SAFETY CHECK won the Al Fahidi Fort – crushed them actually. And in so doing, the statistic that was bound to be overturned…was. He became the first horse from trainer Charlie Appleby’s yard in the UAE to win in any local start after their first-up run. And more so, the first horse based at Marmoom Stables to win any local start after their first-up run since Anatolian did it on February 14, 2013 – a group of more than 70 starters from such a top class yard.
We knew it would fall at some point, and Safety Check’s first-up run seemed classy enough that he could move forward – and he did.
What was perhaps a bit surprising to us was that RED RAY was so well-regarded on the tote, showing the South African influence on that. He was sent postward at 8-5 while Safety Check and ANAEROBIO were each 5-2. Speaking of Anaerobio, he encountered some significant trouble in the stretch before finally getting out and rattling home to run fourth. Shane Foley, who rode EASTERN RULES, the Al Fahidi Fort second, was suspended for two UAE meetings, including the local meeting at Meydan on January 31.
Safety Check was promoted to a rating of 115 and is postmarked for more stakes action. Charlie Appleby indicated the Zabeel Mile (G2) on February 28 is a likely next spot for the son of Dubawi.
UMGIYO absolutely exploded in the final 300 meters to win his local debut, getting just his second win, and first since a maiden score. We spent some time with one of his syndicate’s owners, Warne Rippon, and soon realized the connection. Rippon, as an owner, has never lost in Dubai. “But I couldn’t win in Borrowdale if I tried,” Rippon added. Along with Lionel Cohen, Rippon campaigned Sun Classique, who was unbeaten in three starts in the UAE, topped by the 2008 Dubai Sheema Classic. You can see Rippon in the video below carrying a lead headed out to great Sun Classique after the race.
“I was more nervous for this race than I think I had been for any of Sun Classique’s, mostly because I don’t think we’ve won a race since then.”
Umgiyo rattled home under a great ride from Christophe Soumillon and has been put up six pounds for the effort and races off a 108 going forward.
John Ryan’s pair, OCEAN TEMPEST and TENOR ran very well in second and third, and ROCK COCKTAIL was very credible in his first-up performance off the long quarantine-induced break.
Niels Petersen has been trying and trying to win one at Meydan, and it too finally happened, as BEAT BABY basically led from go to whoa. SPEED HAWK, our selection, was a good second, but couldn’t get to the horse who nearly got Petersen’s first win last year when first up on grass. On a night when we believe the dirt course was playing a bit faster, overall, this race was particularly slow at the finish, and think all out of this spot are well-worth taking on in the future. Beat Baby was put up to a rating of 105, which should see him as a top weight in the lowest level of Carnival handicaps.
Don’t forget that Beat Baby needed a shoe repair when arriving at the start after he shed a plate heading out. Count us as puzzled that Mashaaref, the top weight, went off the commingled tote favorite at 2-1.
TOOLAIN – we missed this one. As followers of the Saudi racing, it was disheartening that we missed a major form tip from Toolain – finishing less than a length behind Ron the Greek in Riyadh earlier in the season. This guy was somewhat surprising, but 123-1 was way too high for him on the tote (he was a 20-1 morning line choice and at least two others were higher on that opening line).
As it looked pre-race, and addressed in our analysis, the pace of the race looked to be strong, and it was. Off an early-established par time of 51.33 for the first 800 meters, this race went out in 49.57. Our selection, Busker, was a bit closer than anticipated, with Toolain behind him. Marc Monaghan did a lovely job steering Toolain to the outside and the well-raced runner, back to the UAE after a Saudi stint, ran on well. Second-placer FARRIER was arguably troubled for a run when found in a box for most of the stretch, but with just one win from his last 13 starts now, it seems he’s just found another excuse.
HUNTING GROUND was not rusty, loved the dirt as his parents did, and found no trouble getting the 2,000 meters of the local event despite the fact his wins had come over significantly longer trips. Mickael Barzalona steered to perfection, saving all the ground, and giving Salem bin Ghadayer his first win as a licensed trainer. The surprise to us was that JALAA and SEFRI did little to no running in this spot, with CRY JOY getting a distant second and STREET ACT up to his usual decency with a third. ERA Handicapper Melvin Day tossed a big old 104 rating on Hunting Ground for the win, which could see him go top-weight in some races later in the campaign.
The closing race on the last few cards have come with plenty of excitement, and the finale last week was no different. AL SAHAM, who was skittish in the stalls before the break, settled well and got a cozy ride from Adrie de Vries, who was the last to make his move. Overall, this performance in the stretch was incredibly similar to that of Belgian Bill’s from a week ago, tipping off cover in the lane and having a free passage to get on with it.
EYE IN THE SKY ran credibly to get fourth, beaten just ¼-length, and close a successful night for Niels Petersen. Making all on the Meydan grass, especially around a turn, is an incredibly rarity, and this makes consecutive weeks where one almost did – Free Wheeling last week and then this performance. Extra credit to Per-Anders Graberg who really backed down the pace in the 800 and 1200m splits, which were significantly slower than standard. SAXO JACK struggled for a run and is one we’re definitely looking forward to next time out. FULL COMBAT, who struggled on dirt first up, put in an improved effort back on the grass, and was well-treated on the rail after breaking from the widest stall.
TAMARKUZ was our only on-top winner of the night. He broke with the field, which is always a question with this guy and finally put it all together. A son of Speightstown, he had plenty of success on the all-weather before getting his first dirt win in this spot, besting Maktoum Challenge second HAATHEQ by 4.5 lengths. The final time of 1:37.47 was a new course record. Given the pedigree and his sustenance with the speed, he could easily move forward into a quality race off this. He was promoted to a rating of 113, and could be Firebreak Stakes (G3) bound after that.
Horses for the notebook: Saxo Jack, Anaerobio, Farrier
Tipping performance: Just one win on what turned out to be a much tougher evening than we thought. Tamarkuz got us on top while Speed Hawk was our only other top placer. 21 races – 6 winners, 5 second, 0 third ($2 ROI = $2.88)