Mike de Kock celebrated his first DWC 2019 winner at Thursday’s second evening of the 2019 Carnival at Meydan which was highlighted by a quality renewal of the $350,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 sponsored by Yahsat.
The Group 2 feature of the evening contested over 1600m, has served as a prep for both the $12 million Gr1 Dubai World Cup and $1.5 million Gr2 Godolphin Mile .
The ultra-competitive looking Cepsa Energy Cup, a 1600m turf handicap, was contested by the maximum allowed field of 16 and was won impressively by one of the most decorated yards in Carnival history, the Blue Stables of Mike de Kock and his 7-year-old Baroot, who was making his first start since Mar. 15.
Owned by Sheikh Ahmed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, the son of Dubawi closed from the tail-end of the field, pounced on his rivals and won with authority under Adrie De Vries.
“When I heard the commentator say ‘Baroot,’ I thought to myself that he must have the wrong horse,” De Kock quipped.
“He’s such a game horse and always tries his best. He’s one of those horses who improves with each run and it’s unbelievable how versatile he is.”
Well away under Richard Mullen who was riding for main employer Satish Seemar and owner Ramzan Kadyrov in the Al Maktoum Challenge, North America was absolutely dominant in a race that shaped up as one of the most compelling and competitive dirt miles Dubai has ever seen. The 7-year-old gelded son of Dubawi soon turned that presumption on its head, going gate-to-wire and never looking in doubt.
Shaking off defending champion and Godolphin Mile (G2) winner Heavy Metal, as well as UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Gold Town, Burj Nahaar (G3) winner Kimbear and Godolphin Mile runner-up Muntazah, gingerly campaigned North America won for the sixth time in 16 starts and first time since winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on Super Saturday last March in similar fashion over subsequent Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Thunder Snow.
The victory provided some consolation for the winner’s connections, as his last two disappointing efforts—a 10th in the Dubai World Cup and third in last year’s edition of this race—were caused by poor starts. This time, there was no such worry.
“That’s the way he is,” Seemar said. “I was telling (Mullen) to let him do his thing. We had the right draw. If he pops out, just don’t stop him. I know when he’s in form like that, he’s so good. About 10 days ago, we jumped him out of the gate, just to wake him up and he did it exactly the same way. I wasn’t worried about (Heavy Metal). After (North America) broke like he did, I had no worries. His stride is about 1½ compared to other horses. He could have set a track record today, but no one was there to challenge him. He’ll go to (Al Maktoum Challenge) Round 2.”
“Unbelievable,” Mullen added. “I just said to the boss (Seemar) that there are not a lot of horses who give me goosebumps and he has done that. It was an incredible performance for his first run (this season). He has such huge stride. I think anything that comes near, he has that much pace that he just kills them off.
“This is step one. There are a few to go, so let us not get carried away. Like I said, they are horses, not machines, and anything can happen. There is potential for him to be better. He is only going to have four runs this year and he already has his program penciled out. I know he is a 7-year-old, but he has probably had less races than most 3- or 4-year-olds in Europe. He is very lightly raced and very well looked-after. They have the whole summer off, so seven is the new three or four in UAE terms.”