Thursday’s eighth meeting of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse was a cracker, with no less than three turf features. The evening was topped by the Group 2 US$250,000 Zabeel Mile sponsored by District One Legacy and won, for a fourth time, by South African trainer Mike de Kock, who saddled winner Janoobi, as well as the third-placed Noah From Goa.
The 1600m turf highlight appeared to be run at a good pace as 2017 winner Championship was sent to the front from his outside 10-post under Silvestre de Sousa, with the two De Kock runners in his slipstream. Early in the straight, Christophe Soumillon niggled at Noah From Goa as Janoobi, under Jim Crowley, went with his yard-mate gamely.
Owned by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Janoobi ultimately proved the bigger danger, and steadily made inroads into Championship’s lead before hitting the front inside the final 50m to win in gritty fashion by three-quarters of a length.
“I had planned to lead but Championship was able to get across us and to the front, so I was conscious to switch out off the rail, as I did not want to be stuck behind him,” Crowley said. “It actually proved ideal, because I had a nice tow from him and we went a good gallop which has suited my horse who won nicely. He has improved with each run this year and we knew we had a good chance in a competitive race.”
“That was a very good ride from Jim, who did well to angle off the fence to alleviate the chance of getting trapped on the rail,” De Kock added. “We were quite hopeful back over 1600m, which is his best trip, but I think the 1800m of the Jebel Hatta would be too far, so we could try him on dirt. I think he would handle the surface with his style of running, but we will have to talk to Sheikh Hamdan first. Noah From Goa will head for the Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday and looks as though he will appreciate the extra 200m.”
De Sousa was pleased with Championship’s game performance, especially considering the horse was well-beaten in his resurfacing three weeks prior in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2).
“I was drawn 10 and he likes to be a frontrunner,” De Sousa said. “I had to use the horse early to come across. He ran a good race. It was his second time out in the Carnival and he’s still not 100%, but it was a big performance tonight.”
In the night’s opener, UAE’s top-rated horse of 2017, Ertijaal kicked off festivities well with a thrilling defence of the Group 2 $175,000 Meydan Sprint sponsored by District One Greenery Stretch over a 1000m on turf, making all for Crowley, Sheikh Hamdan and trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. The son of Oasis Dream, has raced seven times over the Meydan 1000m, suffering his sole defeat in the 2016 Al Quoz Sprint, now a 1200m race, and setting the track record in this race 12 months ago.
Well-regarded Charlie Appleby trainee Blue Point, racing over a 1000m for the first time, loomed as a big danger 300m out under William Buick. The pair challenged in the final furlong, nearly appearing the stronger of the two until Ertijaal and Crowley fought back in thrilling fashion to prevail by a head.
“He was on his toes a bit in the stalls and actually missed the break a little bit, but was soon in that amazing rhythm he has,” Crowley said. “I was always happy on him and we knew Blue Point, who is a very good sprinter himself, would be staying on. When my horse is challenged, I know he is going to find plenty for pressure and that is what happened.”
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The Group 3 $200,000 Dubai Millennium Stakes sponsored by District One Mansions, over 2000m on the turf, produced another enthralling finish with the Godolphin pair, Folkswood and Leshlaa flashing across the line together. It was the former, partnered by William Buick for Charlie Appleby, who prevailed over his Pat Cosgrave-ridden and Saeed bin Suroor-trained banner-mate by a short head.
Two races back, the son of Exceed and Excel was a game third behind the great Winx in her history-making Cox Plate (G1) hat-trick triumph. Also second in the 1800m Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday last year, Folkswood is likely to once again aim for said March 10th event.
“The horse really deserves a lot of credit for that win because we were in trouble with nowhere to go for a little while, but when the gap opened, he really picked up in style,” Buick said. “I knew once we were clear, it was going to be close and the horse has really battled to lead on the line. His last run was in Australia was in November, so he was entitled to need this outing.”
In the evening’s second race, the non-Carnival $60,000 District One Residences over 1400m, Secret Ambition was rousted to the lead early on by Richard Mullen from his rail post imposition and was then never headed for trainer Satish Seemar.
Mullen said: “When the runner-up came to him, he stayed on again and is a horse who really loves a battle as he has shown plenty of times.”
The champion jockey then produced a virtual carbon copy effort on stable companion Raven’s Corner, who led gate-to-wire in the District One 300 Villas Dash handicap over 1400m on dirt. Leaving the home turn, Mullen’s mount had six of his seven rivals in trouble, the exception being well-intended Kimbear, the mount of Pat Dobbs for Doug Watson. He looked a big danger, but Mullen was able to coax a further response from Raven’s Corner, who pulled away impressively to win by seven lengths and set a new track record of 1:23.07.
“This horse had a few issues with the stalls, as we know earlier this season, and I have not actually ridden him the last twice when Pat Cosgrave has,” Mullen said. “He basically said to me to keep the horse away from the others and the actual stalls down at the start. The horse was lovely and relaxed all along. He jumped well and was soon in his stride. He is a horse with a lot of pace and we are still unsure what his best trip is. He is quick enough for 1200m and might stay 1600m. We have always really liked this horse and he is starting to justify our opinion of him but is still improving.”
Later, in the District One Mediterranean handicap over 1600m, it was Mickael Barzalona employing identical tactics, this time on Capezzano for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer. A 1400m Meydan maiden winner in December 2016 on the same surface. Making his debut for his new connections, the ex-Godolphin pupil impressively held off his previous owner’s Footbridge by 1¼ lengths.
“He is a new horse for us and we were keen to run him on the dirt, as he has good form on it,” Barzalona said. “We have only had him about two weeks and I did do one piece of work on him when he went nicely. We would have to hope he can win again as he goes well on this dirt surface and is a tough, talented performer.
The disappointment of the race came at the start when highly touted Hong Kong ship-in Classic Emperor stumbled and dismounted jockey Derek Leung. The Chris So-trained son of Medaglia d’Oro may still remain in Dubai for the $200,000 Burj Nahar (G3) on Super Saturday, March 10th, as long as the horse exits well.
Leung said: “When he stumbled the first time, he tried to pick himself up.It’s just bad luck; it happens. Hopefully the horse is able to come back in a couple of weeks and he can show the racing world what he can do”.
The finale, the District one Contemporary handicap over 2410m on turf, produced a Godolphin grand slam as Walton Street defeated Eynhallow by two lengths with a determined stretch-long rally under William Buick.
“I’ve been on him before and I thought he would improve for it,” Buick said. “Today he seemed to just get everything together. He looks like a lovely horse and has the pedigree to go with it.”
Appleby conditioned the winner and runner-up, as well as fourth-placed Wolf Country, who set the pace for his banner-mates. Bin Suroor-trained Gold Star was third.