February 21, 2018

Comicas gets last laugh in Dubawi; Winter Lightning strikes in trial

Comicas, runner-up in last year's Dubai Golden Shaheen, is back on the trail (Photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)

Godolphin’s Comicas picked up the pieces from a three-way speed duel to earn his first stakes victory in Thursday’s $175,000 Dubawi (G3) at Meydan. Twelve-year-old warhorse Reynaldothewizard, winner of the past three editions of the Dubawi, rallied for third.

Runner-up in last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) over this track and about six-furlong trip, Comicas defeated two past Shaheen heroes here in Muarrab (the 2016 winner) and Reynaldothewizard (2013). The Charlie Appleby trainee advanced his credentials here, with the assistance of a beneficial pace set-up.

As Yalta, and fellow speedsters Muarrab and My Catch, all dashed forward, Comicas settled in fourth early for William Buick. Reynaldothewizard, historically devoid of early foot, was already being driven along in last.

Muarrab, in the cauldron between his pace rivals, won the battle against them but ultimately lost the war. Comicas stayed on relentlessly to wear him down by 1 1/4 lengths. Muarrab held off the gallant Reynaldothewizard, who finally found his legs late and reported home another length away in third. My Catch weakened in fourth, followed by Yalta, Raven’s Corner, and Nawwaar.

Comicas took 1:12.44 to negotiate the 1200 meters, indicative of how much the leaders slowed after a taxing tempo.

“He is a lovely, honest horse who handles this surface particularly well,” Buick said, “and the one thing we do know about him is he may be a bit outpaced early, but he is going to run home strongly. That basically is what he has done here because they went very hard up front, as we expected, and it has panned out perfectly for him. The horse deserves a big win like this and it is great for the whole team.”

Comicas was taking the expected step forward from his reappearance in the December 21 Garhoud Sprint, where he was a distant but closing second to Muarrab. The Distorted Humor gelding also sports a couple of stakes placings on turf, in the 2016 Meydan Classic at three and last May’s Duke of York (G2). He was sidelined in the wake of a 13th in the Diamond Jubilee (G1) at Royal Ascot last summer.

Appleby mentioned that Comicas could go straight to the March 31 Golden Shaheen without another prep run.

The Appleby/Buick tandem made it a double in the $135,000 nightcap courtesy of comebacker Salsabeel. Unraced since winding up 12th behind Brametot in the Prix d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1), the subsequently gelded son of Exceed and Excel was reserved a little worse than midpack, got the split in the stretch, and quickened well to finish the metric mile on turf in 1:35.50. That was just outside the course record of 1:35.19 established by Championship in last year’s Zabeel Mile (G2).

Salsabeel, who just missed to Rodaini in the 2016 Flying Scotsman as a juvenile, was edged by Beat the Bank at Newmarket last April en route to his French miscue. That’s the only time he’s been out of the top two in five career starts.

Godolphin scored a triple on the night. Saeed bin Suroor’s well-regarded (and well-related) Winter Lightning kicked off the action by outdueling debut romper Rayya in the conditions race labeled the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial.

Winter Lightning, a Shamardal half-sister to Thunder Snow and a full sister to Ihtimal – both dual UAE classic winners – boosted hopes that she could follow in their trail. Second in her Newmarket unveiling to Sir Michael Stoute’s classic prospect Veracious last October, the scopey filly was stronger going into her dirt debut here, according to bin Suroor. Winter Lightning was well placed early by Pat Cosgrave, breaking on top but easing back into a tracking third.

When front-running Rayya disposed of the attending Bint Huwaar and began to clear away, Winter Lightning set out in pursuit and collared her. But Rayya responded to the challenge, and the two promising sophomores fought it out to the wire. Winter Lightning just prevailed on the head-bob from Rayya, who appeared to be in the midst of clawing her way back to the front as they flashed past the wire. The top two pulled 10 lengths clear of Appleby’s Expressiy in third.

“It was only her second start,” Cosgrave said, “and luckily her head was down on the line when it mattered. I probably went to the front too soon as it transpired, given her inexperience, but she certainly seems to have plenty of class and you would like to think she can build on this.”

Winter Lightning, who clocked about seven furlongs in 1:24.45, will likely try to emulate Ihtimal in the February 8 UAE 1000 Guineas. Her ill-fated full sister romped in that first fillies’ classic in 2014 before dominating the UAE Oaks (G3). The step up to a metric mile should suit Rayya as well, making for a mouthwatering rematch. Should Winter Lightning come out on top again, she’d become a third UAE classic winner for her dam, the Dubai Destination mare Eastern Joy.

Although trainer Doug Watson, jockey Pat Dobbs, and Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid al Nuaimi were denied with Rayya, they celebrated a five-length win by new recruit Kimbear over stablemate Layl in a $125,000 dirt handicap.

Formerly with Eric Kruljac, the Temple City colt was second to American Anthem in last year’s Laz Barrera (G3) and sixth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Los Alamitos Derby (G3).  Kimbear angled into the slipstream of pacesetting Rodaini (the same mentioned above who’d beaten Salsabeel), peeled off the fence turning for home, and put the race away in short order. Layl got up for second over Simon Crisford’s Rodaini, and Thegreatcollection made it a one-two-four result for Watson.

Kimbear’s winning Dubai debut, in 1:37.99 for the metric mile, puts him in the picture for the Godolphin Mile (G2) on World Cup night. Watson’s won that for the past two years, with One Man Band spearheading a trifecta for the barn in 2016 and Second Summer springing the upset a year ago.

Al Nuaimi’s colors were also carried to the Meydan winner’s circle by the improving Janszoon, who was landing his second straight over about 1 1/4 miles on turf. Bolting up by five lengths in the $60,000 handicap for horses not rated high enough for the Carnival, the Ali Rashid al Rayhi trainee received a hefty ratings upgrade. His newly earned mark of 100 will get him into the Carnival events now.

“I had hoped to be in the first half dozen,” winning rider Silvestre de Sousa said, “but for some reason he did not really travel well early on, so I was farther back than I wanted. I had to keep niggling and keep him interested and then, suddenly, he was back on the bridle and really quickened for me. Then once in front, he has idled and was probably value for a bigger winning distance. He could well be a Carnival horse.”

Janszoon stopped the timer in 2:01.89, almost as fast as the 2:01.82 recorded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum’s Light the Lights in a $175,000 contest over the same course and distance two races later. Aside from the ratings differential, the two handicaps unfolded in contrasting styles, with Janszoon picking up off a strong pace and Light the Lights accelerating off a pedestrian crawl.

Wheeling back just a week after his seventh as the defending champion in last Thursday’s Singspiel (G3), Light the Lights thrived with that tightener under his belt – and over the extra furlong – to hand trainer Mike de Kock his first win of the 2018 Carnival. The South African Group 2 winner muscled his way through to challenge in the stretch, and despite giving Appleby’s Blair House 11 pounds, bested him by a neck under Christophe Soumillon.

“Mike is a very good trainer, as we all know, and would not be running this horse back after just a week if he was not happy he could produce a run like that,” Soumillon noted.

“He needed that comeback run last week and I was always pretty happy, but Blair House came there going very strongly, so we had to fight. This is not a horse who wants to be in front too long, so I was happy to have a rival and a battle because that suits him. He should build on this and go back up in class.”

Also bound for bigger targets is Australian shipper Faatinah, who successfully toted the top weight of 132 pounds in his Dubai bow in a turf sprint. Trained by David Hayes, the Sheikh Hamdan homebred had enough natural speed to make the lead without particularly trying to do so and kicked on well. Appleby’s Baccarat threw down a challenge, but Faatinah was always doing enough to keep the course aficionado at bay by a neck. There was a four-length gap back to another Appleby pupil, Van Der Decken, in third.

“He hit the lids so well,” jockey Jim Crowley recapped, “I was in front perhaps on sufferance, but nobody else wanted to go on, so I was happy to. He has bowled along really well but, also, has had a good look around under the lights which is a new experience for him. It was a very good performance, giving weight away to all the others and he will improve for it after two months-plus off.”

Faatinah covered about six furlongs in 1:09.64. The winner of the 2016 Euclase (G2) at Morphettville and Bobby Lewis Quality (G2) at Flemington, the Nicconi gelding has finished second in the Caulfield Sprint (G2), last February’s Oakleigh Plate (G1), and most recently the November 7 Mercury Sprint back at Flemington for the second straight year. His Meydan success gives Sheikh Hamdan two significant contenders for the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on World Cup night, along with local supremo Ertijaal.

 

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