December 1, 2023

Long River upsets Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 as speed rules Meydan dirt

Long River rode the speed bias to his biggest career win in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)

The theme of Meydan’s Super Saturday was how speed held sway in all four dirt preps for Dubai World Cup night, a trend capped by 24-1 Long River in the $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1).

Grabbing the early lead for Mickael Barzalona, the seven-year-old Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy and Round Pond kept on going and fended off Special Fighter and Furia Cruzada. Long River thus scored his biggest career victory – and snapped a three-year losing skid. Japan’s Lani was never traveling out the back and wound up sixth, possibly putting his World Cup status in question.

Long River was concluding a double for Barzalona and for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer, who sent out another Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum runner, Heavy Metal, to romp in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (G3). With this third win of the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival, all over the metric mile, the Exceed and Excel gelding advertised his claims for the Godolphin Mile (G2) on World Cup night.

Darley stallion Exceed and Excel served up a double himself, having also sired Morawij, the front-running winner of the $200,000 Mahab al Shimaal (G3). Trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam and ridden by Chris Hayes, the two-time Jebel Ali Sprint hero transferred that form to Meydan and just lasted from Cool Cowboy. Morawij, the third-placer in last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), is now on course for another shot at the World Cup night sprint.

Kentucky-bred Cosmo Charlie set the tone for the day in the opening $250,000 Al Bastakiya, the stepping stone to the UAE Derby (G2). Sporting a first-time visor for Doug Watson, he went straight to the lead for Pat Dobbs and held Qatar Man by a length. Favored Fawree never had a chance after hitting the gate at the start and unseating Bernard Fayd’Herbe.

The Super Saturday turf preps were generally more formful, with the exception of the $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (G2). Odds-on defending champion Postponed was overturned after a tough passage, failing by a neck against Godolphin’s progressive Prize Money in this prep for the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). Adrie de Vries masterminded the winning ride for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Godolphin also supplied the close third, Emotionless, from the Charlie Appleby yard.

Godolphin celebrated a second win on the card courtesy of Appleby’s Jungle Cat in the $200,000 Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint, the lead-in to the Al Quoz Sprint (G1). The one to beat in the overflow field, the son of Iffraaj performed up to expectations with William Buick guiding him to a strong two-length decision.

British shipper Decorated Knight landed a blow for the internationals in the nightcap, the $300,000 Jebel Hatta (G1), and booked his ticket to the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night. A close relative of Gleneagles (being by Galileo and out of a full sister to Giant’s Causeway), the Roger Charlton charge had some anxious moments when buried well back on the inside. But jockey Andrea Atzeni found a gap, and Decorated Knight did the rest, flying home to deny Godolphin’s Folkswood. The mare Muffri’ha also stayed on well up the rail to grab third.

Further analysis of the Super Saturday results, and a look ahead to World Cup night, will be posted next week on the blog.