The fifth night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival brought us to the halfway point of the prep season leading to the richest night of racing on the planet. What did we learn from last Thursday’s races? Plenty.
- How about Ihtimal? Coming off the layoff, making her first start on the all-weather, Ihtimal absolutely flew home over the top to score a facile win in the UAE 1,000 Guineas, besting Mensoora by more than three lengths. The Trakus Report had a compelling piece of data, noting that Ihtimal’s final 200 metres were the fastest of any horse on the Tapeta this season over 1,600 metres, and it was actually tied for the fastest overall regardless of the surface. Did they soar away on the front end? It was a fast race, and the course did in fact seem to be playing faster than it has all season, but Ihtimal rocketed home and looks to only improve with distance.
- Potentially, could anyone from this group run with Ihtimal going forward, in the Oaks? Feedyah showed good resolve and Mensoora basically stayed-on in the running. Magrooma and Oxsana finished relatively distant fifth and sixth places in the race, and closed from next-to-last and last in the field, but really did not have a say in the result.
- In the grand scheme of the Carnival, the two most impressive performances so far have been Godolphin-owned fillies, between Certify and Ihtimal. Saeed bin Suroor said Ihtimal was the best filly in his yard, and she proved it.
- We thought Maraheb was an intriguing prospect if he made it into the second race field off the reserve list. He did, and then was absurdly sent to the lead after showing a good closing kick in this last race. He made the pace and backed-up to mid-field, while we saw a very legitimate improvement, and a smart ride, from Shane Foley aboard Eastern Rules. The Mick Halford trainee patiently sat about three lengths behind after the first 400 metres as opposed to making the pace. Foley may have gone winless in his first 53 mounts at Meydan, but he recorded two wins in his last four mounts ending with Eastern Rules.
- In that same race won by Eastern Rules, Mustaheel showed some legitimate improvement for the first time in a long time. He clearly got class relief and it helped, but he hasn’t been as close as he was to beating Eastern Rules since his first three career races when in France, all of which were wins. It’s worth noting the horse he last beat was Sir Jade, who landed this year’s Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup (G1) in Riyadh.
- All props to David Marnane and jockey Fergal Lynch (not to mention the Lavelles, who own) for another Carnival win, annexing the Meydan Classic Trial with He’s No Saint. While saving ground the entire way, He’s No Saint showed some more patience than in his previous turf races, and Lynch waited until the right gaps opened. We love seeing a young horse make moves and deal with some in-race adversity like he did, exhibiting that patience and breaking off when he was asked. Certainly he didn’t beat the best field, but Marnane told us he was far from 100% for this spot, aiming to progress later. The Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday is a possible goal for the son of Dutch Art. Lynch said in the post-race that he believes He’s No Saint is better than Elleval, and on that performance, we would agree.
- The long-distance grass horses are an amusing bunch. Great races were run by the first four finisher in the 1 ¾ mile event, with Excellent Result saving a slew of ground before running across the back of the field, getting into the clear, and galloping away from Star Empire. Certerach lost plenty of ground early and was taken to the rail late by Shane Foley, showing his typical affinity for the desert grass, and Ralston Road had a stop-start run in the stretch. Contrary to the race call, the pace in this race was really relatively average, not slow or snail-like. There have only been seven races run at the 2,810-metre distance at Meydan, and prior to Thursday’s race, the average 1,600-metre split was 1:46.39. What was it from last week? 1:46.53. Not exactly that strange to see the pace as such in that type of race.
- We aren’t sure what we actually learned in the Maktoum Challenge R2 (G2). They set a course record, Kieren Fallon thought he moved too soon, very few horses closed from well off the pace, with African Story being the best of the lot. Prince Bishop has been more than competent on this surface, and after a fifth and a third in this spot, finally got over the top in a big race. Many made a big deal about Hunter’s Light wearing the third-string red cap, but it was really the fourth-stringer Prince Bishop who was truly ignored as a result of his silk-induced defection, albeit misunderstood. It seems absurd to think that last Thursday was THE best race of his life, but it was, and at the age of seven…he did.
- Zambucca intrigued us with his very strong run, granted into a distant third. In the Al Rashidiya a week earlier, jockey Richard Mullen was shaking his head vigourously in the final strides, giving us the feeling that something we couldn’t necessarily see in the race video impacted this runner. Sure enough, the Stewards’ Report for the race made it very clear where the issue existed, as Dane O’Neill was given three days for careless riding on Mushreq. He improved second-up off the long South African ship and break, and at least seems compelling enough going forward as he proved an affinity for the surface.
- Heavy Metal might be falling into Jay Peg territory, forgotten later when he gets back on the grass. They still haven’t gotten him right, obviously, and it’s still very early. The Vodacom Durban July winner ran an even race and passed a few tiring rivals late. Zahee and Dunaden both ran admirably, given that both came into the race with different question marks.
- Mont Ras’s connections might have been the loudest of the season so far after besting El Estruendoso, second again. Disa Leader may have gotten the ride of the Carnival when Johnny Geroudis implored him to go out front and clear, heading over the to the rail when drawn in 16. That degree of effort and passion were well-rewarded with a decent third placing, beaten just 1.5 lengths. Edu Querido ran well in his first local start. You never really know how the South American imports shape-up, but he looked a potential winner in the final quarter-mile.
- Racing resumes in the UAE on Thursday with the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) and Firebreak Stakes (G3), preps for the Dubai Golden Shaheen and Godolphin Mile, respectively. Should be another great night.
He’s No Saint