27 January 2024

ERA Meydan Review

Emirates veteran Pat Dobbs partnered the first Middle East Group 1 success of his lengthy riding career as Kabirkhan announced his presence as a live Dubai World Cup contender on a night of glittering action at Meydan Racecourse.

The inaugural ‘Fashion Friday’ fixture at Dubai’s iconic venue produced some stunning performances, but none more so than from the imposing son of California Chrome in the $1million G1 Maktoum Challenge (Presented by Longines), the feature event on a nine-race card.       

The Kazakhstan-owned colt had 30 supporters from his home country on course to witness his four and three-quarter length demolition job which also gave Champion Trainer Doug Watson a first Thoroughbred Group 1.

The effortless victory earned the four-year-old – a handicap winner just two weeks before – an automatic starting place in the $12million Dubai World Cup on March 30th.

“He might be the best mile and a quarter horse I’ve ever trained,” said Watson. 

“We’ll see what the owners want to do next but I’m glad he’s in our yard. I’m delighted for our team, Pat and of course everybody in Kazakhstan.”

Dobbs, riding his first Thoroughbred G1 winner in the UAE, added; “this is massive for everyone, especially Doug. He’s such a good mover, he (Kabirkhan) doesn’t feel like he’s doing the times he is. Doug has a smile on his face whenever he sees him.”

 

APPLEBY SWEEPS THE BOARD

Charlie Appleby is arguably more potent on turf than Roger Federer and the Godolphin handler completed a stunning clean sweep of all four grass events; the highlight of which was Measured Time, who cruised home in the G1 Jebel Hatta (Presented by Longines).

A smooth winner of the G2 Al Rashidiya last time out, the Frankel colt faced a strong field, including dual G1 winner Mawj, but always looked the most likely victor under William Buick, beating stablemate Ottoman Fleet comfortably.

“I’m delighted, obviously," said the Godolphin trainer after his first Group 1 win of 2024. 

“We knew it was a big step up with Mawj in there – a Classic winner and a filly we hold close to our hearts.

“This fellow is a half brother to (G1 winner) Rebel’s Romance, so he had the pedigree. He’ll likely go straight to the Dubai Turf now.”

 

Earlier on the card, Appleby won the G2 Al Fahidi Fort for an eighth time when Mysterious Night backed up his handicap success of a week ago.

Ridden by Buick who played a vital role in extricating him from a pocket inside the final two furlongs, the four-year-old was good value for a length win over British raider Vafortino.

“He was the only Group horse in the race so he’s proven his class tonight,” said Appleby. 

“We’ve got an invitation to Saudi for the six and a half furlong (1351 Turf Sprint) which will probably suit him but we could also stay here for the G3 Ras Al Khor (on March 2nd).

“Jim Crowley (on Danyah) was keeping him in, which he’s entitled to do, but luckily we had the horse to get out of it.”

 

The Godolphin trainer picked up a second win over the straight turf course when Star Of Mystery, the only three-year-old in the race, swooped late to grab the G2 Blue Point Sprint [Presented by Longines].

Ridden by Mickael Barzalona, with Buick unable to do 53kilos, the Kodiac filly took her course record to two from two with a smooth success over pacesetter Ponntos.

“We went a fast gallop and I just had enough time to come from that far back,” said Barzalona. “For a three-year-old filly against these older horses, she showed some class.

“She’s still learning, so everything is going the right way.”

Appleby, who also won this race with the eponymous Blue Point when it was called the Meydan Sprint, added that the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot might be a viable long-term target for Star Of Mystery.

 

The final leg of the Appleby four-timer came in the closing race, the Listed Al Khail Trophy, which went to Siskany in last-ditch fashion.

Also the winner of this race in 2022, the six-year-old was produced right on the line by Buick to deny the French-trained Al Nayyir in heartbreaking fashion.

Siskany, now a nine-time winner, is likely to head back to the G2 Dubai Gold Cup on March 30th, a race in which he was a narrow second behind Broome last year.  

 

GROUP 1 COMPENSATION FOR BARAKKA

A night featuring three Group 1 events began when Barakka gamely lifted the G1 Maktoum Challenge Round 2 for Purebred Arabians.   

A narrow second in the G1 Dubai Kahayla Classic in March, he arguably deserved compensation and found it to provide a first top-level success for trainer Ahmad bin Harmash and jockey Connor Beasley, who guided the six-year-old to a length and a half victory over Alarqam – the latter’s first defeat in three starts.

“Now we need to find one (a Group 1) with a Thoroughbred,” laughed the winning trainer. 

“Barakka is a good horse, but when we ran him in the Jewel Crown at Abu Dhabi last time he didn’t like the ground which was a little bit quick.”

 

MENDELSSOHN PITCH PERFECT FOR SEEMAR

Despite an embryonic training career, Bhupat Seemar is no stranger to major success and the Zabeel Stables handler landed a notable 1-2 in the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas [Presented by Longines] when Mendelssohn Bay outpointed stable mate Killer Collect.

So quirky that he was gelded before he ran, the son of UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn was the stable second string here so it was freelance jockey Pat Cosgrave who guided him to an emphatic three and three-quarter length win over Killer Collect.

“The further we go the better for this horse,” said Cosgrave, for whom it was a first Meydan winner of the campaign. 

“He’s a bit immature mentally, he’s still learning, but when I asked him to quicken at the 300m marker he put the race to bed quickly.”

 

Hypothetical and Mouheeb Roll Back the Years

History was made in the Firebreak Stakes when Hypothetical defended last season’s victory in the Group 3 event.

Successful in 2022 en-route to G1 success in Maktoum Challenge Round 3, the seven-year-old seemed to have lost his way of late but bounced back here, outbattling Southern Artist by three-quarters of a length.

“He’s a top-class horse, a Group 1 winner over 10 furlongs,” said jockey Barzalona, now the most successful rider in the race’s history with four wins. 

“We didn’t have much choice but to run him on turf last time and he ran just OK but it made him fit. He showed again his quality tonight.”

 

Another old favourite came good when Mouheeb, winner of the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas back in 2021, charged home in the G3 Al Shindagha Sprint (Presented by Longines) to surprise trainer Michael Costa.

The six-year-old has changed trainer since his Classic win and is now in the care of Costa, who did a great job to ready him after 307 days off. Ridden by Tom Marquand, who also rode the horse for his debut success back in December 2020, this was a seriously impressive win, beating Freedom Fighter by six-and-a-quarter lengths.

“It’s a bit of a surprise,” said Costa. 

“The whole game plan this year was to save him for the backend of the season and have him cherry ripe for then.

“I wasn’t quite sure what we’d get tonight as we’d planned to be going a mile in a start’s time so today was just about getting him to the races and wanting him to pull up well and go to his next race.

“The initial plan was the mile race on Super Saturday (G3 Burj Nahaar) before the big mile race (G2 Godolphin Mile) on Dubai World Cup night but that puts a little spanner in the works the way he was so dominant over six furlongs.”