Thursday’s sixth Meydan meeting of the 2021 Dubai World Cup Carnival officially featured the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy sponsored by Gulf News.
Group 3 $195,000 Nad Al Sheba Trophy (2810m T)
Godolphin supplied half of the eight runners and promptly delivered the first four home, Frankie Dettori and Volcanic Sky leading home the quartet for Saeed bin Suroor. Fully 800m out, the Italian had a cheeky look, to see how those behind him were travelling, before grasping the initiative about 100m later, sweeping past early leader Corsen before the field swung into the long home straight.
That proved a decisive move, the pair opening up sufficient daylight between themselves and their rivals to always look in control. Stable companion Global Heat, under Andrea Atzeni, tried gallantly in the final 100m, closing to within a short-head with Bin Suroor’s third runner, Brilliant Light, in third.
Charlie Appleby’s Ispolini, winner of the race in 2019, was fourth. Like all five Thoroughbred races on the card, contested on the turf, the 2810m feature was inaugurated in 2010 and Godolphin trainers have now won this staying prize on ten occasions, Bin Suroor saddling half of them.
Homebred, the 6-year-old Street Cry gelding was registering a fourth career success and was making it third time lucky at his first carnival, going one better than his previous start, over the same 2810m, when runner-up to stable companion Dubai Future, himself ridden by Dettori on that occasion, in the Listed Meydan Cup Handicap.
Bin Suroor said: “He has improved with each race this year and Frankie was in exactly the right position and has given him a great ride.
“Hopefully this win will be enough to earn an invitation to the Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night.”
Group 3 $130,000 Dubai Millennium Stakes (2000m T)
Over 2000m, the main support race, the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes Sponsored By gulfnews.com, was also all about Godolphin, although ‘only’ a 1-2 on this occasion with William Buick and Star Safari, a third winner on the card for Charlie Appleby, denying Dettori and Bin Suroor a double with Bedouin’s Story. Bin Suroor also saddled the fourth, Dream Castle, the Godolphin trip separated by Halimi in third.
Settled in fifth by Buick, with Dettori in last on the eventual runner-up who had somewhat missed the break, Star Safari loomed up to challenge the principals entering the home straight. Once in front, with about 300m remaining, they always appeared likely to hold the too late challenge of Bedouin’s Story, the 5-year-old gelded son of Sea The Stars stopping the clock in a lot slower time than the track record he set himself winning a handicap exactly a year ago under Mickael Barzalona, his only start of 2020. Third behind his stable companions Ya Hayati and Bright Melody, also a winner on this card, in the Listed Zabeel Turf Handicap on his seasonal return, he then won a 2400m turf handicap a fortnight ago.
It was a first win on the evening for Appleby’s stable jockey Buick who said: “He is a nice horse and he is starting to become the finished article as he improves with his racing.
“I was happy to be positive as he stays further and he has not had much racing, so you would hope he can build on this.”
Appleby was winning the race for the fourth consecutive year and fifth time in six years, all bar Spotify in 2019 ridden by Buick.
Listed $88,000 Meydan Classic (1600m T)
For 3-year-olds over 1600m, the Listed Meydan Classic sponsored by agnc3 was predictably won by Charlie Appleby and Godolphin, but stable jockey William Buick had to settle for second aboard hot favourite Master Of The Seas who never looked likely to peg back stablemate Naval Crown. Both are homebred Dubawi colts.
Given a masterful ride from the front by Mickael Barzalona, Naval Crown set a decent tempo, quickened clear halfway up the straight and never looked in any real peril, Barzalona affording himself a long look at the big screen entering the final 200m. He would have enjoyed what he saw because Buick and Master Of The Seas were well behind and only making ground slowly, eventually crossing the line almost two lengths in arrears. Barzalona’s mount won the prestigious 1400m Convivial Maiden at York, the most valuable UK race of its type, on his third start and was doubling his career tally here. He did have the benefit of race fitness having finished third on his dirt debut in the 1600m Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas three weeks ago, whereas Master Of The Seas was having his first start since September when fourth in the 1400m Group 1 National Stakes on The Curragh, his first defeat on his third racecourse appearance. He had won the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket, also over 1400m, prior to that.
“Naval Crown has really thrived over the winter and improved considerably fitness wise from his run in the UAE 2000 Guineas,” said Appleby, completing a quick double for himself and Godolphin. “He is a very nice horse as is Master Of The Seas who has just tired close home as he was entitled to after his break.”
Handicap $65,000 getthat (1800m T)
A handicap over 1800m, getthat, was dominated by Godolphin with Bright Melody, a 100th carnival winner for Charlie Appleby, landing the spoils relatively comfortably under James Doyle, chased home by Frankie Dettori aboard Dubai Mirage for Saeed bin Suroor. In a race contested at what appeared a moderate gallop, the Godolphin duo were settled just in behind early leader Recordman who maintained his advantage until about 250m out when Doyle set sail for home on the winner. Dettori gave chase but Dubai Mirage never really looked getting there.
A 4-year-old homebred Dubawi gelding having just his seventh career start and second locally, he was winning for the first time since his debut, as a 3-year-old, early last January in a 2000m novice stakes on the all-weather at Chelmsford. This first turf success was achieved at the fifth attempt and he was building on a very promising Meydan debut when second to stablemate Ya Hayati, fifth on this occasion, in the 2000m Zabeel Turf, a Listed handicap, a month ago.
Doyle said: “I was second on him last time, but hopeful, rather than confident, we could reverse form with Ya Hayati, but I was happy with my position after two furlongs behind a modest gallop.
“He is a strong traveller and a horse we have always really liked, so it is nice to get his head back in front and we should have some fun with him back in Europe.”
Group 1 $165,000 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (PA 2000m D)
The only contest on the dirt track was also the sole Purebred Arabian race, the curtain raising 2000m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 sponsored by gnfocus and Frenchman Jean-Claude Pecout doubled his UAE tally with the smooth success of Brraq.
A homebred 8-year-old entire owned by Yas Racing, he was given a confident ride by Pecout’s French compatriot, Ryan Curatolo, partnering the horse for the first time with Adrie de Vries suspended. Based in Al Ain, Pecout’s charge also won the 1600m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 and was second in the middle round, over 1900m, ridden by De Vries on each occasion.
Curatolo settled his mount in midfield before the pair made smooth progress to track the leaders on the home turn. As early leader RB Torch started to tire, Curatolo drove his mount past him, on the inside rail, committing for home at the top of the straight. They always looked in control thereafter, breaking the track record in the process, lowering the mark set by Tallaab Al Khalediah in the 2018 Kahayla Classic on the Dubai World Cup card.
Curatolo said: “I had a lovely run round and was able to get on the inside rail on the turn and saved a bit of ground before challenging in the straight.
“They went a bit quick for him early on, but once on the rail, he was happy in a rhythm and it all went perfectly in the end. I am delighted to have a Group One winner on the international stage and have to thank connections for the opportunity.”
Listed $88,000 Meydan Challenge (1400m T)
Godolphin were seeking a clean sweep of the Thoroughbred and turf races in the concluding Meydan Challenge sponsored by Friday, a 1400m Listed handicap, but Dubai Legacy in third, fared best of their three runners behind Zainhom and Wasim.
Dane O’Neill partnered the winner, a 7-year-old gelded son of Street Cry, homebred by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for Musabbeh Al Mheiri.
Drawn widest of all in 14, O’Neill was content to bide his time before launching his mount down the centre of the track, the pair storming past most of the field to hit the front entering the final 100m, ultimately winning fairly comfortably.
Assistant trainer, Maria Ritchie, said: “He is a really nice horse to have in the yard and hardly ever runs a bad race. It has been a while since he had won, but it is lovely to see him back in the winner’s enclosure.”