Special Fighter sealed a memorable Super Saturday for Musabah Al Muhairi when he rounded off a treble-winning performance for the trainer with victory in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge, the official Dubai World Cup prep.
The 5 March 2016 Super Saturday meeting opened with the Listed Al Bastakiya, over the same 1900m dirt course and distance as the Group 2 UAE Derby and Market Rally, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas on his previous start, ran out the easy winner in the four-strong field.
Trained by in form Dhruba Selvaratnam, who won a Dubai World Cup Carnival handicap with the Hayes-ridden Dormello on Thursday and Friday’s Jebel Ali Sprint with Morawij and Wayne Smith, Market Rally is clearly talented.
He should make a bold bid to emulate Asiatic Boy, the only previous winner of the UAE Triple Crown in 2007, in the UAE Derby where UAE Oaks heroine, Polar River, heads the opposition.
Interestingly, Selvaratnam’s winner posted a time almost two seconds quicker than the Doug Watson-trained Polar River achieved in the UAE Oaks on Thursday.
“He is still learning about racing,” said Smullen. “He will develop physically and is still immature mentally. He was fractious in the gates, then having broke well he just wanted to get on with it. There was no point fighting him so I let him find his stride and he was soon in a lovely rhythm. He stayed the trip well and is going to be a really nice horse for Sheikh Ahmed and Dhruba. He must have a genuine chance in the UAE Derby.”
Gr3 Mahab Al Shimaal
The 1200m dirt track record also fell in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal with the Al Muhairi-trained Muarrab lowering the previous mark set by Secret Circle to 1:10.20 when winning the Group 1 Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup night last year.
Sporting the colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Muarrab, who won the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint a year and a day ago, was soon in front under the owner’s retained jockey, Paul Hanagan. Stalked by Rich Tapestry, whom he had chased home in the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint, over the same course and distance, three weeks ago, Hanagan was clearly determined to utilise their plum pole position draw. Gerald Mosse and Rich Tapestry had employed similar positive tactics in the Al Shindagha Sprint but were forced to track Muarrab this time.
Mosse’s mount had no response when Hanagan went for home on Muarrab leaving the final turn and eventually lost second, close to the line, to the same owner’s Kifaah, trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
“Last time he tried to anticipate the start and hit the gates so was slowly away,” explained Hanagan. “He has broken well today and we had the draw in one so he could use his high cruising speed to get to the front. He does not have to make the running but has the natural speed to do so.”
Owner, jockey and trainer completed a memorable sprint double with Fityaan leading in the closing strides of the Group 3 Meydan Sprint, needing virtually every stride of the 1000m turf dash to land the spoils.
Gr3 Burj Nahaar
Doug Watson’s stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, faces a tricky decision over who to ride in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile after the smooth victory of Cool Cowboy in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar, over the same 1600m dirt course and distance.
With the highly progressive One Man Band also aimed at that target, Cool Cowboy looks a strong second string to the trainer’s bow.
Gr2 Dubai City Of Gold
Class prevailed in the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold over the same 2410m turf trip as the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic and the Roger Varian-trained Postponed highlighted his claims for that $6m contest.
With the defections of both Makzon and Rembrandt Van Rijn from the original field of eight, a field of six went to post with Captain Morley leading the field for the vast majority of the race. Winner of the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last year when trained by Luca Cumani, this was a good prep on his first start for Varian.
“That was very pleasing and it is always to a relief to win with such a nice horse,” said Varian. “We had done plenty of work with him at home and the team here with him have done a great job. Remember, he was a very good horse when he joined us and we have enjoyed a smooth winter with him. Andrea was very pleased with him and, whereas he has done plenty of work, he is a big horse who carries a bit of condition so hopefully he will tighten up.”
Gr1 Al Maktoum Challenge
Staged over the same 2000m dirt course and distance as the $10million Dubai World Cup, the Al Maktoum Challenge has been won in the past by three subsequent Dubai World Cup winners. Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006) all completed the double for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor.
Well away and soon out in front under Fernando Jara, Special Fighter was able to get into his rhythm and, never under pressure for the lead, dictated proceedings. The pair soon moved clear of Hong Kong challenger, Gun Pit and the Doug Watson-trained Faulkner and, with US contender Keen Ice labouring in the mid division, it was soon apparent that Special Fighter had the race sewn up, and he duly delivered in a new course record time of 2:03.01.
“He was absolutely spot on today,” said Jara, who claimed the Dubai World Cup winner in 2007 Invasor. “I really did not expect to get such an easy lead and that was a real bonus. We have said all season we are not sure just how good he might be and tonight he was very good indeed. He just relaxed out in front and was always going well within himself. He then picked up well when I asked him. It was a great performance. Obviously he has been beaten by Frosted and California Chrome is very good so the Dubai World Cup will be a much harder race, but we will just enjoy this occasion and look forward to that one.”
Gr1 Jebel Hatta
The second Group 1 of the afternoon was on turf and the concluding 1800m Jebel Hatta, the stepping stone to the Dubai Turf, was won in style by Godolphin’s Tryster.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, Tryster won six times on all-weather surfaces in England last year, including the Winter Derby and Easter Classic.
He has transferred that high level of form and even bettered it in two scintillating turf victories at Meydan this year. Winner of the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes, over 2000m, two weeks ago, he certainly was not inconvenienced by this 200m drop in trip. Again partnered by Appleby’s stable jockey, William Buick, they adopted the horse’s trademark tactics, sitting at the back of the nine strong field.
Buick eased him wide of the field early in the straight and did not need to move as his mount made ground relentlessly. They hit the front with more than 200m to run and the race was in the bag. It was a first Group 1 winner in the UAE for Appleby who will be hoping Tryster can double that tally in three weeks time.
“This is a big team effort,” said Appleby. “The staff in England did a great job with him last year and those here have continued the good work. It is well documented the Dubai World Cup was the original plan but it was clear, in his work, he could not unleash his acceleration on that surface. He has now shown twice he certainly can on turf. Obviously the Dubai Turf will be an even stronger but, hopefully, they will go a better gallop as, over this trip, it should suit him better.”
South African results
While there were no wins to celebrate, several local runners went home with place cheques. The first of the South African string to face the starter was Mike de Kock trained Sanshaawes, who finished 5th in a 6 horse field in the 2410m Dubai City of Gold.
In the Gr1 Al Maktoum Challenge, Mike de Kock saddled three runners, Mubtaahij, Pylon and the US bred Golden Soul. Mubtaahij was denied 3rd place by a neck, while Pylon finished 10th and Golden Soul with Wayne Smith on board finished a distant last in the 12 horse field.
Team de Kock saddled 4 hopefuls in the Jebel Hatta, while fellow South African campaigner, Paul Lafferty, sent out Harry’s Son. Of the De Kock string, 2015 Gr1 Cape Derby winner Ertijaal came home best of all in 3rd under Paul Hanagan, the New Zealand-bred Zahee was 5th, Johann Strauss 7th, and US bred Prayer For Relief finished 8th. Paul Lafferty trained Harry’s Son finished a very creditable 4th, a neck behind Ertijaal.
(source: Dubai Racing Club)