow pace (1200 meters in 1:19.69). Although jockey Christophe Soumillon let Hungarian St. Leger winner Ostinato pass him going into the far turn, Elderly Paradise found more to win by 1 ¼ lengths over Jamr, paying $6 after covering the distance in 2:07.64.
“The horse was very comfortable and when I asked him, he gave me everything,” said Soumillon, who notched his first Carnival win of 2013.
Cape Verdi Matches Group 1 and Classic Winners on Carnival Card
By Michele MacDonald
South African Group 1 winner Amanee and Godolphin’s UAE Oaks (G3) victress Falls of Lora head a field of eight talented fillies and mares entered in the $200,000 Cape Verdi (G2) on turf, the feature race on the Thursday, January 24, Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan.
The program features six races with average field size of 11 runners. First post will be at 9:30 a.m. EST.
Amanee, trained by Mike de Kock for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, won the Thekwini Stakes (G1) at Greyville in July 2011 and overall has prevailed in four of her 12 starts. In her most recent effort, on the opening program of the 2013 Carnival on January 10, she finished 13th against males over 1400 meters but goes back against her own gender and at 1600 meters (about one mile) in the Cape Verdi.
Christophe Soumillon rides Amanee, a daughter of Pivotal who was bred in Australia by her owner, from post two. All runners will carry 126 pounds.
Godolphin sends out a phalanx of four distaffers—three trained by all-time Carnival leader Saeed bin Suroor and one by Mahmoud Al Zarooni. Of the four, Italian Group 3 winner Sajjhaa is the 7-5 morning line choice; the six-year-old King’s Best mare will be ridden by Silvestre De Sousa from post 8.
Sajjhaa has competed against top mares in her career, including champions Snow Fairy and Midday, while compiling four wins and four seconds in 13 starts. Last year, she was fourth in a Group 1 event at Rome and in 2010 she defeated Aspectoflove in the Prix Sergio Cumani (G3) at Milan. Aspectoflove went on to win the Cape Verdi in 2011.
All the Godolphin runners are intriguing, with Al Zarooni’s charge Falls of Lora having scored in the UAE Oaks (G3) last year before taking on colts unsuccessfully in the UAE Derby (G2). The Street Cry filly is listed at 10-1.
Dark Orchid, 7-2, was a stakes winner in France last year while trained by Andre Fabre. She starts from the rail with Ted Durcan in the irons.
Her bin Suroor stablemate Spellwork, 10-1 with Kieren Fallon aboard, also raced in France with Fabre last season and was stakes-placed. A Kentucky-bred by Hard Spun, Spellwork is the first foal to race out of 2005 UAE 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner Satin Kiss.
The third Carnival program of the season also features a pair of handicap events, carded as the second and third races, each worth $150,000.
A field of ten has been entered for the second race, an 1800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) turf contest with the highest rated in that group being the veteran Tajaaweed, winner of the 2011 Arlington Handicap (G3) at Arlington Park. The son of Dynaformer, now trained by Doug Watson, finished eighth in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G2) on January 10 and is listed as a 20-1 chance on the morning line.
Godolphin’s Masteroftherolls, 3-1 with De Sousa, has been fairly consistent in his career, winning or placing in seven of 11 starts. Another Godolphin challenger, French stakes winner Rostrum, is listed at 4-1.
In the third race, Godolphin’s Pennsylvania-bred Spring of Fame would have topped the field as the 6-5 early choice among eight slated for 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on the all-weather track. The $170,000 Keeneland yearling by Grand Slam won the Floodlit Stakes on the all-weather track at Kempton Park in England in his last start in early November.
However, Spring of Fame was scratched on Wednesday, leaving rival Jamr as one of the prime contenders. Spring of Fame and Jamr took turns beating one another in two races during last year’s Carnival, although Jamr’s win was recorded while in receipt of nine pounds.
Storm in Dubai: Soft Falling Rain Drowns Rivals in Guineas Trial
By Michele MacDonald
A chilly night in Dubai saw South African juvenile champion Soft Falling Rain pound his competition in the 13-runner UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, holding the lead virtually from the start to an easy finish despite giving from seven to 17 pounds to the rest.
“By my personal standards of impressive performances, this was right up there. Excellent!” declared trainer Mike de Kock, who plans to send Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s son of National Assembly on to the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) at 1600 meters (about one mile) on February 14.
The six-race Dubai World Cup Carnival program on January 17 featured three wins by Godolphin, including a 1-2 finish in the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial by Kentucky-bred fillies Music Chart and Shuruq, and a pair of records set on the turf by Tamaathul and Laajooj.
De Kock has saddled four previous winners of the 2000 Guineas, including UAE Triple Crown winner Asiatic Boy, but Soft Falling Rain looks, at this point, potentially more brilliant. His trainer said he has doubts about the colt’s staying ability beyond a mile and thus may ultimately aim at the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) rather than the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) on the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program.
Jockey Paul Hanagan declared that Soft Falling Rain felt very classy in what was, remarkably, his first start since last April, his first beyond 5 ¾ furlongs and his first on an all-weather track.
“He was doing it very easy in front and relaxed,” Hanagan said of the colt’s early speed. “He has a nice change of gears as well.”
Sent off at 8-5, Soft Falling Rain crossed the finish line in 1:23.68 for the 1400 meters (about seven furlongs) and paid $5.20. As a Southern Hemisphere-bred and a previous Group 1 winner, he carried 137 pounds under conditions of the race.
Godolphin’s I’m Back and Snowboarder, both winners of three of five starts in England, finished second and third, respectively. I’m Back was 2 ½ lengths behind Soft Falling Rain, with Snowboarder, a member of the first crop of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Raven’s Pass, another 2 ¼ lengths back.
In the 1000 Guineas Trial, Irish Group 2 winner My Special J’s, a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, grabbed a narrow lead in the stretch but soon was overwhelmed by the Godolphin duo of Music Chart, on the far outside, and Shuruq. Music Chart ran on the strongest, with jockey Mickael Barzalona scoring one of three program wins for trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni.
“She could have won easily but she was a little bit green,” Barzalona said, adding that Music Chart has a lot of character. “I expect her to improve on her next start and she is a filly for the future.”
A $230,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling bred in Kentucky and by Exchange Rate, Music Chart won for the second time in three starts. She stopped the clock in 1:24.59 and was three-quarters of a length in front of Shuruq as French stakes winner More Than Sotka finished 5 ½ lengths further back in third. My Special J’s wound up fifth in the ten-filly field.
Music Chart—who paid $9.60 as a 7-2 chance behind odds-on Shuruq—is out of a half sister to Godolphin’s Group 1 winner White Moonstone and from the family of Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Desert Stormer. Al Zarooni said she would advance on to the UAE 1000 Guineas on February 7.
“She is a nice filly who always tries her best at home and works well,” Al Zarooni said. “She has a good turn of foot, but fillies can be moody and they run well when they want to.
“I hope to have more than one filly in the UAE 1000 Guineas, and we are getting Lovely Pass ready to run in the same race,” he added, referring to Raven’s Pass’s first winner, a stakes-placed filly out of English highweight Macadamia.
In one of the most anticipated other races on the program, Indian superstar mare In the Spotlight took the lead in the stretch but could not withstand another Godolphin onslaught, eventually finishing a close fourth. Godolphin’s Anatolian defeated fellow blue colorbearer Ahzeemah by a head, with Star Empire third, a quarter-length behind, and In the Spotlight another quarter-length back in the 2410-meter (about 1 ½-mile) handicap on turf.
Winner of more than $1 million in India and many races rated as domestic Group 1 events, In the Spotlight is pointed at the Dubai City of Gold (G3) on the Dubai World Cup program. In facing her first international competition, which was all male, she was far from disgraced.
In the first of the record-setting efforts, Laajooj got up in the final strides to defeat Al Zarooni stablemate Naqshabban in 2000-meter (about 1 1/4-mile) handicap on turf in 2:01.75.
A five-year-old Irish-bred by Azamour who captured a stakes In England earlier in his career, Laajooj won for the fourth time in ten starts.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s nearly white Tamaathul, who was a good second during the opening Carnival program a week earlier, scored an eye-catching record win in a 1200-meter handicap on turf. The six-year-old Tiger Hill gelding was timed in 1:09.04 and paid $6.40, with the $1 trifecta 2-16-5 returning $3,261.50.
Capital Attraction, a six-year-old Speightstown gelding bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, won the opening race in 1:36.90 for 1600 meters on the all-weather. The win was the fifth of his 17-race career.
Champions Top Carnival Card as Classic Season Begins
By Michele MacDonald
Undefeated South African juvenile champion Soft Falling Rain makes his debut in Dubai on January 17 while topping the 14-runner field in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, which marks the beginning of the always exciting classic season.
The South African-bred son of the Danzig stallion National Assembly was never tested in four starts in his homeland, with comments such as “cruised,” “in control,” and “going away” marking his efforts. However, he has never raced beyond 5 ½ furlongs and will be tested at 1400 meters (about seven furlongs) in this allowance on Meydan’s all-weather track pitting older Southern Hemisphere-breds against Northern Hemisphere-breds.
All six races on the program have drawn big fields, with the average number of starters 14, thus giving players chances of big payoffs. First post is at 9:30 a.m. EST.
Soft Falling Rain runs for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum and trainer Mike de Kock, the all-time leader at the Carnival among international trainers, compared to Godolphin conditioners, and he will be ridden by Paul Hanagan from post six.
“A horse like this will fly the flag for South Africa abroad and be an asset to his sire and his stud farm,” de Kock said after the colt romped in the South African Nursery Stakes (G1) last April. “Soft Falling Rain is a very scopey horse and we believe he will see out a mile easy.”
Soft Falling Rain is 2-1 on the morning line. He will be joined in the race by de Kock stablemates El Estruendoso, an Argentine-bred son of Giant’s Causeway who won his only start in South Africa, and Zahee, a New Zealand-bred son of Dylan Thomas who has won three of five starts in Australia. Both those colts run for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and will be ridden, respectively, by Christophe Soumillon and Johnny Geroudis.
The early second choice is 7-1 Glass Office, winner of two straight including the Sirenia Stakes (G3) over the all-weather track at Kempton Park in England. Jamie Spencer rides the gray son of Verglas for trainer David Simcock and owner Fitriani Hay.
Godolphin unveils the first troops of its army of three-year-olds wintering in the Emirates with three runners: Filfil, a $40,000 Keeneland yearling by Hard Spun who blossomed into a $191,088 Tattersalls juvenile and won two races last year on all-weather tracks in England; three-time winner I’m Back, a son of Exceed and Excel bred by Darley in Ireland, and Timoneer, a Kentucky-bred son of Elusive Quality who was a stakes-placed winner in three starts in England.
The race is jammed with potential quality with other colts by such sires as Dubawi, Invincible Spirit, Raven’s Pass and Cape Cross.
In the 1000 Guineas Trial for fillies, also at 1400 meters, a field of ten will start led by Irish-raced Keeneland Debutante Stakes (G2) winner My Special J’s, a Kentucky-bred filly by Harlan’s Holiday who also finished second in the Silver Flash Stakes (G3).
Owned by Michael Ziegler and Thistle Bloodstock, My Special J’s will start from post nine with Tadhg O’Shea in the irons for trainer Patrick Shanahan.
Godolphin sends out Music Chart, by Exchange Rate, a $230,000 Fasig-Tipon Saratoga select sale yearling purchase who won a Newmarket maiden over seven furlongs on turf; Shuruq, a Darley-bred Elusive Quality filly who won a seven-furlong maiden on the all-weather Kempton track in October, and Mar Mar, an Irish-bred winner by Invincible Spirit.
Music Chart is listed at 2-1 on the morning line, with Shuruq at 3-1 and My Special J’s at 10-1.
In the final race on the program, a $110,000 handicap over 2410 meters (about 1 ½ miles) on turf, Indian-bred and –raced sensational mare In the Spotlight takes on 15 male challengers in her first international test.
In the Spotlight has won 11 of 15 starts and nine of her last ten races, including three Derbies, two St. Legers, an Oaks and a 1000 Guineas—all rated as domestic Group 1 races in India. She will start from post five with top European rider Ryan Moore in the irons and is listed at the 5-2 favorite on the morning line.
“By God`s grace, the filly has won me every race that is there to be won in India,” owner Jamshed Appoo told Indian website Racing Pulse. “I fervently pray that the filly fulfils the great expectation of the Indian racing fraternity of success abroad. In the Spotlight`s success will be a great advertisement for Indian racing.”
In the Spotlight is a daughter of the Sadler’s Wells stallion Alnasr Alwasheek. She has earned $1,055,082 to date.
Carnival Opens with Barbecue and Records
By Michele MacDonald
On a sizzling night of speed in which two records were recorded at Meydan, veteran campaigner Barbecue Eddie turned up the heat on his competition for a handy win in the $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G2) to launch the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
The victory was the first at the graded/group level for the nine-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, bred in Maryland and initially raced in the United States but now owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, and also marked the biggest score in the training career of American Doug Watson.
Barbecue Eddie finished 1 ½ lengths in front of 2012 Sham Stakes (G3) winner Out of Bounds, who turned in a strong first effort after being sidelined for a year following an injury that precluded him from last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1).
“His target is the Godolphin Mile (G2)—a race he sadly had to miss last year due to illness—and we will look after him,” said Watson of Barbecue Eddie, a stable favorite who is competing in his fifth Dubai World Cup Carnival.
“He owes us nothing and we will space his races out with (Dubai) World Cup (G1) night in mind. He may be nine now but he retains his ability,” added Watson, a three-time champion trainer in the United Arab Emirates and former assistant to Kiaran McLaughlin. The Godolphin Mile is a supporting stakes on the World Cup program set for March 30.
The Maktoum Challenge, the opening leg of a three-race series of preps leading to the Dubai World Cup program and previously captured by World Cup winner Gloria de Campaeo and other Carnival stars Musir and Mendip, was run at 1600 meters (about one mile). Watson said Barbecue Eddie, who crossed the finish line in 1:37.24,has proved he relishes both the distance and Meydan’s all-weather surface.
Sent off at 7-2, Barbecue Eddie paid $9.20 in North America while winning his fourth consecutive race and increasing his career earnings to $922,828. He had finished third in the 2007 Ancient Title Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
Out of Bounds finished a half-length in front of Fulbright and Rutland Boy, who dead-heated for third. Last year’s Godolphin Mile runner-up, Mufarrh, was just a nose back in fifth.
In the co-feature of the program, new Godolphin recruit Sharestan set a course record of 1:47.79 for 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf while cruising to the easiest kind of win in the $125,000 Al Rashidiya Trial allowance.
Jockey Silvestre de Sousa kept 4-5 Sharestan just off the pace set first by Energia Dust and then Red Duke before letting the five-year-old son of Shamardal, previously raced by breeder The Aga Khan, lengthen stride in the stretch. Sharestan, a multiple stakes winner won by four lengths over French Group 3 winner So Beautiful, with Rerouted a half-length back in third.
“He traveled well with a nice cruising speed. I’m pleased with what he did—he did it well within himself and he should improve for the run,” de Sousa said.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who also saddled the 1-2-3 finishers led by Royal Empire in the fourth race on the program for Godolphin, said: “We thought Sharestan was going to perhaps need a run, and the fast ground was a slight concern, but he did it very well.”
The trial was a prep for the $200,000 Al Rashidiya (G2), also at 1800 meters on turf, on January 31.
Joining Sharestan as a course record setter was Sheikh Hamdan’s Fityaan, who zipped 1000 meters (about five furlongs) on grass in :57.10 while defeating English Group 2 winner Temple Meads and Bear Behind in a handicap. Fityaan paid a whopping $108.80 and topped a 16-9-10 $1 trifecta payoff of $24,755.40.
Another impressive winner on the program was Australian-bred South African Group 1 winner Le Drakkar, who soared from the back of the 16-horse field at 20-1 to win a 1400-meter (about seven-furlong) handicap sprint on turf by three-quarters of a length over Tamaathul with Argentine classic winner Anaerobio third.
Carnival action resumes on January 17 with first post at 10:05 a.m. EST.
Out of Bounds Back on Track to Launch 2013 Carnival
By Michele MacDonald
Knocked off the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail last winter by an injury, the talented Out of Bounds will make his first start in almost exactly a year when he tops a field of ten set for the $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (G2) at Meydan Racecourse on January 10.
The Maktoum Challenge over 1600 meters (about one mile) on the all-weather track is the first step on the road to the $27-million Dubai World Cup (G1) program on March 30 as well as the featured event on the opening program of the about $10 million Dubai World Cup Carnival. First post for the program will be at 10:05 a.m. EST.
Bred by Darley and now racing for Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor, Out of Bounds won the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park last January over Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint victor Secret Circle. Former trainer Eoin Harty described the about 17-hand Out of Bounds, who is a son of Cigar Mile (G1) and UAE Derby (G2) winner Discreet Cat out of Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Unbridled Elaine, as a “gentle giant” while he was racing in the United States.
Silvestre de Sousa will ride Out of Bounds from the rail as the 3-1 morning line choice.
Barbecue Eddie, who is on a three-race win streak; Mufarrh, runner-up in last year’s Godolphin Mile (G2) on Dubai World Cup night, and Godolphin’s English Group 2 winner Fulbright lead the challengers.
Now a venerable nine years old, Barbecue Eddie is, remarkably, coming off the best season of his career by earnings. The Maryland-bred son of Stormy Atlantic amassed $234,944 with four wins in seven starts in 2012, including his last two in allowance races over Meydan’s all-weather track.
Barbecue Eddie was Grade 1-placed in the United States and has won six races over the Meydan track since it opened in 2010. He will be ridden from the three post by Dane O’Neill for Doug Watson, a three-time champion trainer in the United Arab Emirates after formerly serving as an assistant to Kiaran McLaughlin.
Like Barbecue Eddie, who is rated at 7-2 on the morning line, Mufarrh is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum although the Irish-bred son of Marju is trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe, champion trainer in the UAE for the past two seasons. Rated a 5-1 chance from post four with two-time British champion jockey Paul Hanagan in the irons, Mufarrh is coming off a third-place effort at Meydan on December 20 in his first start since the Godolphin Mile last March.
The supporting feature on 2013’s initial Carnival program is the $125,000 Al Rashidiya Trial at 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf, which has drawn an intriguing field of nine led by Godolphin’s consistent Sharestan as the 2-1 early choice.
Coming off two consecutive stakes wins in Ireland last June, Sharestan was acquired by Godolphin from his breeder, the Aga Khan. The five-year-old son of Shamardal is trained by bin Suroor and will be ridden by de Sousa from post nine as he tries for his fifth career victory in his eighth start.
English Group 2 winner Red Duke, a Kentucky-bred son of Hard Spun who finished fifth in last year’s UAE Derby; Sheikh Hamdan’s French Group 3 winner So Beautiful; German Group 3 winner Theo Danon, and 2010 Dubai Duty Free (G1) winner Al Shemali, earner of more than $3.5-million, are poised to test Sharestan.
Meanwhile, the program will open with a $110,000, 1400-meter (about seven-furlong) handicap that has lured a field of 14, and will close with a 1400-meter dash on turf that pits 16 horses against one another.
Argentine champion and classic winner Anaerobio heads the final event, along with aging South African Group 1 winner Le Drakkar and $948,483 earner Oasis Dancer, winner of the 2009 Tattersalls Timeform Million.
Blue Celebration as Monterosso, Capponi 1-2 in World Cup
It was a toss-up as to who was the most excited between Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and French-based jockey Mickael Barzalona when Monterosso won the $10-million Dubai World Cup (G1) (video) at Meydan on March 31.
Barzalona stood high in the saddle with his right arm even higher, flourishing his whip, as Monterosso hit the line three lengths clear of stablemate Capponi, giving Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin stable the top two finishers in the world’s richest race.
“The Boss,” as the sheikh is affectionately known, was jubilant as he hugged friends around him and danced with joy as Monterosso avenged his unlucky third in the race last year.
French Group 1 winner Planteur finished third, a half-length behind Capponi and a half-length in front of former Australian champion So You Think, now with the Coolmore team. The latter, widely regarded as best runner in the World Cup based on a record that sports eight Group 1 wins on two continents, raced near the lead throughout but it was Godolphin again dominating the race as they have done five times before in the World Cup’s 17-year history.
Despite having had success in feature races all around the racing world over the past 20 years, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed never tires of winning the Dubai World Cup, and Monterosso’s victory marks the first time he could celebrate since Electrocutionist prevailed in 2006.
By contrast, Barzalona is rapidly carving his own name in racing history. Only 20 years old, he will soon join the Godolphin stable at Newmarket in England as a retained jockey.
“I couldn’t believe it when no one was coming after me (in the straight),” Barzalona said of his win on Monterosso. “This is a dream. I have no words to describe what I feel right now. “
Asked about his dramatic celebration on the line, he said: “I just had to, I had no choice.”
While Godolphin’s previous Dubai World Cup winners were prepared by Saeed bin Suroor, Monterosso and Capponi gave Dubai-based trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni his biggest success.
Monterosso powered away from Capponi, ridden by Ahmed Ajtebi, in the run for home. Planteur, trained in England by Italian Marco Botti, performed well after encountering some challenges, according to jockey Ryan Moore.
“Ryan said he got a bump at the start and was further back than he wanted to be,” Botti said.
Not far from the placegetters was the former German-based Zazou, newly purchased by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, and jockey Olivier Peslier indicated that he had his chance. “I have no complaints,” Peslier said.
Atjebi was full of praise for Capponi.
“It was a great effort. I was confident he would finish in the first three and he ran up to his best. I beat the winner the last time we met but obviously he’s improved and he ran third in this race last year, so it’s great for the team. My horse has come from handicaps to running second in the Dubai World Cup. So I’m delighted with that.”
Godolphin also had Prince Bishop and Mendip in the race but it was left to Monterosso and Capponi to steal the show by putting the pressure on hot favorite So You Think from the 600-meter (about three-eighths of a mile) mark.
Jockey Joseph O’Brien said So You Think just could not quicken on the all-weather surface that was too dead for him.
The highly rated Japanese contender Eishen Flash finished sixth without ever looking likely to get into the finish. Jockey Christophe Lemaire said: “He was nervous in the gate and didn’t start well, but he got a rhythm and ran well but I was too far back in the trip.”
Equally disappointing was American champion filly Royal Delta, but jockey Jose Lezcano said there were excuses for her. “We had a good position, but in the middle of the turn the horse in front of me quit so I had to wait a little longer than I wanted to. She gave me a good run at the end but this surface is a little different—it’s a little sticky.”
Center of attention before the race was the leading North American woman jockey Chantal Sutherland, who rode multiple Grade 1 winner Game On Dude. Sutherland said her mount was a victim of circumstances after he wound up 12th in the field of 14.
“It was a good trip considering everything that happened. The horse next to him was acting up in the gate, so he thought they were going to break. At home, we break quicker, so he went to go forward and then he sat down. He just got a little frazzled after not breaking so great. Then he relaxed. He was good on the backside; he just wanted to get into his rhythm. So I did what I always do and let him try to get there and I waited. The track is very tiring,” she said.
The complete order of finish behind Zazou was Eishin Flash, Prince Bishop, Master of Hounds, Royal Delta, Smart Falcon, Mendip, Game On Dude and, finally, last year's runner-up Transcend.
Cirrus des Aigles Makes History in Dubai Sheema Classic
Cirrus des Aigles again thrust French trainer Corine Barande-Barbe to the forefront of the world’s racing focus as he battled his way to success in the $5-million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) (video), marking the first time a woman trainer has sent out a winner on the Dubai World Cup (G1) program.
Under the dazzling floodlights of the imposing Meydan grandstand, Oliver Peslier’s mount stretched for the wire as Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner St Nicholas Abbey chased him home, but the Irish raider could get no closer than a neck in second place.
Cirrus des Aigles is by far and away the star of Barbe’s 35-horse string based in Chantilly and he gave the 54-year-old—who celebrated her birthday the previous day—the most valuable success of her career.
Beaten into second during his prep race in France, the six-year-old gelded son of Even Top had shown his true worth last autumn when landing the Champion Stakes (G1) on the inaugural Champions day at Ascot.
Barbe said: “I knew he would win—I said so in the morning! My horse is just marvelous and it was my birthday yesterday. This is a big moment for me; it is a dream which keeps getting better and better. I was confident, and I always knew Olivier would do the right thing. If the pace was not fast, then he would go from the front, and if it was fast then he could sit behind. Olivier let him go as the horse knows about racing, and it is a big deal to win this race.”
Peslier’s mount tussled with Bold Silvano for the early lead and was always placed to the head of affairs before showing a Corinthian spirit to hold off St Nicholas Abbey.
“The horse likes to fight. If there is a horse in front of him, he likes to pass it and if a horse comes from behind then it pushes him on,” Barbe added.
“There was no question about the distance (2410 meters [about 1 ½ miles]) as he won on the bridle by ten lengths over this trip in Deauville and was second to Sarafina over the distance when we rode him from the front. This is similar to winning the Champion Stakes, and the horse seems to like big racecourses,” she said.
“We didn’t go very fast but I knew I was on a horse that has a lot of speed, so I went with the leader early on,” Peslier said. “There was hardly any pace so I just let him go on and he finished really well. I could see St Nicholas Abbey coming and I knew it was going to be tight and he just held on.”
Cirrus des Aigles stopped the clock in 2:31.30 on a course rated good.
Joseph O’Brien was aboard St Nicholas Abbey for his father, trainer Aidan O’Brien, and rode a patient race before thundering down the stretch to take second.
“They went very slow. He was giving them a start and the post came too soon,” Joseph O’Brien said.
Jakkalberry finished a further 3 1/2 lengths adrift in third place while St Nicholas Abbey’s stablemate Treasure Beach took fourth. Following him across the finish line were Mahbooba, Beaten Up, Cavalryman, Songcraft, Shimraan and Bold Silvano.
Cityscape Towers Over Dubai Duty Free
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Cityscape unleashed blistering acceleration at the top of the stretch to turn the $5-million Dubai Duty Free (video) into a procession at Meydan Racecourse on March 31.
The six-year-old blaze-faced son of Selkirk was ridden aggressively by James Doyle to lower the course record previously held by Mahbooba by 0.14 seconds while scoring in 1:48.65 on turf rated good. He tallied by 4 ¼ lengths from Mutahadee, who emerged from midfield to claim the runner-up berth, with City Style just a head back in third place.
Winning trainer Roger Charlton was almost lost for words in the aftermath.
“I can’t believe it. The race panned out absolutely as we thought it would,” Charlton said. “Await The Dawn weakened pretty quickly to leave us in front plenty early enough, but that wasn’t a problem.”
Cityscape marked Doyle’s first winner in a Dubai World Cup (G1) program race. He will never have a more comfortable passage to the winner’s circle after Cityscape stalked Await The Dawn before usurping that frontrunner soon after the halfway mark in the 1800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) contest.
Doyle waited until the bright chestnut reached the straight before turning him loose.
“This horse has an amazing turn of foot,” the jockey said. “He just kept finding more; he was even idling a little in the closing stages. It was a great feeling and the biggest day in my life.”
The Dubai Duty Free was the first Group 1 victory for Cityscape, who has endured a series of near-misses—most notably in Hong Kong in December, when he was denied by a nose in a photo finish with Able One in the Hong Kong Mile (G1). For that reason Charlton, who trains Cityscape on the Berkshire Downs in England, was doubly delighted.
“Everyone keeps telling me the horse needs soft ground, but he goes on anything. What he really enjoys is racing on a flat, level track. If we’d stayed at home, we’d have had to keep avoiding Frankel (who is also owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah). It made sense to come here.”
Mutahadee finished well under Christophe Soumillon but never had a shot at the winner.
“In the straight I knew I was beaten because the winner just took off and left me behind. I could see how well he (the winner) was going and I knew he wasn’t going to come back to me. He gave everything he had,” Soumillon said.
The three-pronged Hong Kong challenge, headed by Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon, failed to figure. The best of them was Xtension, who finished fifth. Dubawi Gold was withdrawn on veterinary advice just before he was due to load into the stalls, reducing the field to 15.
Following City Style across the finish line were Wigmore Hall, Xtension, Musir, Ambitious Dragon, Delegator, Dark Shadow, Rajsaman, Green Destiny, California Memory, Rio de La Plata, last year’s winner Presvis and Await The Dawn.
Carnival Star Krypton Factor Wins Golden Shaheen for Bahrain
Krypton Factor struck a huge blow for Bahraini owner and trainer Fawzi Nass when finishing best of all under the powerful urgings of Kieren Fallon to wear down defending champion Rocket Man, drawing away in the final yards to win the $2-million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) (video) by 2 1/4 lengths.
The accomplishment was a first for a Bahraini and showcases the skills of Nass, who also races in Europe and the United States.
Rocket Man broke alertly from his rail post to take an early but never uncontested lead. He was pressed all the way in the early stages by American challenger Giant Ryan who led briefly going into the turn before Rocket Man reasserted himself.
At the head of the straight, Rocket Man found more and looked briefly to have shaken off the pursuing pack, but it was quickly apparent that danger was lurking in the shape of Krypton Factor, whom Fallon had launched in pursuit of the 2011 Singapore Horse of the Year. The gap narrowed and Krypton Factor ran on with strong strides, scoring in 1:10.79, the quickest winning Dubai Golden Shaheen time since the race has been run on an all-weather surface at Meydan beginning in 2010.
Of the remainder of the 12-horse field, Hong Kong sprinter Lucky Nine ran on to be third under Brett Prebble, two further lengths adrift, with another length back to Hitchens and Silvestre De Sousa in fourth.
The win marked a first Thoroughbred success on the Dubai World Cup (G1) program for the Kingdom of Bahrain, and afterwards a delighted Nass said: “He had never faced competition as tough as this, but we still felt confident going into the race. We knew there would be a lot of pace, so thought it would be best to sit off it. Then Kieren angled him out and that was that. We may go to Singapore next (for the KrisFlyer International Sprint [G1]) and we’ll be thinking about Royal Ascot as well, depending on how things go.”
“This horse has continued to improve all through the Dubai World Cup Carnival, and I knew he was in good form,” Fallon said. “He was always going well for me tonight and I’d love to ride him at Royal Ascot.”
Krypton Factor won the Super Saturday prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen, the Mahab Al Shimaal. Overall, the four-year-old, British-bred son of Kyllachy has won eight of 20 starts and placed eight times, and the $1.2-million Golden Shaheen prize multiplied his earnings about five times to a total of $1,553,638.
Rocket Man’s jockey Felix Coetzee was gracious in defeat, saying: “He’s such a professional. Going to the start he was composed and knew exactly what was going on. He flew out so fast and landed in front and was going well, though he was being pressed by the American horse, which wasn’t ideal, but he never stopped.”
Disappointment of the race was the multiple Grade 1-winning, Bob Baffert-trained The Factor, who never flashed his expected early speed an finished a lackluster sixth. His jockey Rafael Bejarano The Factor did not have any energy in the race.
Following Hitchens across the finish line were Giant Ryan, The Factor, Inxile, Russian Rock, Happy Dubai, Australian champion Sepoy, Iver Bridge Lad and Soul.
Ortensia Beats the Boys in Al Quoz Sprint
Ortensia struck another blow for the prowess of Australian turf sprinters as the seven-year-old mare burst from near the tail of the field to capture the $1-million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) (video) in a thrilling rush to the wire in which any of six or seven horses had the chance to win.
Trained by Paul Messara and coolly ridden by Craig Williams, Ortensia looked to have plenty to do halfway through the 1000-meter (about five-furlong) dash down the Meydan straight before unleashing a matchless finishing kick in the final furlong to score by 1 ¼ lengths from Irish Group 1-winning sprinter Sole Power with 2010 Al Quoz Sprint winner Joy And Fun from Hong Kong a neck back in third.
The winning time of :57.98 on a course rated good was just three-tenths of a second outside the track record.
Ortensia, one of four fillies and mares in the 15-horse field reduced by one with the late scratch of Eagle Regiment, has maintained a perfect 3-for-3 record since joining Messara last year.
The young trainer was overjoyed, saying: “I had my heart in my mouth. I can’t believe she has won it. I jumped so high when she hit the line I lost my phone! At the 400 meters, I was sweating bullets because I thought she would be a lot closer but Craig knew what he was doing. He knows her so well. She goes to England in seven days and she is going to run in the King’s Stand Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot over the same distance.”
Williams returned to scale with the Australian flag draped over his shoulders and was celebrating the first Aussie winner on Dubai World Cup (G1) night since Elvstroem captured the 2005 Dubai Duty Free (G1).
“I have had 20 rides on the mare for four wins—she has been unlucky in a few but she was brilliant today,” said Williams, who won the Meydan Masters international jockey competition when the Dubai World Cup Carnival began in January.
“We knew what her weaknesses were going in, but we also knew her strengths and the race panned out perfectly. I was able to get into clear running inside the last 300 meters and she had an explosive turn of foot.”
Following Joy And Fun across the finish line were Monsieur Joe, August Rush, Nocturnal Affair, Invincible Ash, Secret Asset, Better Be The One, Margot Did, War Artist, A Shin Virgo, Prohibit, Regally Ready and Addictive Dream.
For Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2) winner Regally Ready, the race was the second disappointing effort following a similar placing in the Meydan Sprint on March 10.
“It seemed like he wasn’t handling the straightaway,” said Regally Ready’s jockey Corey Nakatani. “He’s better than that.”
Opinion Poll Scores Richest Career Victory in Dubai Gold Cup
Godolphin’s Opinion Poll, who had chased Coolmore’s Fame and Glory in the Ascot Gold Cup (G1) last year, secured a Gold Cup of his own when taking the $1-million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) (video) under jockey Frankie Dettori.
A six-year-old by Halling, Opinion Poll became a millionaire with the victory, which marked the richest of his career and his ninth wins from 24 starts. His earnings now stand at $1,515,499 after adding $600,000 to his bankroll.
“It’s been a great night for the team and I’m pleased it’s gone so well for us,” said Dettori, who earlier on the program rode African Story to win the Godolphin Mile (G2). “I was very happy to win this race and it all went according to plan. I think we’ll target the Ascot Gold Cup in June.”
Contested at 3200 meters (about two miles) on the Meydan turf, the race was initially underway as the third on the Dubai World Cup (G1) program. However, after Opinion Poll’s stablemate Fox Hunt incurred a fatal injury at the top of the stretch, the race was declared void and rescheduled to be run again after the World Cup.
In the initial run, the stewards ordered riders to pull up after it was apparent that there was insufficient time to clear the course. Fox Hunt’s jockey Silvestre De Sousa was shaken, but otherwise unhurt. De Souza was driven off of the track and resumed riding the remainder of his mounts on the program.
The rescheduled Dubai Gold Cup was run about 4 1/2 hours after the first attempt.
Japan’s Makani Bisty made the early running, while chased by Mikhail Glinka, who had jockey Glyn Schofield working hard to keep him relaxed in second. The field galloped two by two down the front straight.
Opinion Poll made his move around the far turn and won by three-quarters of a length. Joshua Tree briefly appeared a threat but was no match for the winner, and he was able to keep the closing Zanzamar out of the place position by only a short head.
Zanzamar’s run fell just short of a storybook ending for jockey Richard Hills, who was making his last ride prior to retirement after serving Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum as retained jockey for most of three decades.
The Dubai Gold Cup was originally billed as the DRC Gold Cup in 2009, upgraded to a Group 3 race in 2010 and then moved to the Dubai World Cup card for the first time this year.
Daddy Long Legs Scampers to Landmark UAE Derby Win
By Michele MacDonald
After racing just off the early pace set by three-time Australian Group 1 winner Helmet, Daddy Long Legs spun out of the far turn and scampered to a landmark victory in the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) (video), a first-ever win in Dubai for champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.
“We’re delighted,” said a beaming O’Brien after being greeted by Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum in the winner’s enclosure.
Daddy Long Legs rolled under the finish line in 1:58.35 for the 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) over the all-weather track that some jockeys said had been playing slow after a hot afternoon. He held a 1 ¼ length margin over French-based runner Yang Tse Kiang.
There was even more to celebrate in the O’Brien camp as 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Wrote finished third, just three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up and 1 ¼ lengths in front of Mickdaam, who had won the UAE classic Al Bastikiya over course and distance on March 10.
O’Brien said his plan in bringing Daddy Long Legs and Wrote to Dubai for the UAE Derby was to measure their potential for the Kentucky Derby (G1) on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Both colts ran well enough for further consideration.
“He was a good colt last year and obviously this was his first run of this season. He jumped and he traveled well,” O’Brien said of Daddy Long Legs, who won the Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) in England last year before finishing 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on dirt at Churchill.
“Obviously both ran lovely races tonight—Wrote just got a little tired in the final 50 yards,” O’Brien continued of the UAE Derby finish. “We’ll speak to the lads, but I would think (Daddy Long Legs) would be a strong possibility (for the Kentucky Derby).”
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue was jubilant, raising his arms above his head as he entered the winner’s enclosure.
“He competed against the best today and he showed how good he is,” O’Donoghue said. “Hopefully, he can keep improving from this. I think he can.”
Helmet set fractions of :26.13, :50.54 and 1:15.19 before tiring and finishing 12th in the 14-horse field. The two colts who had been campaigned in North America, Team Valor International’s Lucky Chappy and Canadian stakes winner Maritimer were unable to make an impact, with Lucky Chappy finishing seventh and Maritimer 11th.
Following Mickdaam, in complete order of finish, were: Red Duke, Argentine Group 1-winning filly Balada Sale, Lucky Chappy, Burano, Kinglet, Falls of Lora, Maritimer, Helmet, Entifaadha and Genten.
The race marked the first-ever running of the UAE Derby that was not won by Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor, who did not have a runner this year, or South Africa’s Mike de Kock, who saddled Mickdaam.
African Story Adds to Godolphin Legacy in Godolphin Mile
African Story, a five-year-old son of Pivotal, notched the latest victory after being billed by trainer Saeed bin Suroor as his best chance of the program. Frankie Dettori, who picked up his seventh win in the 1600-meter (about one-mile) race, steered African Story home in time of 1:37.52 on the Meydan all-weather track.
Rating in third in the early going, African Story rallied to the lead near the 1200-meter (about six-furlong) mark before drawing off to a four-length victory, his fifth in 12 starts overall.
“It was my banker of my night and it was very easy,” said Dettori.
“I’ve always said this was our best chance of the night,” added bin Suroor, an eight-time winner in this race. “I was really pleased how he looked coming into the race.”
The Mike de Kock-trained Viscount Nelson rallied for second while pacesetter Red Jazz held the third spot after making the pace through sectional times of :25.54 for the first 400 meters (about two furlongs) and :48.93 for 800 meters (about a half-mile).
“Never going to beat the winner, so finishing second was as good as a win—really excited about the run,” said Kevin Shea, who rode the runner-up.
“He was third last year, so pound for pound it was almost an identical run,” said Michael Hills, who was aboard Red Jazz. “He’s been off for a very long time, he didn’t lack race fitness, just that racing edge, but he battled on well when he was headed.”
Richard’s Kid, Haatheq, First City, Shamalgan, Sandagiyr, Derbaas, Dux Scholar, Snaffy and Do It All completed the order of finish.
Western Aristocrat, owned by Tom Ludt, president of Vinery Ltd. In Lexington, was pulled up after 800 meters and did not finish the race.
“I really don’t know what happened, but the horse is fine,” said jockey Ryan Moore.