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.