Racing at Meydan on Saturday may not have been a Dubai World Cup Carnival card, but it was full of DWC Carnival aspirants and winners worth following into the ultra-valuable international extravaganza.
Four handicaps open to horses just below the required handicap mark of 90 were among the seven fixtures, highlighted by the District One Villa Award handicap.
Said 2000m turf affair went to an international raider in Simon Crisford-trained Franz Kafka, who metamorphosed into a dominant charge down the lane, winning by 4¼ lengths after making most of the running under James Doyle.
The 4-year-old gelded son of Dubawi (pictured above), who previously ran in the colours of Her Highness Sheikha Al Jalila Racing for John Gosden, won in the silks of Sultan Ali in his Crisford debut and eighth lifetime start. The effort earned him seven pounds, hoisting his rating to 93.
“We actually wanted to run him on the dirt track, but there was not a race for him, so we went the turf route and that was a very good effort,” Crisford said. “We have taken him from John Gosden, who always said he was a nice horse and has always worked nicely for us. As I said, I really would like to get him on the dirt track because I think that will really suit him.”
Equally as impressive was the nightcap, the District One Residence Cup handicap over 1600m, which produced a brilliant performance from Sheikh Hasher Mohd Al Maktoum’s Chiefdom – pictured below.
The Salem bin Ghadayer pupil overcame a slow start to stalk, pounce and dominate his 15 rivals by four facile lengths. The son of The Factor won for the third time this season from four starts and proved his prowess on the turf for the first time. Mickael Barzalona gave the grey 5-year-old gelding a confident ride throughout for his second win of the card. The win earned him nine pounds and a DWC Carnival-worthy rating of 97.
Barzalona’s first win came in the opening turf maiden, the 1600m District One Blueviews Stretch, was won stylishly by Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ Bin Ghadayer-trained Al Battar, a first UAE winner for the Dubai-based global ownership. Now a 4-year-old, the Dubawi colt only ran twice in for Great Britain for Ed Vaughan, including an excellent second on his previous start at Windsor over 1600m. Settled in midfield by Barzalona, he made smooth progress when the 16 runners entered the straight and was never going to be denied after reaching the front about 300m out. A $1,823,110 Arqana Deauville 2017 purchase, he is the first winner from world-travelling Falmouth (G1) winner Giofra, who was third over this grass in the 2013 Dubai Turf (G1). The winner earned three pounds to be rated 82.
“The yard were very confident coming here today and he has that done that very well,” Barzalona said. “The plan was not to be so far back, but I was always going well and that was a good performance, but only in a maiden. Obviously, bigger challenges await.”
A 1200m turf handicap, the District One Legends Trophy, was the first race of the year contested over the G1 $2 million Al Quoz Sprint’s 1200m turf distance down the entire length of the chute. Said affair was fiercely contested with the maximum field of 16 going to post. Ultimately, it was won easily by Way of Wisdom, with reigning champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea aboard for Satish Seemar’s Zabeel Stables. Yard-mate Speedy Move chased the winner home for the first of two one-two finishes for Seemar. The winner earned four pounds to be rated 88.
Winning owner Sayed Hashish said: “Obviously I am delighted. Early on I was worried because he appeared to be struggling, but then he really picked up nicely and did that well, so that opens up plenty of options, depending on the handicapper.”
It was then O’Shea and Seemar again, this time for Al Baryaq Stable with Immortalised, winning the District One Lagoon Run handicap over the testing 2200m dirt trip. A 6-year-old whose place in UAE racing history is guaranteed as the first of Frankel’s progeny to win locally, this was his second Meydan and third career success. Immortalised earned three pounds to be rated 73.
“This fellow is a dour stayer,” O’Shea said. “He does not really travel well, but you know in the straight he is always going to stay on strongly as he did so today.”
The penultimate race, the District One Mansions Trophy handicap over 1400m on dirt, was won comfortably by Mayaadeen, originally first reserve for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, confidently ridden by Connor Beasley for Doug Watson. Settled in the middle of the 16 runners, the 5-year-old son of Invincible Spirit was produced to lead in the final 200m to double his career tally, on just his fifth local outing. He previously won a 1400m maiden on turf at Naas, in Ireland, in June 2018 for Dermot Weld. Mayaadeen earned five pounds to be rated 80.
Watson said: “We were really disappointed when he did not originally get in the race, but luckily, as first reserve, he was able to get in the race. Connor has given him a great ride. Hopefully, that will do the horse’s confidence a lot of good.”
Maiden sophomores looking toward great DWC Carnival riches down the road (and a graduation beforehand) met in the 1200m District One Seagull Point Run. The race came down to a nose difference between blue-blooded Good Fighter and his Seemar-trained yardmate Lake Causeway, who closed relentlessly from well back to miss his rival at the wire. Richard Mullen was in the saddle for Al Rashid Stables’ Good Fighter, a son of Distorted Humor and G1 winner Sis City who was making just his third racecourse appearance, having been tailed off on debut in November at Jebel Ali before an excellent third at Meydan over 1600m at Meydan. A rating of 82 (earning two pounds) was given to the winner—likely sparking hope of qualifying for the DWC Carnival’s UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) in a few weeks.
“I must be honest,” Mullen said. “Crossing the line I actually thought I was beat. Thankfully I was wrong. This is a great result for the yard.”
Racing returns on Thursday 9 January for the second night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival.