Once again, our non-consecutive thoughts on Thursday’s races from Meydan.
- For those that follow @DubaiRaceNight on Twitter, you’ll quickly find that there was little amusing about those with negative remarks about Igugu’s loss. In fact, Igugu ran one of the most impressive losing performances we can remember. It all boils down to how fast the champion mare ran. If you judge her run based solely on the finishing position, you only cheat yourself.
As this week’s Trakus Report will detail, the 800-metre sectional set by Igugu was the fastest in any of the group-level stakes races run at Meydan over 1,800 metres on grass, and faster than the next-quickest by more than a half-second. Behind Igugu’s split, the two next-fastest horses to set the first 800-metre sectionals both finished last, with a margin of defeat listed as “distanced.” Igugu was beaten only 4 ¼ lengths. One of those two was Await The Dawn, who was last in the 2012 Dubai Duty Free (G1). Of course, he came back to win in his second-up run, setting a new course record for 2,000 metres on grass. More on him later.
This says absolutely nothing of the fact that trainer Mike de Kock is 2-for-22 this Carnival with horses making their first start off the layoff, or that the vast majority of these horses endured a minimum 140-day quarantine, which included 90 days in Mauritius where legitimate training is impossible.
So Igugu, whose goal is most definitely beyond just the $200,000 Balanchine (G2), ran a faster pace than any horse in any of the three Dubai Duty Free renewals at Meydan, four Al Rashidiyas, three Jebel Hattas, and three previous Balanchines, off a 13-month break, which included almost six months of no legitimate training. She didn’t win, but it was one of the most impressive performances you could find in a four-length loss.
- Let’s not forget Sajjhaa – who turned the Cape Verdi/Balanchine double, becoming only the second horse to turn the trick. Eventual Dubai Sheema Classic winner Sun Classique did it in 2008.
- Await The Dawn performed as we expected, and So Beautiful ran on well from the back in the small-in-size but big-in-quality opener to the programme. Both were coming out of well-beaten performances from the Maktoum Challenge – Round 2, behind Hunter’s Light. We thought that was a strange race, and it continues to feel that way, where we refuse to put a strong opinion behind how good Hunter’s Light really is until we see him again.
There seem to be many options going forward, and his final 200-metres of the Maktoum Challenge were second-fastest in the field. We’re fairly confident he goes better on that surface than his ninth-placing appeared, and has been put up to 120 in the ratings.
- Adding more fuel to that fire was Mushreq, who won the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) after a solid win on turf earlier in the campaign and a mid-field placing in the Maktoum Challenge – Round 2. This was his first group-level stakes win after just missing in the Golden Horseshoe as a South African youngster. He was put up in the ratings to 117.
- Unbridled Ocean was an absolute shocker to us. Granted, the fifth race on the card seemed an open sort, with Godolphin’s My Freedom our top pick having shown an explosive turn of foot against lesser in his only all-weather start. Still, the race seemed ripe for a price, and this fella, owned by Besilu Stables of Cuban-born, American-esteemed Ben Leon, really impressed.
Richard Mullen gave a great ride knowing the pace was to be frenetic, and he got up – a rare win for a horse emerging from middling company in the US. Congrats to Satish Seemar and the team for a very nice score. Of course, Besliu Stables owns current ante-post favourite for the Dubai World Cup – Royal Delta.
- Dux Scholar was the first local win for US-based trainer Seth Benzel and Russian jockey Khamzat Ulubaev. He did it as top-weight, on the cut back to the shortest trip in his career, and has been put up to 116 in the ratings. Given this success, in a fast time, and we think the Meydan Sprint and Al Quoz Sprint are possibilities for him, but are actually surprised to learn that Dux Scholar was not nominated at the first entry stage for any of the races on World Cup night.
Perhaps a late nomination will be made, but regardless, it was a solid effort getting this 5-year-old to do his best running over the shortest trip of his life.