Racing at Meydan on Saturday was highlighted by a quality 1800m turf handicap, the Longines Spirit Collection Stakes, which would certainly not have been out of place at the 2021 Dubai World Cup Carnival, looked ultra-competitive on paper, but in reality proved a fairly straightforward assignment for Eastern World who demolished his 15, mostly toiling, rivals.
One of three in the capacity field to represent Godolphin and Charlie Appleby, the homebred 4-year-old Dubawi gelding was settled in second by Royston Ffrench, content to allow David Egan to dictate the tempo on Deep Intrigue. When Egan started to throw out distress signals fully 600m out, Ffrench took aim at the judge and the pair never looked in danger thereafter.
This was the horse’s local debut and he was doubling his career tally, on his seventh start, having won a 1600m maiden last June at Newmarket. His main claim to fame, thus far, is that he is a half-brother to Thunder Snow, the only dual winner of the Dubai World Cup for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor.
Ffrench said: “It is always special to win in these colours, especially at Meydan and a big thank you to all Godolphin for the opportunity.
“He was a bit keen early on, but I did not want to disappoint him and he found plenty when it mattered. He stayed on well, but has plenty of natural speed so could certainly drop back in trip.”
Five of the 11 runners in the opening Longines Spirit Collection Mile, a 1600m dirt maiden for 3-year-old colts and geldings, were debutants and it was one of them, Panadol, who proved far too good, at no stage giving connections a headache. In front after about 25m under Mickael Barzalona, sporting the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Flatter colt burst clear at the top of the straight and was always going to win easily thereafter for Salem bin Ghadayer.
Purchased by connections as a juvenile last June at Ocala for $180,000, he could prove a smart sort because runner-up Endifaa had already shown distinct promise in both his previous starts.
Bin Ghadayer said: “Ever since he arrived we thought he had plenty of ability and we have always thought he was one of our best, in his age group, in the yard.
“His first serious work at home was very good and he has always pleased us at home, but they have to do it on the track first. We gave him plenty of time before his debut and will now, probably, look at the Al Bastakiya and, hopefully, UAE Derby.”
Seventy minutes later connections were celebrating a double after the smooth success of Monoski in the Longines Spirit Collection Trophy, a 1600m dirt handicap. Settled in about fifth behind a frantic early gallop dictated by Royal Sands, Barzalona only had that rival in front of leaving the home turn. The French jockey soon had him in his sights and they swept past to win decisively, Royal Sands losing second close home to Celtic Prince.
A homebred 4-year-old gelded son of Street Boss, it was a second career success for the winner, first in the UAE and on dirt, at the fourth attempt and since joining Bin Ghadayer from Mark Johnston. The latter saddled him to his previous victory, at the second time of asking as a juvenile, over 1200m at Pontefract in May 2019.
Barzalona said: “I had planned to race closer to the pace, but they went very quick and my horse has put up a great performance, travelling well, facing the kickback and quickening nicely.
“That should give the horse plenty of confidence and hopefully he can build on that now he has put his head in front again.”
Another for 3-year-olds, a 1400m turf maiden, the Longines Spirit Collection Turf, attracted a field of 13 and it was the sole debutant, Mayehaab, who landed the spoils under a confident ride from Adrie de Vries. A gelded son of New Approach, he tracked the early pace set by Ajmal, but always looked to that one’s measure and quickened past him entering the final 300m, opening up an unassailable lead. Yurman, last turning for home, flew home for second ahead of Hawa Bilady, another who was as close at the finish as any other stage of the race.
Owned by Hasan Mefareh Alajmi in partnership with Fawzi Nass, who is also the trainer, he cost 72,000gns at Tattersalls last July and looks a nice prospect.
De Vries said: “We expected a big run because he had been working very well. He was due to run a fortnight ago, but had a slight problem so we waited for this.
“He could be a nice horse and versatile because he works well on dirt as well so we have a few options.”
Trainer and jockey later completed a double courtesy of Madkhal who was not over extended to land the Longines Spirit Collection Challenge, a 1200m dirt handicap, the only difference being Nass owns this own outright. Settled in the middle of the nine runners by De Vries, who took the shortest route and hugged the rail saving ground throughout, once pulled out to challenge leader Dahawi, the 5-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor responded to his jockey’s urgings. They hit the front with about 225m remaining and were always in control despite Dahawi battling on gamely for Antonio Fresu.
Nass’ charge has now won thrice, once in Britain for Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin and this doubled his Meydan dirt tally having previously scored in a 1400m handicap in December.
De Vries said: “He has plenty of natural toe so we knew 1200m was not an issue and he won over the trip in England. He faced the kickback and, once I found racing room, I was always going to get there. It has been a good evening!”
The concluding 1200m turf handicap, the Longines Spirit Collection Cup, also attracted a capacity field of 16, but as it transpired, 15 may as well have stayed at home because Taneen careered clear just after halfway under Dane O’Neill who never had a moment of concern afterwards.
Having tracked the scorching early pace set by Koditime, the pair racing on the nearside, once that rival put up the white flag with probably 450m remaining, O’Neill was in the clear and, with his partner galloping on resolutely, the 8-year-old Speighstown gelding was always going to double his UAE tally. Twice victorious in Britain for Roger Varian, his most recent and third career success was over 1000m at Jebel Ali in March 2018, his fourth UAE appearance.
O’Neill, riding for his main employer, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum aboard the Musabbeh Al Mheiri trainee, said: “The way the race panned out really suited him; we were in the right place, behind the speed and, once in front, he has just powered home.”