December 9, 2018

Gold Town sets UAE Derby standard in Guineas rout

Gold Town will try to book his Kentucky Derby ticket in the UAE Derby (Photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby dropped a Kentucky Derby (G1) hint at the Dubai World Cup Carnival Thursday, his mind racing as far ahead as his rapidly progressive Gold Town did in the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3).

The prohibitive favorite following his domineering trial victory, the gelded son of Street Cry produced an even greater tour de force in the metric mile classic, laying down a benchmark for the March 31 UAE Derby (G2). Gold Town’s margin of victory was bigger – 10 1/2 lengths compared to 4 1/4 in the January 25 trial – but it was the way he coped with a barrage of pace pressure that further elevated the performance. Entitled to win easily as the highest rated horse in the race by far, he added a gilt-edged exclamation point by drawing off from the pursuing gang, with any amount in hand, in 1:37.77.

The placegetters might as well have been in a different race. The Ali Rashid al Rayhi-trained Gotti was best of the rest, edging Appleby’s Last Voyage and Fawzi Nass’ El Chapo in the 15-horse field.

“Just like the trial over 1400m meters, he was again very impressive and gave me a great feel all the way round,” winning rider William Buick said. “Once I could see on the big screen that we were clear, I was even able to give him a pat before the line.

“On his trial form, he looked head and shoulders above the rest coming into this race, so once he broke well enough, everything went smoothly. The UAE Derby is an extra 300 meters, but I do not see that being an issue and I assume that will be the plan.”

Presumably Gold Town will meet more of a challenge in the $2 million event, worth 100 Kentucky Derby points to the winner. But he’s served notice to prospective rivals that they’d best be on their game.

A British homebred, Gold Town is out of the Invincible Spirit mare Pimpernel, a Group 2-placed stakes winner as a juvenile who was runner-up in the 2012 UAE 1000 Guineas. This is the superb family of champion Dank, heroine of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and fellow Group 1-winning highweights Eagle Mountain and Sulk.

Gold Town flashed early talent when taking his Newbury debut, defeating future Coventry (G2) near-misser Headway, but then proved disappointing. Gelding turned him around, a contributing factor to his Newmarket nursery win to close 2017, but the switch to dirt has brought him to a different level.

Godolphin scored a triple on the card, the other two winners furnished by Saeed bin Suroor.

Best Solution improved second time out at the Carnival to flaunt his class in the about 1 1/2-mile turf handicap. Third to Golden Wood in his January 11 reappearance as the 132-pound co-highweight, Best Solution again had to spot him weight, but just five pounds compared to seven. Aside from the fitness angle, he also drew much better here, landing on the rail rather than post 11 last time, and the constellation of factors aligned to overturn the result. Well handled by Pat Cosgrave, Best Solution got the jump on late-running Golden Wood and stormed five lengths clear in 2:31.40.

A four-year-old son of Kodiac, multiple Group 3 winner Best Solution annexed the October 28 St Simon (G3) when last seen in England. His Group 1 appearances include runner-up efforts in the 2016 Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1) and last year’s Bayerisches Zuchtrennen (G1), as well as an eighth in the Derby (G1).

“We knew he had improved from that first run and were pretty confident coming here tonight,” Cosgrave said. “He has traveled really strongly all the way around and quickened in style when I asked him to settle matters in a few strides. I won a Group 3 at Newbury on him in October and I imagine he will have to go back up in grade now after this win.”

The obvious next step is the Dubai City of Gold (G2) on Super Saturday March 10, the local stepping stone to the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night.

Bin Suroor also won one on the dirt with Don’t Give Up, who made it two straight in about 1 1/4-mile handicaps. Contributing to the sense of déjà vu, the respective second and third were the same as on January 25, with Saltarin Dubai staying on and Alabaster underachieving. The main differences were that Don’t Give Up continued his upward curve with a new rider in Christophe Soumillon, and despite getting less weight (four pounds).

“I was not sure if I would be able to get to the front from a wider draw, especially with a few horses who have early speed inside me and he was then quite slowly away, but after a few strides, I saw I could make the running,” Soumillon said.

“He was still quite green out there and having a good look around, so he is only going to improve. He really showed a good turn-of-foot in the straight. He is a nice, progressive horse.”

Don’t Give Up, another Dubawi who’s taken to the main track, is now four-for-seven lifetime.

Godolphin also held a strong hand in the about two-mile turf handicap, only to be denied in a frenetic finish that could have implications for the March 31 Dubai Gold Cup (G2). As bin Suroor’s Red Galileo played his hand, then stablemate Natural Scenery threatened before wilting late, the Charlie Fellowes-trained Prince of Arran finished best of all and nipped a resurgent pacesetter Los Barbados.

Ridden by James Doyle, Prince of Arran was gaining revenge on Los Barbados after placing second to him in an about 1 3/4-mile handicap here on January 25. The runner-up in last spring’s Sagaro (G3) appreciated the added ground on Thursday, and there was also a slight weight shift in his favor, as he forced his head in front in 3:22.99.

“We were pretty hopeful coming here after his good run first time,” Doyle said, “but there was always a worry if there would be enough pace early on in the race which this horse appreciates. They dawdled early on, but the pace did increase a fair way out, which made it a proper staying contest.

“I must admit, when I hit the front, I thought we would win quite easily, but it was very close in the end. It is a massive result on the world stage for a relatively small, but progressive young trainer and his team.”

Britain made it a late double when Hors de Combat swooped in the nightcap for trainer Denis Coakley. Placed in his three previous tries over the course, between last Carnival and a third on January 18, the veteran handicapper (and erstwhile Group placegetter) inhaled Khafoo Shemimi under a fine Oisin Murphy ride.

“A fantastic training performance,” Murphy said. “To prepare one to compete on nights like this was fantastic and I’m glad we got the job done.”

Khafoo Shemimi, who struck the front a long way out here in a bid to give Richard Hannon Jr. a first UAE winner, may have felt his 131-pound impost as the stretch wore on. He lost second late to Treasury Notes but boxed on to save third.

Hors de Combat’s most recent stakes credit was a second in last September’s Fortune S. at Sandown, to none other than Khafoo Shemimi. Receiving eight pounds from that rival here, Hors de Combat completed the metric mile in 1:36.63.

The evening’s turf sprint handicap turned into a match race on the stands’ side, with High on Life gradually getting the better of Dutch Masterpiece on the step up to about six furlongs.

Hitherto more of a Jebel Ali aficionado, High on Life was coming off a win on the dirt up that notoriously stiff hill. That stood him in good stead here, as did the bottom weight of 121 pounds. The Invincible Spirit gelding kept finding more in the closing stages, hitting the line in 1:09.71 for the trainer/jockey tandem of Salem bin Ghadayer and Mickael Barzalona.

In-form Dutch Masterpiece, carrying 128 pounds, pulled 5 1/4 lengths clear of third-placer Out Do. Jordan Sport, a last-out winner under 122 pounds, couldn’t handle the hike to 129 and wound up fourth.