Champion Juvenile Steps Up Another 200m
The Mike De Kock-trained Soft Falling Rain, the easy winner of the 1400m trial, will face seven rivals in the UAE 2,000 Guineas itself, one of a trio of Group 3 races at the sixth meeting of the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival on Thursday evening.
Unbeaten in his South Africa, where he was Champion Juvenile, the son of National Assembly has to give weight to all his rivals being the only runner foaled in the Southern Hemisphere.
His trial victory was his first run on an all-weather surface and over a trip he was trying for the first time and his trainer, seeking a fifth win in this race, was delighted with his performance.
“He had a few questions to answer,” explained De Kock, who saddles eight on the Al Tayer Motors sponsored card. “He has a lot of natural speed and there was a slight concern 1400m might be a bit far but he stayed well enough. He had worked well on the surface but until they race on it you can never be certain.
“Again the extra 200m 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.”
Godolphin trainer, Mahmoud Al Zarooni has saddled the last two winners of the first colts’ classic and has three runners in the race this year. Mickael Barzalona rides new recruit, Fortify who is having his first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Kiaran McLaughlin.
The trainer said: “He is a nice horse who is pleasing us at home. His form is on dirt but hopefully he will handle the all-weather. He will improve for the run but should be competitive.”
David Simcock’s Glass Office was fifth in the trial although he did not enjoy any luck in running that day. “He has improved since then and things just did not go smoothly three weeks ago. He should be able to get closer to De Kock’s horse this time,” said Simcock.
Barbecue Eddie, winner of the opening round of the Al Maktoum Challenge five weeks ago, returns to the same 1600m all-weather course in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes. He is penalised for that big race win though, as is Jebel Ali specialist, Treble Jig, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi and winner of the last two renewals of both the Jebel Ali Mile and Stakes.
Last year’s UAE Derby winner, Daddy Long Legs, makes his first start for De Kock having formerly been with Aidan O’Brien. The trainer likes his new recruit. “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,” said De Kock. “He will definitely improve with the run under his belt but this looks the perfect slot to get him back on the track.”
The third Group 3 is the 1200m Al Shindagha Sprint, also on the all-weather and in which last year’s winner Hitchens again clashes with runner-up and subsequent Group 1 Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor. The latter is making his seasonal return and his owner/trainer, Fawzi Nass explained: “He has been off since Royal Ascot last June and this has been the race we targeted for his comeback as he has no penalty. He has a nice draw in three and usually goes well fresh but we have definitely left a bit to work on with the Golden Shaheen and the end of March still a fair way off.”
The Mike de Kock and Wilgerbosdrift bred & owned Kavanagh will contest the Gr3 Al Shindagha Sprint.
Generous sponsors Al Tayer Motors must be delighted with the quality of horsepower on show on a cracking card which includes three Group 3 races and is worth US$1,12m in prize money.
For Mike de Kock, the Dubai winning tally kept ticking over with a double at Meydan last Thursday (7 Feb 2013) – SA-bred runners Star Empire and Royal Ridge winning for the stable, while Jardim and El Estruendoso found places.
Christophe Soumillon rode a well-timed finish on Mohammed Khaleel’s Star Empire to win the 2810m turf handicap. Star Empire was among the backmarkers in the early part, and spotted by commentator Terry Spargo to be making good headway as they approached the home turn.
The contenders raced in compact fashion – Azheema, Certerach and Bob Le Beau edging ahead in the middle of the track with Royal Ridge unleashing a powerful run on the outside. They raced to the post in almost a straight line, but Soumillon coaxed extra from his mount to get up late.
“Star Empire is a great result for the whole team as he had been off almost two years before his comeback three weeks ago,” Mike said. Star Empire, by Second Empire, was bred by Sydney Muller, Farrell Ratner and Len Salzman.
Jockey Paul Hanagan was also seen at his best on Sheikh Hamdan’s Royal Ridge. He kept the son of Tiger Ridge going strongly in a driving finish to beat Producer by a head at the line. Mike said: “It has been a decent night with two winners and we have always said Royal Ridge would like this surface.”
Royal Ridge is by Wilgerbosdrift stallion Tiger Ridge and was bred by Frank Sharp. Emotif proved to be just in need of her comeback run – beaten only 2.75 lengths into fifth behind Lovely Pass after being slow off and racing wide.
“She was blowing heavily after the race. Watch her next time, she will be hard to beat,” Mike said. For behind the scenes news and views from Dubai Racing Club follow us on Twitter at @DRC_Meydan and like us on facebook by clicking here.