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The Apache defies year-long layoff in Al Rashidiya

The Apache paid a hefty compliment to stablemate Igugu (Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)
Just one week ago, a couple of Mike de Kock runners had troubled trips in a frustrating night at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. On Thursday, the luck that had deserted the yard was back in spades, and the South African horseman celebrated a magnificent triple, capped by his new recruit The Apache in the Group 2, $200,000 Al Rashidiya. Despite returning from a year-long layoff, the South African champion was ready to fire in his debut for the team.

The Apache had not raced since finishing sixth in the Group 1 J&B Met last January, beaten two lengths by Horse of the Year Igugu. Owner Winston Chow subsequently transferred him to de Kock, where he became Igugu's stablemate. He now sports Igugu's colors as well, for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum had purchased an interest in The Apache, with Chow remaining as co-owner.

Perched in a tracking spot behind the front-running Do It All, The Apache was in close striking range throughout. But Christophe Soumillon was in the position of having to ride for luck, hoping for a gap in the stretch. As Derbaas took over from the weakening Do It All, and Aesop's Fables ranged alongside, a narrow seam emerged, and Soumillon bravely went for it.

The Apache, equally game, burst right between them. Meanwhile, fellow comebacker City Style exploded from well off the pace wider out. The two kicked clear of the rest in a private battle, and The Apache found a bit extra to pull away from City Style by three-quarters of a length.

"I rode this horse work in the week," Soumillon said, "and he really pleased me, so I was pretty hopeful of a big run. He has done well after his break and can hopefully improve."

De Kock hadn't exactly gone in expecting to win his record fifth Al Rashidiya, believing that The Apache wasn't fully cranked for this reappearance.

"I actually thought he would need that," de Kock said, "so it is very pleasing, and hopefully he can build on this."

Another 2 1/4 lengths astern came the unlucky Sharestan. An impressive winner of the January 10 Al Rashidiya Trial on opening night of the Carnival, Sharestan was bottled up in traffic in the main event. By the time the Godolphin first-stringer finally saw daylight, the race was essentially over, and he did well to overtake stablemate Aesop's Fables for third by a half-length.

Rounding out the order of finish were Albaasil, So Beautiful, Light Heavy, Derbaas, Fanunalter and Do It All.

The Apache, who covered about 1 1/8 miles on Meydan's good turf in 1:49 3/5, has now bankrolled $392,780 from his 16-7-2-1 line. Previously trained by Gavin van Zyl, the son of Mogok reigned as South Africa's champion three-year-old colt of 2010-11 through victories in the Group 1 Daily News 2000, Group 1 Champion's Cup and Group 2 Dingaans. The following season, his best stakes results were a third in the Group 2 Victory Moon and a near-miss second in the Group 3 London News.

Considering that The Apache has been beaten convincingly by Igugu in two premier races back home, the Group 1 Durban July and the J&B Met, his success in the Al Rashidiya rates as a significant compliment ahead of her upcoming Dubai debut.

Indeed, de Kock had a crafty grin when asked about this enticing formline in the postrace interview. Plans call for Igugu to be unveiled in the Group 2 Balanchine on February 21.

Bred by Scott Bros. in South Africa, The Apache is out of the Dolpour mare Apache Rose, who is a full sister to Group 3-placed stakes heroine Sugar Magnolia and Group 2-placed West West. The Apache's second dam is Group 1 star Bold West.

Rerouted, once a pacemaker for Frankel, was the middle leg of the de Kock triple (Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)
De Kock's two earlier wins on the card likewise came at the expense of Godolphin.

Rerouted, owned by a partnership including golfer Lee Westwood, got up in time to catch the loose-on-the-lead Van Ellis in a Tapeta handicap. Held up in midpack by Soumillon, the son of Stormy Atlantic appeared to be chasing for only a minor award as Van Ellis opened up a commanding margin into the stretch. The Godolphin runner hit the wall inside the final sixteenth, however, and the resolute Rerouted was on the premises to pick up the pieces. Rallying to a one-length decision, he negotiated about seven furlongs in 1:24 1/5 to earn his first win since his juvenile days.

Formerly campaigned by breeder Juddmonte Farms, Rerouted scored his signature victory in the Group 3 Somerville Tattersall. He might be best remembered for his brief stint as a pacemaker for Frankel. Rerouted was widely expected to perform that role in the Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas, only to have Frankel do the honors himself in a blistering display of speed. Next time in the Group 1 St James's Palace, Rerouted did his pacemaker duties before fading to last, and he again brought up the rear in the 2011 City Plate at Chester in his final outing for Juddmonte. De Kock snared him as a Carnival prospect, and he placed twice from four starts here in 2012.

In his reappearance, Rerouted was third to Sharestan in the Al Rashidiya Trial. He broke through on Thursday on a productive day for Westwood, who was on hand at the track after shooting -5 in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

"We have had some joy here in the past -- especially Right Approach," Westwood said, alluding to his dead-heat winner of the 2004 Group 1 Duty Free, "and this horse has been running well in defeat, so it is nice to see him win."

De Kock's night got off on the right note with Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum's homebred Mushreq. One of last week's hard-luck stories when a compromised fourth, the Flying Spur gelding didn't have a straw in his path this time. Under Paul Hanagan, the sheikh's retained rider, Mushreq advanced on the outside, outkicked Godolphin's Royal Empire by 1 1/2 lengths, and completed about 1 1/4 grassy miles in 2:01 4/5.

"That really was a case of third time lucky, as I do not think I have had a more unlucky horse in my years campaigning here," de Kock said. "Paul did the right thing to stay wide, and the horse deserved that."

The Australian-bred Mushreq began his career in South Africa, where he missed by a neck in the Group 1 Golden Horseshoe as a juvenile in 2011. He failed to cut the mustard as a classic candidate, finishing fifth in the Group 1 Cape Derby and a tailed-off last in the Group 1 SA Classic early last year, and is now in his first season abroad.

Medicean Man made a winning Dubai debut for Jeremy Gask (Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)
De Kock's multiple Group 1-winning sprinter Shea Shea was the most accomplished runner in Thursday's turf dash, but the 132-pound highweight couldn't overcome his impost, and ran as if in need of the race off the nine-month layoff. Chasing the ferocious pace set by Bear Behind, Shea Shea drifted out for much of the sprint down the straight, and was outfooted in the closing stages.

Finishing best of all was English shipper Medicean Man, who had been anchored near the back early. Produced at the right time by young Harry Bentley, the Jeremy Gask veteran drove past Bear Behind and comfortably held the late-closing Russian Soul by three-quarters of a length. Medicean Man, a sneakily-good fourth in last year's Group 1 King's Stand at Royal Ascot, sped about five furlongs on the lawn in a sharp :57.

"They went very fast, and that suits him as he likes to run through tiring rivals," Bentley noted. "A berth in the Al Quoz Sprint (Group 1 on March 30) would be the ultimate aim, but we will stay in handicaps for now."

She Shea, a son of the just-deceased National Emblem, checked in seventh in what was likely a useful prep to knock off the cobwebs.

Godolphin garnered two races on the evening, beginning with Kassiano, who topped the Saeed bin Suroor exacta in a Tapeta handicap. Stablemate Con Artist was the ostensible first-stringer, judging by the presence of Silvestre de Sousa in the saddle, but Kassiano proved too strong. With Ted Durcan aboard, the progressive four-year-old bested Con Artist by a neck and finished about 1 3/16 miles in 1:58 3/5.

"We were probably a bit unlucky the last day (runner-up to Royal Empire on January 10)," Durcan said, "so it is nice to get a win on him, and he should be able to go on from here."

Originally racing for Stall Lustige, Kassiano had won four of his first five starts -- on turf at Fontainebleau and Hannover as well as a pair of scores over Deauville's Polytrack. That profile made him an attractive type for the Carnival, and the Solder Hollow gelding was purchased for 165,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale in October. His premiere for Godolphin came on opening night, when he was second to Royal Empire, and he now sports a mark of 6-4-1-1.

The trainer/jockey tandem of Mahmood al Zarooni and Mickael Barzalona, who had endured runner-up efforts with City Style and Van Ellis, struck at last with the returning Time Prisoner in the nightcap. Last seen finishing fifth in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort nearly a year ago, the son of Elusive Quality produced a sustained late run to overhaul Dux Scholar and win going away by three-quarters of a length. Time Prisoner stopped the teletimer in 1:24 1/5 for about seven furlongs on the turf. Now a six-year-old, the gray enjoyed his biggest win in the Group 3 Prix de Ris-Orangis in 2011.

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