January 24, 2018

Second Summer splashes to Godolphin Mile upset

Second Summer beats Ross and Sharp Azteca (third) in the 2017 Godolphin Mile (Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)

An American was widely forecast to take Saturday’s $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2), in the form of Sharp Azteca. But it was the 18-1 American expatriate Second Summer, a recent recruit to the Doug Watson barn this Carnival, who stole the spotlight in the Dubai World Cup card opener at Meydan.

Originally aiming for the World Cup, Second Summer resorted to the Godolphin Mile as a fallback position. The forced change of plan turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as he got an ideal pace set-up to spring the upset in the mud.

Sharp Azteca chased that bruising pace set by streaking local North America attended by Gifted Master and Heavy Metal. Moving best of all on the far turn, Sharp Azteca cruised to the lead and opened up early in the stretch.

That wasn’t the game plan mapped out by trainer Jorge Navarro, who wanted jockey Edgard Zayas to hold onto Sharp Azteca longer. Inside the final furlong, Navarro’s reasoning became crystal clear. Sharp Azteca began to grow leg-weary, opening the door to the closers.

Two were making eye-catching progress. Ross rolled up on the outside and Second Summer, who had been at the rear with stable rider Pat Dobbs, was rallying purposefully to his inside.

As a tiring Sharp Azteca drifted right, he crossed Second Summer’s path. Dobbs yanked him further inside, and Second Summer, focused in his first-time visor, renewed his momentum to prevail by a neck from Ross.

Sharp Azteca, swamped on both sides, was another three-quarters of a length astern in third. This was another tough World Cup night beat for Navarro, whose X Y Jet lost a protracted duel with Muarrab in last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1).

Second Summer clocked the metric mile over a muddy Meydan in 1:35.62. The snappy time, indicative of the pace, was .41 off the track record of 1:35.21 set by One Man Band in this race last year. One Man Band was spearheading a Watson trifecta in the 2016 Godolphin Mile, so Second Summer was continuing the barn’s good run.

Locally based Fitzgerald finished fourth, with Japan’s Kafuji Take in fifth. Sharp Azteca’s pace companions all folded to eighth (Heavy Metal), ninth (Gifted Master) and 10th (North America).

In a sad conclusion, Stormardal sustained a fatal injury to his right front. Jockey Adrie de Vries was unseated in the incident, but thankfully missed only the next race, the Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians. His Arabian mount, Af Al Hazer, went on to finish 13th behind Reda for last-minute replacement Silvestre de Sousa. De Vries rode the rest as scheduled.

Second Summer had won three straight last summer for Peter Eurton, capped by the Californian (G2). After a seventh in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), the Summer Bird gelding was acquired by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid al Nuaimi. In his Dubai debut for Watson, Second Summer just missed in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2). He regressed to a poor seventh in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), exited sore, and there went his World Cup ambition.

Quotes from Dubai Racing Club

Winning trainer Doug Watson: “I didn’t quite expect this to happen. I didn’t know if he could act on this ground. I think everybody was in the same boat. We have never had a sealed track over here. I’m sure he had some training on some sealed tracks in America. He came home so nicely. The German horse (Ross) went outside, our horse went inside. Like Pat (Dobbs) said, I don’t think he would have liked to have been there a whole lot longer.”

Winning rider Pat Dobbs: “When we turned in he picked up great. I got a nice clear run up the middle. Just as I was going around the American horse he shifted out on top of me and he kind of lost his momentum a little bit. But I think that helped him a little bit because he just pulls up in front.”

Jockey Andrea Atzeni on runner-up Ross: “The pace was strong. The horse is improving and loves that surface – he’s getting better with each run and ran a great race.”

Trainer Jorge Navarro on Sharp Azteca, third as the favorite: “I knew we were in trouble when I saw him move early.”

Jockey Edgard Zayas on Sharp Azteca: “He broke slowly. I had to use him up a bit earlier than I wanted. When he kicked on I thought we had it but he got tired in the last 50 meters. The start cost me.”

Jockey Richard Mullen on North America, who suffered his first dirt loss in 10th: “He was never going on the surface. The track was too quick.”

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