Muntazah And Capezzano Star On Super Saturday; Thunder Snow Second In Return

Super Saturday, an evening sponsored by pillar partner Emirates, lived up to its name at Meydan Racecourse. The dress rehearsal for the world’s richest race day, the $35 million Dubai World Cup card, boasted seven races worth $2.65 million, including two Group 1 affairs, a Group 2, triad of Group 3s and a wide-open Listed event—all course and distance preps for corresponding Dubai World Cup night fixtures. The evening was topped by the return of 2018 Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) winner Thunder Snow, who competed in the evening’s richest race, the $600,000 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (G1) over 2000m.

The Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (G1) was turned into a procession by Capezzano, who was sent straight to the front by Mickael Barzalona and was never headed for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer. Owned by Sultan Ali, he fended off a stiff challenge from favourite Thunder Snow and sauntered in style by 9½ lengths at the wire. The 5-year-old gelded son of Bernardini arrived here having won both his previous outings this year, highlighted by his impressive 14-length win last out at Meydan over 1600m, but was winning over a classic distance for the first time.

Godolphin’s Thunder Snow, second in this last year to North America before landing the Dubai World Cup, seemingly loomed as a big danger entering the straight under Christophe Soumillon, but as their challenge faltered, Barzalona and Capezzano shot clear.

“He’s an honest horse. Even when he won over a mile, he ran an amazing race,” Ghadayer said. “We thought why not try him over 10 furlongs. If you go back, when he was three and ran in the Al Bastakiya and there were (also) signs in his pedigree. This horse really is amazing when he decides to run. His problem is he’s a little bit tricky of a horse and he needs to keep calm and relax. He has a big future.”

Barzalona added “He does it very well. I wasn’t very confident about the longer trip, but Salem told me to try it. I made a strong effort to lead the race and I was lucky (because) he was breathing well in the (middle) of the race. Just before I asked him to go, the last three furlongs, he really picked up nicely.”

Soumillon was pragmatic about the loss: “I’m very happy with second place. The winner, I knew before the race that he would be tough if he got to the lead with a steady pace and that’s exactly what he did. I’m very happy with ‘Thunder.’ He always improves from his runs. If you look at last year, at the same period of the season, (this effort) was even better than then (when second in the same race). I’m very confident with him.”

Saeed bin Suroor, in much the same tone, was pleased with the runner-up effort: “He got tired, just like we said (he would) before the race. He will improve from the race and will be ready for World Cup night. He’ll be fine.”

The Simon Foster-trained South Korean horse Dolkong finished third, with French jockey Olivier Doleuze pleased with the effort, given a massive step up in class and a mere nine-day turnaround from his romp in the Listed Curlin Handicap on Feb. 28.

“We were beaten for speed straight away,” Doleuze said. “The pace was very fast and we got a lot of kickback, so I had no choice but to let him see some light. I knew the way we were going there was a chance they may stop in front, but he still came at the end and give me a good run in straight. I think I am more tired than him. After that effort, I hope he can get into the (Dubai) World Cup. He deserves it because we were only half a length off (Thunder Snow). On this performance, he deserves to go. It means a lot to the Korean fans and me, too. I really dream he can participate in the biggest race in the world. We will see. Meanwhile, we keep dreaming.”

New Trails, Gronkowski, Nordic Lights, Logrado, Furia Cruzada, Montsarrat and Cosmo Charlie completed the order of finish.

$400,000 JEBEL HATTA (GROUP 1)
The evening’s other Group 1 was the Jebel Hatta for those aspiring to compete in the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) in three weeks. The race turned into another example of why Godolphin’s Dream Castle is arguably the top turf horse in the UAE, vanquishing his foes for his third consecutive win over the 1800m trip of the Dubai Turf. Under a heady ride by Christophe Soumillon, the son of Frankel tracked Wootton and jockey William Buick before running down that pair with authority and hitting the wire 1¼ lengths the best.

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor was over the moon with the horse’s effort: “The trip (and the gelding) really helped him. Last year, we thought maybe he could be a sprinter, but I believe he’s a nine furlongs-plus horse. This year he has shown he’s a class, Group 1 horse.”

“The last two runs were quite impressive,” Soumillon added. “I was really confident with him today—even with that draw. The race went well for us. We had a nice pace. When I saw I was behind Wootton, I was very confident, because I knew he was going to take me quite far. When I asked him to go, he really quickened sharply. When I hit the front, he was looking around for a while. He’s a really different horse compared to last year, when he was a colt.”

Charlie Appleby-trained Wootton showed another step forward in his effort, as the pair stretched nearly three lengths clear of yard-mate First Contact, who made the running, in third with Mickael Barzalona.

“His race was even,” Buick said of the runner-up. “He had a three-wide trip, but that’s just how the race developed. To be honest with you, I was pretty happy with him throughout the race. I knew he was going to pick up the horse in front of him and I knew Christophe would be following me. He got the nine furlongs and I think he might even get 10.”

Barzalona added: “(First Contact) was travelling very strongly in front and he was fighting a lot until the end. I’m very pleased with him.”

The Jebel Hatta order of finish was completed by Century Dream, Loxley, Majestic Mambo, Forest Ranger, Janoobi, Muzdawaj and Blair House.

The meeting commenced with the Mahab Al Shimaal sponsored by Emirates Skywards (G3), over 1200m on the dirt. Late-closing Drafted ran on strongly to take the lead close to home with Pat Dobbs in the saddle for Doug Watson and Misty Hollow Farm, with the roar of the crowd following the fan favourite.

Lavaspin, I Kirk and Switzerland set a ferocious early pace with the talented Switzerland holding on longer than his fellow front runners. Fawzi Nass-trained longshot Nine Below Zero, who led briefly with 100 yards to run finished second, put a scare into the favourite, but he eventually was unable to hold off the grey gelding. David Marnane-trained Tato Key was a good third, but no match for Drafted. Two necks separated the top three, but it was apparent that the winner may have been a bit more the best in the end.

Watson said: “He really finishes and tries. I thought he was hanging a little and not switching leads, but then he came on nicely. He likes to run and likes to win. He knows where he’s going. It’s great for the owners. He’s been a great purchase. Last year we tried to step him up in trip, but he’s a closing sprinter and they can make it exciting for you, but it’s fun when they get home.”

“(During) the first two furlongs, you don’t feel confident. Then, when you hit the bend, you feel confident and he knows what it’s all about,” Dobbs added.
“I was following (Tato Key) and he gave me a nice lead up the straight. He jumped better today and he got squashed out a bit, but with his style, it doesn’t bother him. He is starting to get clever and is getting better. He idled his way home the last part, saving a little bit, but he’ll need that. He’s a different horse this year physically.”

Of Nine Below Zero, jockey Adrie de Vries was positive and said: “He impressed me. I was quite confident when he was well-positioned from the word ‘go.’ The way the race was run suited him very well. It could have suited him better. Hopefully we get an invited to the Shaheen.”

Shane Foley rode Tato Key to finish third and was equally optimistic going into DWC night: “He ran well. I was drawn on 10 and probably a bit wider than ideal. He still ran a big race. I look forward to riding him on (Dubai) World Cup night if we get a good draw.”

Comicas, Switzerland, I Kirk, Thammin, Lansky, My Catch and Lavaspin completed the order of finish.

The middle leg of the UAE Triple Crown is the Al Bastakiya sponsored by (Listed). Run over 1900m on the dirt and restricted to 3-year-olds, this renewal was won comprehensively by Godolphin’s UAE Oaks heroine Divine Image, who stalked and pounced on her male foes with ease in the final 400m, winning by 7¼ lengths under Brett Doyle for trainer Charlie Appleby. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was present to witness the 3-year-old daughter from Scat Daddy’s final crop prove far too good for her 13 rivals, which also included two other fillies.

Superior, under Connor Beasley, held well for second, while Manguzi was third under Fernando Jara—separated by one length. The final time was 1:59.07.

“That’s what we’ve seen from her,” Appleby said. “She’s a great finisher. Full credit to the team. She’s been tricky, but Brett’s been riding her the last two weeks since we knew William couldn’t do the weight. I’m delighted for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed who is here this evening to see her. She’s a very talented filly, but she’s learning on the job and this was a team effort tonight. Before the race we had the discussion of if she were to win, we wouldn’t rush into (making a decision about the UAE Derby). It’s definitely on the cards, but we also have the Kentucky Oaks to take into consideration.”

Doyle added: “It’s great to see it work all around. All through the winter, Charlie has done a great job with her. I’ve had the pleasure of her the last week or so. She’s an improving filly. She’s lovely and won it very well. She’s a filly who likes to get on with it. She’ll get better as she goes along, like she showed today.”

Beasley was pleased with his charge: “He jumped pretty smartly and travelled great throughout the race. I probably got to the front earlier than ideal. Take nothing away from the horse. He’s run his third start and didn’t run the best last time, but there were excuses for that. He showed his class today. Obviously, the winner has won well, but she had only 53 on her back and has a lot more experience than my fellow.”

Jara was much the same, regarding Manguzi: “It was a great race for him coming from a bad draw, but we are very happy with him. He did great. He tried hard, as usual. Three more weeks now and we will be readier for the next race. If we get a good draw next time, hopefully we will be OK.”

Fillies Al Hayette and Al Shamkhah finished fourth and fifth, hinting that the local filly crop may have an upper hand on the males, while Red Cactus, Tabarak, Shanty Star, The Song of John, Moshaher, Fintas, Grecko, Estihdaaf and Tone Broke completed the order of finish.

The first turf race of the night was the 1200m Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint sponsored by Arabian Adventures (G3). Blue Point impressed again and added to the tally of Appleby, Godolphin and William Buick in impressive style, sprinting clear of the only one to challenge, Ekhtiyaar, by three lengths at the wire in a spritely time of 1:10.15.

Denied the opportunity to take his chance when the hot favourite for the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night last year, having been withdrawn at the start on veterinary advice, the 5-year-old son of Shamardal won the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and was far too good for his ten rivals here. Although not the quickest away, he was settled in midfield by Buick before being pulled to the nearside at the halfway point. He then quickened in style to hit the front just after which and cruised clear with ease.

Buick said: “He felt great. He’s just a lot more professional now. This was another stepping stone to the Al Quoz. It was just lovely that he’s channelling all his ability and strengths. The team has done a fantastic job with him. He’s always been an exciting horse. His confidence has grown. He knows how good he is.”

Ekhtiyaar was best of the rest and is developing into a nice prospect. Jim Crowley was on board for Doug Watson.

“I thought he ran a good race,” Crowley said. “I was drawn one, so I was a bit away from Blue Point. Take nothing away from the winner. He’s a very good horse. We’re very pleased with ours. He’s progressing with every run.”

Watson added: “I’m happy with his run. He ran into a super horse, but the ran his race. If he draws in a little more, instead of being on the outside, that will help him in the Al Quoz Sprint. This time he gets 21 days instead of 16, so that should help, too.”

Although Mazzini ran on for third, Adrie de Vries was slightly disappointed by how he ran saying;

“The horse jumped a little bit slow today. I found him a little bit flat. Still, he got a good result. We are going to have to freshen him up for the big day if he runs.”

The order of finish was completed by Riflescope, Ajwad, Gifted Master, Hit the Bid, High on Life, Portamento, Faatinah and Log Out Island.

$350,000 BURJ NAHAAR (GROUP 3)
The moment of the day arguably belonged to Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Muntazah, who provided Doug Watson with a second winner on the card and second consecutive victory in the Burj Nahaar sponsored by Emirates Holidays (G3). The race is over the same 1600m on dirt as the Godolphin Mile, a race in which he was second to Heavy Metal last March.

Breaking from the rail, jockey Jim Crowley left nothing to chance and made the running—and a swift running it was. Through 400m splits of 24.40 and 46.70, he completed 1200m in 1:10.37—faster than the running of the final time of the Mahab Al Shimaal (G3) less than two hours prior. He reached out beautifully turning for home and buried his opponents with a final 400m in 24.62, finishing in front by 10 lengths and breaking the three-year-old track record of One Man Band, another Watson trainee. The final time was 1:34.99—the first time ever to break the 1:35 mark (zero run-up to the pole).

The 6-year-old gelded son of Dubawi had made his dirt debut when runner-up in the 2018 Godolphin Mile and was winning on the surface for a second time since victorious in the Firebreak (G3) over the same 1600m last month. Heavy Metal missed the break badly, but rallied to a respectable fourth-place finish, just behind Turkish invader Good Curry (second under Halis Karatas) and Adrie de Vries-piloted Musawaat, who was fourth in last year’s Godolphin Mile.

“He kept on improving and he’s a horse who really comes to himself this time of year,” Crowley said. “Every time he’s ran, he’s stepped forward. He keeps improving and he showed that tonight. Plan A was to go forward and Doug didn’t want me to give the rail up. He’s a big horse, but he breaks fast. He doesn’t have to lead, he’s just a big long-striding horse who has to get in his rhythm. To finish second in his first run on dirt was a great run in the Godolphin Mile last year. And this year he has continued to improve. It (the Godolphin Mile) looks the obvious race for him now.”

Watson added: “Fantastic night. I thought we were the best horse in the race. I told Jim, ‘if you break well, go.’ He got out there and set a nice pace. When he was turning in, I thought we were in good shape. He’s a very good horse. He’s a big horse who needs his racing and he’s doing it well. He was able to dictate and get into his stride. He’s a miler. Maybe next year, if we get a chance to stretch him out, we could go the World Cup route. (Previous track record holder and Watson trainee) One Man Band on his day was pretty smart. This guy is right there with him.”

“From the beginning, the first 600m, he wasn’t racing well,” Karatas said. “I gave him a breather a bit, but after that he became okay. He was warmed up. He ran a good race.”

“It was a good run, after a long time,” De Vries added. “He was unlucky with the draw, but he travelled nicely. His weak point is always at the turn, where he loses ground. Today he was able to not lose too much ground, and he picked up nice. Good performance after a long break.”

Astern Heavy Metal in the order of finish were Rodaini, Secret Ambition, Ibn Malik, Behavioral Bias, GM Hopkins, Axelrod and Moqarrab.

William Buick was able to extricate Old Persian from traffic problems just in time to provide Charlie Appleby and Godolphin a hat trick on the card, beating Saeed bin Suroor’s Racing History (Christophe Soumillon aboard) by a short head in the Dubai City of Gold sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo (G2) over 2410m on turf. It was another three lengths back to Grade 1 winner Desert Encounter in third, while a neck in front of Melbourne Cup (G1)-placed Prince of Arran. The final time was 2:32.68 after what was a pedestrian tempo.

Having tracked the leaders for much of the race, Buick was suddenly short of room early in the straight and forced to sit and suffer as the race unfolded around him. However, once in the clear, Buick found a willing partner in the 4-year-old Dubawi colt who was a Royal Ascot winner last year, as well as defeating stable companion and subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.

Appleby said: “He’s a horse who’s got a bright future ahead of him. He’s a multiple Group 2 winner now and won at Royal Ascot. He beat Cross Counter and we know what he went on to do. Coming into this evening, we were pleased with his preparation, but we firmly have our eyes set on the (Longines Dubai) Sheema Classic. There’s a little bit of improvement still there to come.”

Buick added: “I can’t imagine it was pretty watching it from here, but I had so much horse underneath of me. The way the race developed, it was funny stage. Halfway around the turn, everyone starting to move. I started to make my move and got stuck behind a wall of horses. Once he got in the clear, he really picked up well. It was a lovely performance.”

“He ran a great race,” Soumillon said. “Unfortunately, we did the most difficult part to go to the front with a steady pace and the jockeys came to my outside very early. The made me start (our run) at the 600m. If that would have happened in the straight, I think I could have won it. Anyway, it was a great run and I’m very happy with him.”

Jim Crowley, aboard Desert Encounter, said “Nothing went to plan. He ran a bit too keen. I didn’t get any cover and he was quite fresh. It was his first race for a while. He is a horse that likes to be put to bed early and he just over-raced. He will improve a lot for the run.”

Sharpalo, Marinaresco, Spotify, Team Talk, Crowned Eagle and Second Summer completed the order of finish.