Godolphin dominated the featured turf events on Thursday’s Dubai World Cup Carnival program at Meydan. The Saeed bin Suroor-trained Dream Castle elicited comparisons to 2018 Carnival star Benbatl when adding the $250,000 Al Rashidiya (G2), while Charlie Appleby took the $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort (G2) with D’Bai.
Dream Castle, like stablemate Benbatl a year ago, was coming off a score in the Singspiel (G3) on opening night. Unlike Benbatl, Dream Castle had to be gelded to bring about his improvement as an older horse. Now the homebred son of Frankel and the Group 2-winning Dubawi mare Sand Vixen is emerging as a rival to Benbatl’s crown in the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night.
With Christophe Soumillon back aboard, Dream Castle enjoyed a ground-saving trip tucked just off the pace. The five-year-old effortlessly seized the seam between early leader Bay of Poets and retreating Arod and put the race away in short order. Three lengths clear at the wire, Dream Castle negotiated about 1 1/8 miles on the good course in 1:48.24.
Bin Suroor, who was winning the Al Rashidiya for the third year in a row and seventh time overall, saddled the trifecta. Leshlaa, unraced since his sixth in Royal Ascot’s Wolferton, made a pleasing comeback over an inadequate trip to nip the one-paced Racing History for second. Appleby’s Blair House, not seen since Australia in November, worked his way into fourth to round out the Godolphin superfecta. Next came the Fawzi Nass pair of Euginio and Deauville, trailed by First Contact, Bay of Poets, and Arod.
Soumillon, now a six-time Al Rashidiya winner, previously captured five straight (2012-16) for Mike de Kock.
“Today I was drawn well (in post 3), the pace was good enough for us and in the last turn, I was focusing on the horse leading, who was going really well,” the Belgian ace told Dubai Racing Club publicity. “When I saw James (Doyle on Blair House) couldn’t follow him, I picked up on the inside and my horse reacted really well.
“I know he likes to have horses in front of him, as you can see. I was travelling really easily and when I asked him and hit the front, he looked around for a few strides and then he gave me a really nice turn of foot again.
“He has changed a lot (since the Singspiel) and was more speedy today. His action is more smooth and he can still improve on that one. His performance today was lovely and he can be a horse for Godolphin for Dubai World Cup night, that is for sure.”
The about seven-furlong Al Fahidi Fort likewise saw a sea of blue, with D’Bai spearheading an Appleby trifecta (albeit including a dead-heat for third) in his seasonal return.
The course record-holder when motoring in 1:22.32 in a handicap last Carnival, the Dubawi gelding rolled from near the back of the pack here to clock 1:23.40. Mythical Magic closed with interest to grab second from the dead-heaters, stablemate Bravo Zolo and Lansky from Sandeep Jadhav’s yard. Bin Suroor’s Top Score did his best work late in fifth, while Championship, the 2017 winner, tired to sixth. Comin’ Through, Winx’s Doomben Cup (G1)-winning stablemate, reported home seventh.
Former South African champion Marinaresco was ninth in his debut for de Kock, a useful effort for what was clearly a run to knock off the cobwebs. The Silvano gelding had been off for a year, since his third to South African Horse of the Year Oh Susanna in the Sun Met (G1).
Appleby was racking up his fourth Al Fahidi Fort, all in the last five runnings, and jockey James Doyle was scoring in back-to-back years after guiding Jungle Cat in 2018. D’Bai had finished fourth in that edition, and Dream Castle was third. Last year’s runner-up Janoobi, faltered to 11th of 13 this time.
Doyle believed that, in hindsight, he could have held onto D’Bai longer.
“From a slightly awkward draw,” Doyle said of post 7, “I ended up in an awkward position, but thankfully I had cover all the way. I probably pressed the panic button a bit soon, because from where I was I couldn’t really…I knew Janoobi was out there and we had beaten him last year. In five strides we were in front. Full credit to the horse, as he likes to be delivered a bit later than that and I am sure we will probably do that next time.”
D’Bai scored his previous career high in last summer’s John of Gaunt (G3) at Haydock. His 2018 campaign also featured bear-misses in the Park (G2) at Doncaster (to Mustashry) and the Leisure S. at Windsor (to The Tin Man) as well as a third to Limato in the October 12 Challenge (G2) in his finale at Newmarket.
“This was (D’Bai’s) first run and I was pleased with his preparation,” Appleby said. “Seven furlongs is probably his ultimate trip. We were confident coming in that he was fit and ready and this was a good trip to get him started. We could drop him back six furlongs, but he’s probably horse who will wind up going internationally again. He could just do one Dubai run and then look toward Europe and Australia.”
The Irish-bred five-year-old is a full brother to Group 2 victor Dubawi Gold, runner-up in both the 2000 Guineas (G1) and its Irish version in 2011. Out of the Green Desert mare Savannah Belle, D’Bai is bred on the same cross as past Hong Kong champion sprinter Lucky Nine.
Appleby and Doyle made it a quick double in the nightcap with new recruit Spotify. Purchased from breeder Wertheimer et Frere for €250,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale, the French stakes winner wired an about 1 1/2-mile turf handicap. Spotify held on by a neck from Sharpalo, and bin Suroor’s Bin Battuta was a further 5 3/4 lengths back in third. Ken McPeek’s Harlan Strong wound up eighth on the one-week turnaround.
“We felt his work at home was always better when he was on the lead,” Appleby told godolphin.com. “Before the race, it sounded like there was not going to be much pace, so I told James to dictate and he is very good at getting the fractions right around there.”
Spotify, hitherto trained by Christophe Ferland, earned his signature win on Polytrack in last winter’s Grand Prix de la Riviera Cote d’Azur at Cagnes-sur-Mer. He sports a trio of Group 3 placings, most recently when third in the La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte (G3). The well-related son of Redoute’s Choice is a half to three black-type winners, chief among them multiple Group 2 queen Impassable, all produced by Group 3 scorer Gwenseb.
Godolphin couldn’t sweep the turf events for the second straight week, only because there was no runner to fly the blue silks in the opening sprint.
Veteran handicapper Mazzini, a 90,000 guineas ($120,308) buy at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale, made a winning debut for trainer/co-owner Nass and Ahmed Al-Qattan. Under his light weight of 117 pounds, the Exceed and Excel gelding flashed speed and gamely resisted Hit the Bid toting 129 pounds. The 132-pound highweight Faatinah, a winner over Hit the Bid on the first night of Carnival, couldn’t repeat the feat and settled for third.
“Connections felt he probably would improve for tonight,” winning rider Tadgh O’Shea said, “so it’s onwards and upwards. I just let him point his toe and keep it simple. He was good and tough when I needed him.”
Mazzini, who zipped about five furlongs in :57.23, was recording a hat trick. He’d won his last two starts for British trainer James Fanshawe, carrying top weight in a Yarmouth handicap followed by a victory in a Kempton conditions race. The six-year-old is out of the Efisio mare Firenze, a multiple stakes-winning and Group 2-placed full sister to Frizzante.
The main event on the dirt, the new Al Bastakiya Trial for three-year-olds, attracted a couple of American-based hopes but went the way of front-running local Manguzi. McPeek’s Argentine import, Grecko, was an encouraging fourth under 137 pounds, but Steve Asmussen’s Tone Broke was beaten a bit further in sixth.
Manguzi, previously a distant second to Walking Thunder in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, furnished him a form boost ahead of the classics. Jockey Fernando Jara followed trainer Ali Rashid al Rayhi’s instructions to a tee. Manguzi secured the lead, shook free of the fading Superior turning for home, and dug in to see off Godolphin’s rallying Estihdaaf by a half-length. The Planteur colt covered about 1 3/16 miles, the same distance as the Al Bastakiya coming up on Super Saturday March 9, in 1:59.59.
“He doesn’t like kickback,” al Rayhi revealed, “so I told Fernando to go to the front and stay in the inside three paths, then with two furlongs to go, to tell him to go and he did.”
“I think he is a nice horse,” Jara said, “and he has been doing really good at home. His last race was a good race, but I thought this was even better for him. (Al Rayhi) told me to be in good position and it was better to be inside. The horse broke good and was traveling so easy. He is still young, so hopefully he’ll keep improving. At the end, I was looking around and getting a little bit worried, but he responded well.”
Estihdaaf, eighth behind Good Fortune on the Meydan turf January 10, shaped well on the switch to dirt.
“He ran really well, but he didn’t jump very quickly,” Soumillon said. “I had to put him in the race. We had a good race, but I think if I was holding the lead, he would get it today. It’s very hard for a young horse like him to make up so much ground. The winner took off when arrived at the entrance to the straight and at that time, I had to push him hard to focus. He ran really well and he’s good for the future.”
There was a gap of 12 1/2 lengths to the Mark Johnston-trained Victory Command, a creditable third in his dirt debut. Grecko, who had not raced since taking the Estrellas Juvenile (G1) on June 30, stayed on dourly while spotting 10 to 16 pounds to his rivals.
McPeek indicated that Grecko is right on target for the March 30 UAE Derby (G2).
“I liked how he fought on,” the trainer said, “and there’s a lot of improvement in this horse. The plan was always this, the Al Bastakiya and then the (UAE) Derby. I think I can find seven, eight lengths of improvement, maybe more in the next race.”
Manguzi was unplaced in three starts on the British turf, but has found new life on the Emirati dirt. The bay broke his maiden at Jebel Ali before beating all bar Walking Thunder last time, and he handled the step up in trip. The French-bred sold twice at Arqana, bringing €40,000 ($52,911) as a yearling and €60,000 ($71,670) as two-year-old. His dam, My Sister Charlie, is a Kodiac half-sister to French highweight and sire Myboycharlie.
It was a similar story in the about 1 1/4-mile handicap, as Saltarin Dubai got away with a steady pace to lead throughout. Well handled by stable jockey Richard Mullen, the Satish Seemar trainee had 1 1/4 lengths to spare over Montsarrat and South Korea’s Dolkong. McPeek’s Senior Investment, the 132-pound highweight, was unsuited by the race shape and plugged on in sixth.
Saltarin Dubai, the 2016 Gran Premio Estrellas Classic (G1) winner in his native Argentina, never got going during the 2017 Carnival for de Kock. The son of E Dubai steadily rounded into form in his second Carnival stint, by then with Seemar, and notched his first local win in the 2018 Curlin H. Saltarin Dubai has been racing himself fit this UAE season as well, progressing from a seventh behind Cosmo Charlie in the December 20 Entisar to a fourth to New Trails in a January 10 handicap in his latest.