January 18, 2021

Hawkbill can’t be caught in Dubai Sheema Classic

Hawkbill led throughout to earn his second Group 1 in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club)

Denied a top chance at a winner when Blue Point was scratched behind the gate in Saturday’s Al Quoz Sprint (G1), jockey William Buick must have felt a knot in his stomach, or at least an unwelcome sense of déjà vu, when stablemate Hawkbill had to be looked over by the vet before the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). But the Charlie Appleby trainee was cleared to run, and run he did in a pillar-to-post success as the third of four Godolphin winners on World Cup night.

Hawkbill, who captured his prep in the Dubai City of Gold (G2), became only the second victor of that Super Saturday feature to follow up in the Sheema. The precedent was set by Postponed (2016), who downed Japanese star Duramente here two years ago, and Hawkbill likewise overcame a cohort from Japan among a typically deep cast for this race.

One of those classy shippers, Satono Crown, was drawn right next to Hawkbill, and both became agitated in the gate. According to Satono Crown’s rider, Joao Moreira, Hawkbill got Satono Crown stirred up. Hawkbill reared up in the stall and somehow got his forelegs entangled, thankfully to no lasting effect.

In a race devoid of much pace, Hawkbill’s tactical foot proved the key asset. The son of Kitten’s Joy soon controlled proceedings, tracked by a hard-pulling Cloth of Stars and a relaxed Poet’s Word. The top three stayed that way for the duration, for none of the closers could land a blow. Stretching three lengths clear of Poet’s Word, who outdueled Cloth of Stars by a neck for second, Hawkbill negotiated about 1 1/2 miles in 2:29.45.

Japanese champion Rey de Oro was fourth, edging Best Solution. Mozu Katchan, the only filly in the field, checked in sixth, followed by Satono Crown, Idaho, Desert Encounter, and the slow-starting Khalidi, who attempted a middle move out wide before giving way.

Hawkbill was garnering his second Group 1, his previous coming as a sophomore in the 2016 Eclipse (G1). Also victorious in that year’s Tercentenary (G3) (since reverted to its former name as the Hampton Court) at Royal Ascot and the Newmarket S., the blaze-faced chestnut added last season’s Princess of Wales’s S. (G2) and Aston Park (G3). He’s collected a quartet of Grade/Group 1 placings, two in Germany, a third in the Coronation Cup (G1), and a shock loss as the 3-5 favorite to Johnny Bear in the Northern Dancer Turf (G1) at Woodbine in his 2017 finale.

The Kentucky-bred is a half-brother to current three-year-old Free Drop Billy, the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner who was most recently a poor third in the Gotham (G3). They were produced by Grade 3-placed Trensa, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and Grade 1 vixen Serape.

Quotes from Dubai Racing Club

Trainer Charlie Appleby: “You couldn’t have designed it any better. William gave him a tremendous ride, as he always does.

“We thought he’d be competitive. I always wanted to get the horse’s head in front in another Group 1 race – he’s cemented that after his racing days he’ll be a very successful stallion.

“Going into it we were hopeful he’d run well and we’ll look at a race in Hong Kong at the end of May. We’ll let the horse decide.

“It’s all about the horses, His Highness having winners and Godolphin and to sign off with William giving Hawkbill at tremendous ride, I’m going home saying the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival has been very successful.”

Jockey William Buick exults on Hawkbill after his Blue Point disappointment (Photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club)

Jockey William Buick: “It’s been a very up and down night to say the least but we were thinking we’d dotted all the i’s crossed all the t’s. Blue Point went to the start beautifully (in the Al Quoz), but there was something the vet wasn’t happy with.

“Thank God Charlie and James (Doyle) won (with Jungle Cat) and obviously now with Hawkbill, you can sum it up as a good night. There were a couple of scary moments before the start but he got himself together and put his race head on.

“He put it all together. When he has an uncontested lead, he is a dangerous horse. I thought if he had things his own way, he would be a tough nut to crack.

“He put in a brilliant performance. He’s got some turn of foot.”

Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of runner-up Poet’s Word: “I said beforehand that you had to put a line through his last run in Hong Kong. He was drawn wide and never got in – there were mitigating circumstances for that run. He’s very consistent and has run some big races in Group 1 races, and he’s a lovely horse to be around. He goes on any ground and he’s versatile in that he seems to be as effective at 10 furlongs or 12. I expected him to run well tonight and he did not let us down.”

Jockey Frankie Dettori on Poet’s Word: “He was keen and I thought it might be a muddling race beforehand. William (Buick) made the running and I sat second behind him for much of the way and I ideally would like to have gone faster. The first three home were the first three all the way round. He has ran a super race but I knew at the top of the straight when William was three lengths clear that it was all over.”

Trainer Andre Fabre on third-placer Cloth of Stars: “Very good run to be third, having been so keen.”

Mickael Barzalona, who rode Cloth of Stars: “He was too keen. He ran a good race but was too keen all of the way.”

Trainer Kazuo Fujisawa on Rey de Oro’s fourth: “The pace was a bit slow. He delivered his closing speed but it was the same speed as the winner. He is still young and has plenty of scope.”

Jockey Christophe Lemaire on Rey de Oro: “Slow pace, he was very keen. He reacted well but he can’t catch the front horses.”

Jockey Pat Cosgrave on fifth-placer Best Solution: “He was a bit keen, but he ran a good race.”

Trainer Ippo Sameshima on Mozu Katchan in sixth: “It would have been nice if we could have run closer to the pace but with the slow pace she got stuck. She tried her best at the end so she wasn’t beaten because of lack of ability.”

Mozu Katchan’s rider, Cristian Demuro: “She ran good for her first time in Dubai. It was a really slow pace and I don’t think the distance is too long for her.”

Jockey Joao Moreira on Satono Crown’s seventh: “The horse next to me jumped into my side of the gate, and he was also bumped from the others during the race, so that is why he could not deliver his best.”

Sean Levey, who rode Desert Encounter in ninth: “He ran well enough to be fair, especially as he was coming back after a long layoff.”

Jockey Silvestre de Sousa on Khalidi’s last-place effort: “They went too slowly for him and he was a little keen, but really they were better than him on the night.”