Trainer Mike de Kock had a message for Mubtaahij’s supporters after the colt had failed to make the frame in Thursday night’s Gr3 Firebreak Stakes over 1600m on dirt at Meydan: “All I can say is, please relax! Mubtaahij is being prepared for the Dubai World Cup, a race I believe he can win. What happens between now and 26 March is irrelevant!”
Mubtaahij, coming off a 243-day rest, stayed on for fifth, beaten 4.25-lengths by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s Confrontation (USA), with One Man Band and Watershed in second and third respectively and Le Bernardin taking fourth.
Mike elaborated: “I said before the Firebreak Stakes this week that Mubtaahij was around 80-85% fit and that this would be a stepping stone to bigger things. We are very happy with the way he ran. Even if he was 100% wound up tonight, he wouldn’t have beaten the winner, who is a well-performed Graded miler from the US. This was a field of quality runners, mostly sprinter-milers. The fourth horse won a Gr2 mile here two weeks ago.”
Mike pointed to Mubtaahij’s runs at last year’s Carnival and said: “He was beaten once at Graded level when he went down a short head to Maftool over 1600m on dirt. Six weeks later he beat Maftool by eight lengths when unextended in the UAE Derby over 1900m. We’ll be going to the World Cup via the Maktoum Challenge (R3) on Super Saturday, in which he will already be a much improved runner.”
Mike said that the Kiaran McLaughlin runners had raised the bar at the Carnival: “The Gr1 USA form adds a new dimension.”
In review of the stable’s other runners on the night, Mike said: “The only disappointment was Tannaaf, who didn’t have the best of passages in the Handicap over 1900m but ran way below his best all the same. His performance was baffling. Sanshaawes ran to form again, getting another cheque and Tellina improved nicely finishing just out of the money. He’s on the up, still needed this run and should be close to his best next time.
“Prayer For Relief came up against the talented Frosted and as expected the American horse was too good for his field. Our runner wasn’t disgraced, he was just shaded out of fourth and finished on more or less similar terms with the third horse Faulkner, proving that he ran to form.
“Star Empire, too, ran to form and there is just no way anyone can be disappointed in this performance by our nine-year-old. He had to carry 60kg around the track and was beaten only 2,75-lengths into fifth by an up-and-coming young stayer who received 7kg from him. Star Empire is a horse to be admired!
“Al Mashooqa showed up early in the turf race but faded away tamely again in the Cape Verdi. She’s just not putting in her best, hasn’t settled down but I am still suspect of last season’s two-year-old form in South Africa.”