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What we learned from Super Saturday

Super Saturday has come and gone and the next day of racing at Meydan is the world’s richest – Saturday, March 28.

As of the close of this meeting, there have been 75 races on the dirt at Meydan, but just 49 individual horses to win. MUBTAAHIJ, SHAISHEE, and TAMARKUZ became three-time winners on the surface, joining LOCAL TIME and ONE MAN BAND to have earned the treble this season. When we suggested that locally-prepared runners were going to have a big impact on the Carnival, we weren’t kidding.

Add in the fact that HUNTER’S LIGHT became a three-time Carnival winner on the season, landing Group 1 grass glory for the second time in his career, clearly a horse who is firing on all cylinders at the moment.

Let’s take a look back at some of our thoughts on the day that was.

MUBTAAHIJ sat a perfect stalking trip, loomed outside the previously unbeaten of SIR FEVER and pounced in the lane, running away to win the last UAE Derby prep, Al Bastakiya (Listed).

There are a couple ways to take this performance. First, Mubtaahij did not look close to fully extended. He stretched-out as well as many projected after his run in the UAE 2,000 Guineas, and goes into the UAE Derby likely to face Godolphin’s Maftool, who sat this one out after Guineas glory.

Sir Fever had plenty going against him. Mubtaahij was in-form, successful over the course – he was settled. Sir Fever came from Uruguay and has been in the UAE for a while after an undefeated 10-for-10 start to his career. This was, more or less, the first real spell that he has had in his career, and his first up run wasn’t all that bad. Sure, the unbeaten mark is gone, but all is far from lost off this one run.

The UAE Derby likely won’t have much more in the way of local runners from the Carnival other than these two, Maftool, and perhaps AJWAD. There aren’t likely to be any in from America, though three are anticipated from Japan – Dear Domus, Golden Barows, and Tap That. Golden Barows is a winner of three straight, all on dirt, recording a narrow victory over Edenhall in the Hyacinth Stakes (Listed) at Tokyo in February. Dear Domus is 3-for-5 on dirt but could only go fourth in the Hyacinth while Tap That, a winner of his first two starts, was sixth in there.

Mubtaahij is a Kentucky Derby nominee and could be aimed for that race if he runs first or second in the UAE Derby. We’ll see how it goes, but it is potentially exciting for the connections.

SHAISHEE earned his third win on the Meydan dirt after four consecutive decent, but relatively non-impactful Carnival performances. His wins were early in the local season, but this Musabah Al Muhairi trainee has just kept on keeping on. Ignore his fifth in the Al Fahidi Fort when trying the grass again, and you realize one big form line that sticks out on his line – when finishing just behind TAMARKUZ and Faulkner on January 8.

It was a bit of an oddly run race. Shaishee showed speed, then backed-off the pace to run in the second flight, four-wide. That decision from Silvestre De Sousa, who managed just his second win at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, was likely the game-changer, enabling just enough reserve in the tank. SPEED HAWK ran another superb race for third as UNITED COLOR put it all together again after a few frustrating runs this Carnival.

Of these, though, who is going to run best in the Dubai Golden Shaheen? Maybe none of them. COOL COWBOY did not show as much speed as he has in America, and that jives with what Doug Watson suggested in his pre-race comments. This son of Kodiak Kowboy needed some time, and Watson said he was probably a few works short of his best. Of the first flight of horses that vied for the lead, only Cool Cowboy hung around with the pace, staying-on to finish fourth, beaten 3 ¾ lengths. The other three – FARMAH, PRICE IS TRUTH, and MASHAAREF finished sixth, eighth, and ninth, respectively, beaten 9 ½, 12 ¾, and 21 ½ lengths.

The money that showed for Farmah was head-scratching, sent off the 8-5 post-time tote choice. Granted, he was a son of Speightstown, an American dirt sprinting champion. But having never been on the surface before, off the break, and with a conditioner unaccustomed to preparing runners on dirt, a big race would seem an anomaly. As it was, Farmah showed speed and faded.

KRYPTON FACTOR was disappointing but might have an excuse as he seemed to slam the gate when jumping away. He was bustled by Adrie De Vries immediately and just did not seem to pick-up as he did first-up. We wouldn’t totally ignore him on the big night, third off the freshening.

How about that Meydan Sprint? Wow. Relive the race below.

On paper, it looked a wild race, and it turned out that way. The first twelve finishers were separated by 2 ¾ lengths. First and foremost, SIR MAXIMILIAN was significantly impressive. Shut off in the stretch when LANCELOT DU LAC drifted across towards AHTOUG, Kieran Fallon pulled his charge from that spot and came around AHTOUG and got there. Those types of moves rarely work in such a competitive race, but Sir Maximilian managed the trick. Massive credit goes to Fallon. Some jockeys might have dramatically enhanced the interference, but Fallon regrouped and knew what he had. To have won was darn near incredible.

Overall, though, it might dull the performances of some of the placers, horses who had
unadulterated runs. We’ll see, but this race feels like another wild one on the big night.

The most impressive runner, other than the winner, was fifth-home ROI DE VITESSE, who was the only horse to really pick-up from off the sparkling pace set by CASPIAN PRINCE. The Ali Jan trainee ran his final sectionals in 22.31 and 11.43 seconds, easily the quickest in the field. He was 14th with 200 meters to run and galloped out past the first three with ease. While he seems like more of a 1,200 runner than a 1,000-meter horse, a placing chance on World Cup night does not seem impossible.

There really isn’t too much to say about the Burj Nahaar. TAMARKUZ did it again, and is proven as the best miler in the UAE this year. In his last three starts, all wins, he broke from gates one, two, and on Saturday, again, from one. In his seasonal debut on the Carnival’s opening night, he was slow away from gate ten as top weight, still almost got to FAULKNER, and the third placer was eventual Mahab Al Shimaal winner Shaishee. Yeah, that’s ok.

Until there is really a reason to doubt him (perhaps with a draw in 15 for the Godolphin Mile), you can’t. He’s the best in the UAE, progressively faster, and just rock solid in every facet. The dirt has been kind.

GOLD CITY ran another cracker in second, with LAYL a massively progressive type in third. The other logical horses, all of whom have run well on dirt this season, took the under spots. HAATHEQ, ROMANSH, HEAVY METAL, and even NOT A GIVEN (a local race winner) rounded out the top seven. It just made sense.

It’s going to be very difficult to overturn Tamarkuz in the Godolphin Mile, regardless of the draw, but if it were to happen, it might be an overseas raider.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum appeared on site in advance of the Dubai City of Gold and the boys in blue absolutely started firing. It was uncanny. SKY HUNTER won a lackluster edition of the 12-furlong turf event, but he did it with plenty of credit against this bunch. A small field enabled many to have a good trip, and Sky Hunter surely did, stalking the leaders and progressing smoothly to the lead.

SHEIKHZAYEDROAD made a progress on the outside of horses, and potentially did so too soon, beginning to run with 1,100 meters to run and flattened out after that, though stayed-on well for second. UMGIYO was at the head of the others, barely, in a six-horse gaggle behind the top two.

We said it before and we will say it again – the quality in the Dubai Sheema Classic is due to be superb, perhaps better than ever before. If any of these have a claim in the big race, expect a legitimate price.

What do you make of the Maktoum Challenge? A wildly confusing, and perhaps, downright strange horse race.

AFRICAN STORY became the first horse since 2008 to win the Dubai World Cup and win a subsequent race.

African Story broke running, but was overtaken by HENRY CLAY, presumably keeping the pace ripe for his stable companion, STORM BELT. Of the many things that rang strange, Henry Clay managed to hang on for third and Storm Belt never lifted. Just odd.

PRINCE BISHOP was under a ride right from the start, for reasons that aren’t exactly clear. He was bustled along early, but not to the same degree, when racing on the rail on the early stages of the Maktoum Challenge Round 2 before closing well late in that race. But William Buick, still winless on the dirt this season in the UAE, got after him early, striking him with the whip early in the first turn. It was a constant ride for Buick, and Prince Bishop was kept outside as opposed to his Round 2 try when he saved all the ground until turning for home.

Still, Prince Bishop kept coming, despite all the extra ground covered (11 meters more than the winner) and almost got to the 2014 Dubai World Cup and 2012 Godolphin Mile winner.

Was there really anything else to write about for this race? FRANKYFOURFINGERS faded over the longer trip, and neither Storm Belt nor TOOLAIN showed their dirt kicks as in handicap company. Seeing what we saw from this bunch and knowing the dirt monsters making the trek to Dubai for the world’s richest race, African Story and Prince Bishop will likely have their work cut out for them.

HUNTER’S LIGHT demolished the Jebel Hatta, proving his last two wins were just the precursor to a monster effort.

We were sorry to hear of the injury suffered to VERCINGETORIX, now retired after sustaining a ligament injury to his right foreleg. On his healthiest, you have to think there is no chance Hunter’s Light would have won this race by 6 ½ lengths. Could he have won it anyway? Surely. But by this margin? No chance.

TRADE STORM, last after the first 400 meters, made his typical late run from off the lead and should strip fitter for the Dubai Turf, while a phalanx of de Kock trainees took the next four positions.

With the loss of Vercingetorix, Hunter’s Light clearly moves to the head of the local division for the Dubai Turf, but the race has greatly opened for an overseas shipper, and should be very compelling for the World Cup meeting.

DubaiRaceNight.com’s onsite coverage for the World Cup meeting begins on March 23.

One comment

  1. Heartbreaking end for VERCINGETORIX.

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