Sunday, December 10, 2023

Super Saturday Tees Up Locals for Dubai World Cup

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Super Saturday at Meydan Racecourse, the dress rehearsal for Dubai World Cup (G1) night, produced a clutch of local runners to take on the invasion of international superstars in three weeks.

Trainer Fawzi Nass sent out Salute the Soldier  to win a likely spot in the $12 million World Cup and Go Soldier Go  to line up as a candidate for the $1 million UAE Derby (G2). Sound Money , formerly trained by Chad Brown in New York, bid for a spot in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), as he won his first start in the desert.

Godolphin’s dominance among local turf runners hit a few bumps as Rebel’s Romance  was sidelined with a minor injury, and traffic compromised the team’s chances in the evening’s turf feature.

The big Super Saturday dirt race was the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) and Salute the Soldier shone with a stretch-running win. With Adrie de Vries up, the 8-year-old outfinished Bendoog  by two lengths with the pacesetter, First Constitution , holding on for third at the end of the 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), the same trip as the March 25 World Cup.

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Salute the Soldier became the first two-time winner of Round 3. He won in 2021 and finished fifth in the big race that year.

“He’s been a good soldier,” Nass said of his veteran star. “He lost form last year for some reason, but this year, he’s restored.”

Whether he will he go on to the World Cup, Nass said, “It’s a long time, three weeks, for me to worry about.”

Photo: Dubai Racig Club

Go Soldier Go (left) narrowly defeats Mr Raj in the Al Bastakiya

Go Soldier Go gobbled up a huge deficit in the final 200 meters of the Al Bastakiya Stakes for 3-year-olds to win by a head over Mr Raj  and move into the picture for the UAE Derby. Ami Please , a filly trained by Doug O’Neill, led most of the way and finished third.

Go Soldier Go, a Tapiture   colt out of the Thunder Gulch  mare Better Again , has progressed nicely through the carnival for Nass, finishing third and second before winning twice.

“He takes time to get going,” said winning rider Adrie de Vries. “I was stuck behind a wall of horses who were losing on the backside. Once he was out of the kickback, he showed a beautiful stride… In the Derby, I just have to ride him the same way.”

Sound Money, always prominent, dominated the stretch run in the night’s finale, the Mahab Al Shimaal (G3), a prep for the Golden Shaheen. With Mickael Barzalona up for trainer Buphat Seemar, the 5-year-old son of Flatter  was impressive enough in his first start in the desert, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Isolate , to book a spot in the big race.

Sound Money finished second to Jackie’s Warrior   in the True North Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park last June 10 and second to Cody’s Wish  in the Westchester Stakes (G3) May 7. He had not raced since July.

Discovery Island wins the 2023 Burj Nahaar at Meydan
Photo: Dubai Racing Club

Discovery Island takes the Burj Nahaar

Also on the Meydan dirt, Seemar-trained Discovery Island  ground out a 1 1/2-length victory in the Burj Nahaar (G3), securing his spot in the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) on March 25. With James Doyle in the irons, Discovery Island sat mid-field during the run down the backstretch, challenged outside a clot of rivals inside the 200 meters, and wore them down for the win.

Raaeb  was second, and Royal Mews , another from Seemar’s yard, was third.

“He looked good. He had to work hard, though,” Seemar said of Discovery Island, a 6-year-old Dubawi  gelding, who improved from a sixth-place finish in the Firebreak Stakes Jan. 27.

While Nass and Seemar dominated the dirt races on the Super Saturday program, Godolphin uncharacteristically had to share honors in the grass features.

The blue-clad home team had a strong hand in the Jebel Hatta (G1T), the key prep for the $5 million Dubai Turf (G1T) on World Cup night. But the race turned into a jumble on the backstretch with the likes of Godolphin runners Master of the Seas , Real World , and Valiant Prince , all enduring troubled trips.

Alfareeq wins the 2023 Jebel Hatta at Meydan
Photo: Dubai Racing Club

Alfareeq prevails in the Jebel Hatta

That left things open for Alfareeq , a Shadwell homebred by Dark Angel , who passed El Drama  in the final strides to win by a neck. Master of the Seas did manage to close smartly for third, just another neck in arrears, once jockey William Buick got him room on the outside.

Alfareeq won the Jebel Hatta in 2022 but then got home seventh in the Dubai Turf when faced with a superb international field, including dead-heat winners Lord North  and Panthalassa .

Godolphin was without the horse who would have been the star of the evening as Rebel’s Romance suffered a minor setback that forced him out of the Dubai City of Gold (G2T). Trainer Charlie Appleby said the reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T) winner is expected back for the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1T) on World Cup night.

While Rebel’s Romance was missed, Godolphin was still dominant in the City of Gold as Global Storm  took up the baton, winning by 2 1/2 lengths with stablemate Kemari  second. Appleby said Global Storm likely would return the baton to Rebel’s Romance for the Sheema Classic, adding, “He’s not a horse I see for World Cup night. He’s done his job here tonight.”

Another of Godolphin’s top-shelf runners, Al Suhail , shot away from the field to win the Ras Al Khor by four lengths under a hands-and-heels ride by William Buick. The Appleby trainee made it two straight wins at Meydan Racecourse and lowered his course record for the 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) to 1:21.46.

Al Suhail, a 6-year-old Dubawi gelding, holds an entry for the $1.5 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on World Cup night but could be reserved for big races back in England in the springtime.

The Nad al Sheeba Turf Sprint (G3T) may well have turned up a budding star for the British sprint season as 3-year-old Al Dasim , a son of Harry Angel , pulled clear of big field of older rivals through the final strides to win the 1,200-meter race by 2 1/4 lengths. The runner-up, Miqyaas , lugged into the winner through the final 100 meters and could not stay with the winner. Thunder of Niagara  was third.

It was the third straight Carnival win for Al Dasim, following two victories on the Wolverhampton all-weather surface in England. George Boughey trains him.

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