May 21, 2019

Castle tops Dream finish for Godolphin in Singspiel; Raven’s Corner puts it together in Dubawi

Dream Castle and jockey Christophe Soumillon win the Singspiel Stakes (G3) at the first Dubai World Cup Carnival race meeting on January 3, 2019, at Meydan (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

The opening night of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival highlighted several up-and-comers as well as veterans inheriting the torch from past stable stars.

All-time leading Carnival trainer Saeed bin Suroor scored a double on the card with Dream Castle, who spearheaded a Godolphin sweep of the top five placings in the $200,000 Singspiel (G3), and lightly raced Bin Battuta in the kickoff. Both were piloted by Christophe Soumillon, and from the pedigree trivia department, both are out of mares whose signature wins came in the Flying Childers (G2) at two.

Dream Castle, a son of Frankel and the Dubawi mare Sand Vixen, had been promising early in his career. But after chasing home Barney Roy in the 2017 Greenham (G3), and finishing a troubled fifth in the 2000 Guineas (G1), he failed to progress as hoped. Dream Castle was gelded since his last appearance 10 months ago. It’s apparently the making of him. The step up in trip probably helped too, for he took a leap forward in this course-and-distance stepping stone to the Dubai Turf (G1).

Reserved well off the pace carved out by the ex-Ballydoyle Deauville, Dream Castle was more relaxed than a few others who raced a tad keenly. That attitude served him well as he endured a wide trip from post 11. Soumillon delivered a perfectly timed move, and Dream Castle outkicked long-winded stablemate Racing History while getting the jump on Charlie Appleby’s Salsabeel.

The belatedly closing Salsabeel just missed catching Racing History by a head for second. Bin Suroor’s Team Talk took fourth, and Appleby’s Bay of Poets rounded out the top five. Ironically, the lone Godolphin runner to misfire here was favored Key Victory, who wound up 12th.

Light the Lights, the 2017 winner, worked his way into sixth for Mike de Kock. Deauville, debuting for new trainer Fawzi Nass, folded to 11th of 16.

Soumillon revealed that jockey Pat Cosgrave had given him a helpful scouting report on Dream Castle.

“He told me the horse has changed a lot this year, and was much more settled in the morning track-work,” the Belgian ace said. “I could feel it straight when I was going down the start, and he was really settling down. Just inside the gate he was a bit stressed, and I was happy everybody went in quickly because he was close to jumping somewhere in there.

“When the gates opened he was settling down very easily, I got a perfect race just behind the lead, and I came a bit wide and we didn’t go very fast, so I had to ask him to quicken quite well, by himself in the middle of the track. He gave me a very good effort. Until the end I thought the other horse from Godolphin came quite quick with the white cap (third Salsabeel), and he just gave me a good turn of foot in the end and he made the difference.

“Thankfully I was not in the middle, nobody was on my outside so he was really relaxed, in that position, and when I saw all the jockeys trying to go really early, I took my time to take him out, and when he saw the daylight he gave me a great kick.”

Dream Castle negotiated about 1 1/8 miles on the good turf in 1:49.40, upping his record to 11-2-2-1. The fourth Singspiel winner for bin Suroor, he’ll try to follow in the hoofsteps of 2018 hero Benbatl who went on to World Cup night glory in the Dubai Turf.

Handicap winner Bin Battuta likewise hopes to make the March 30 extravaganza, but in his case, the Dubai Gold Cup (G2) is the possible target. Unraced since a neck loss in the 2017 Melrose at York, he was ready to roll off the layoff in this about 12-furlong test.

In the box seat tracking the pacesetter on the fence, Bin Battuta was briefly on hold in upper stretch before knifing through with a sharp turn of foot to finish in 2:32.41. Appleby’s Ispolini had to settle for second best in Godolphin’s all-Dubawi exacta.

“With draw 1 I was quite happy, he jumped very fast and was quite concentrated,” Soumillon recapped. “I was traveling very easy the whole way. He did everything perfect on the last turn and won really easily. He was really impressive for a horse that didn’t run for nearly 500 days.”

The five-year-old Bin Battuta sports a career mark of 9-4-1-1 and plenty of upside. A half-brother to European champion Dream Ahead as well as to the dam of current Group 1 star Fairyland, he is out of 1997 Flying Childers heroine Land of Dreams by Cadeaux Genereux.

Trainer Satish Seemar has long regarded Raven’s Corner as the heir apparent to the yard’s sprint legend Reynaldothewizard. His time has finally come in the $200,000 Dubawi S. (G3), a contest won four times by “Reynaldo,” including in its early incarnation as a conditions race.

Raven’s Corner might have reached this stage sooner but for various foibles ranging from gate issues to poor posts. The Raven’s Pass gelding had flashed talent in handicaps over the past two Carnivals, notably setting the about seven-furlong course record in 1:23.07 last February. His stakes efforts had not gone so well. Indeed, in his comeback in the December 6 Garhoud Sprint, he broke slowly and checked in fourth behind Drafted. But now he turned the tables with a top performance at the Group level.

Once breaking smoothly, Raven’s Corner traveled like the winner the entire way. He prompted the speedy My Catch, asserted down the lane, and looked to open up for fun. But the Doug Watson-trained Drafted, who had a troubled trip after getting away tardily, uncorked a monster rally. Gaining ground hand over fist late, he reduced the gap to 1 3/4 lengths at the line. Drafted’s stablemate My Catch tired to third, another 6 1/2 lengths adrift.

“It’s fantastic,” said Mike Kaye of Touch Gold Racing, which campaigns the winner with Sean Ewing. “We’ve been knocking on the door. Every time we have run in graded races, we tend to get a wide stall. We thought we had him absolutely perfect today and as good as we’ve ever had him. He traveled like much the best horse. They went super-quick on quite a slow track and he got a little tired at the end, but he’s won quite convincingly.”

“Exactly what we were saying before the race,” Seemar said. “If everything goes just perfect for him, which it did today, this is who he is. He’s had his problems with this and that, but everything was right for him today. He has proven before by breaking a track record for seven that he’s a good horse and today he’s back.”

“A lot of work has gone behind the scenes,” stable jockey Richard Mullen said. “He is a horse who has to have things nice and calm, no distractions, no changes….It probably helped it was a small field and we were able to load last. You know he is a horse who have a little quirk, it goes from the Elusive Quality bred into them (sire of Raven’s Pass), but he is extremely talented and we always felt it.

Jockey Richard Mullen guides Raven’s Corner to victory in the Dubawi Stakes at the first Dubai World Cup Carnival race meeting on January 3, 2019, at Meydan (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

“Drafted is probably the benchmark for our local sprinters, and he is a very talented horse and luckily we beat him today. I think they are two of the best sprinters on dirt in the UAE at the moment, and they are going to contest many battles in the months to come.”

Watson also praised Drafted.

“He’s impressing me every time. He’s in with a shot in every race and horses don’t close like that here. He made up tons of lengths in that last (150 meters). He’s a proper horse.”

Raven’s Corner, who covered about six furlongs in 1:11.68, will likely advance to the January 31 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) en route to the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on World Cup night.

Al Quoz Sprint (G1) implications were also in evidence Thursday in the about five-furlong turf handicap. The opening night dash had been won the past three years by ill-fated Ertijaal, who sadly succumbed to colic in November. The baton fittingly passed to another Shadwell homebred, Australian-based Faatinah.

A multiple Group 2 veteran and Group 1-placed at home, Faatinah captured his Meydan debut last Carnival but lost his form in his most recent preparation. After trainer David Hayes removed the blinkers, and re-applied cheekpieces, he bounced back to his best. The Nicconi gelding raced in striking range of the leaders early and gained strength the farther he went. Powering clear of Hit the Bid, runner-up to Ertijaal a year ago, Faatinah clocked :57.47 beneath Jim Crowley. The two 132-pound co-highweights had the finish all to themselves as Ibn Malik closed for third.

“He has a fantastic fresh record, I think seven starts for five wins fresh,” Hayes’ son-cum-assistant Ben said. “Since he arrived here he did all his work on the bridle and it worked. There’s lots of options for him. The key is to keep him fresh and if he can do that run again, he’ll be very competitive next start.”

In contrast, UAE 1000 Guineas Trial winner Al Hayette thrives on racing. The Union Rags filly needed five starts to break her maiden, but got the job done by four lengths here December 20, and now made it two straight for owner/trainer Ismail Mohammed.

Al Hayette settled in the latter part of the field, and appeared outpaced when jockey Fabrice Veron had to ask her on the turn. As it happened, she just needed to wind up on the cutback from a metric mile to about seven furlongs. Angling out to the middle of the track for the drive, she outstayed Godolphin’s Nashirah and pacesetter Muthhila to win going away.

Her final time of 1:27.22, however, suggests better classic prospects may be waiting in the wings. Godolphin’s well-fancied Dubai Beauty isn’t one of them, after trailing a long-way last in her dirt experiment.

“We were worried about dropping her back to 1400 meters, as she showed last time she is better over 1600 meters,” Mohammed said. “In the future, she will stay further. Obviously we will go for the UAE 1000 Guineas (on January 31) next and perhaps the UAE Oaks ([G3] February 21) later on. She is a nice filly and will appreciate the extra 200 meters in the UAE 1000 Guineas. We always had Dubai in mind for her but she ran well on her three starts in the UK and has continued to improve since arriving here.”

The Kentucky-bred Al Hayette was a slow-starting fifth in a Doncaster novice, in juvenile course-record time, to next-out Group 3 winner Comedy and Star Terms, an eventual runner-up in the May Hill (G2) and near-miss third in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1). Al Hayette improved to finish third back at Doncaster, and second over Newcastle’s Tapeta. She took a step backward in her Meydan debut, winding up sixth, but has since gained revenge on all five who beat her that day.

Great Britain got on the scoreboard in the nightcap, courtesy of Excel Racing’s Another Batt. The first UAE runner sent out by trainer George Scott, he made the most of a six-pound weight break to thwart Godolphin’s course-and-distance specialist Top Score. Thus bin Suroor and Soumillon came up a length shy of a triple. With Connor Beasley aboard, Another Batt completed about seven furlongs in 1:23.48.

The eye-catcher was de Kock’s Suyoof rattling home from last for fifth in :6.29, according to Trakus. Stablemate Janoobi never factored as the 132-pound highweight from post 14, but is another eligible to move forward second up.