Robert V. LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners’ Coal Front overcame a wide trip to catch defending champion Heavy Metal in Saturday’s $1.5 million Godolphin Mile (G2). Under a well-judged ride by Meydan debutant Jose Ortiz, the lightly raced five-year-old handed trainer Todd Pletcher his first victory from 17 starts on a Dubai World Cup program.
Coal Front figured to have the early dash to get over from post 12, but three Carnival veterans had too much speed and kept him parked wide. While Heavy Metal promised to show his customary zip if he broke well, favored Muntazah tried to repeat his forward tactic from a track record-setting Burj Nahaar (G3), and even Turkey’s Good Curry ran hard enough to prevent Coal Front from sliding in.
When Good Curry dropped back on the far turn, Ortiz seized the opportunity to take over his position. But by that point, Heavy Metal and Muntazah were trying to slip away from the field, and in upper stretch, Heavy Metal spurted away from the laboring favorite.
Nine-year-old Heavy Metal, who’d dropped all three starts this Carnival, was on the verge of becoming just the second horse to repeat in the Godolphin Mile. Then Coal Front kicked into gear to preserve 2003-04 winner Firebreak’s place in the record book. Gaining relentlessly in the final yards, the son of Stay Thirsty won going away by three-quarters of a length and opened up impressively on the gallop-out.
Muntazah, runner-up to Heavy Metal last year, regressed off his Super Saturday heroics a further 5 3/4 lengths back. He barely salvaged third from fellow Doug Watson trainee Kimbear, who ran well after his Carnival was plagued by a quarter-crack. Concluding the order of finish were Secret Ambition; Musawaat; Logrado; Ibn Malik; Kiaran McLaughlin’s True Timber; Japan’s Nonkono Yume, who scuttled his own chance by completely missing the break again; Major Partnership; and Good Curry. African Ride was scratched at the gate.
Coal Front negotiated the metric mile on a fast track in 1:36.51, upping his career mark to 9-7-0-0, $1,677,280. Successful in the Amsterdam (G3) and Gallant Bob (G3) before being sidelined by injury, he’s now won three straight since his comeback loss. Coal Front romped in the Mr. Prospector (G3), bravely handled a stretch-out to two turns in the Razorback (G3), and proved effective on the cutback here.
Quotes from Dubai Racing Club
Winning co-owner Sol Kumin: “He has had some health issues, on and off but always had a ton of talent. And Todd Pletcher has done a great job with him. We thought if he could handle the mile and a sixteenth (in the Razorback), we would come back to the mile and everything worked out well. It was worth the trip. We were lucky enough to own a part of Mind your Biscuits a few years ago. I wasn’t sure if he was winning. I was hoping and I was worried. I thought he would run out of gas, but he didn’t.”
Winning rider Jose Ortiz: “The emotion right here is for my family back home and I just want to say that I love them all. The horse felt great for me and he broke well, which was important. I wanted to be on or near to the lead and it worked out perfectly. I knew I had to be patient to time my run for home. I had two horses in-front of me which gave me a great lead, and I just sat and watched Jim Crowley and Muntazah as he is the main man around here. I followed him and my horse dug in for me late on and he has done it well.”
Trainer Salem bin Ghadayer on Heavy Metal, runner-up as the defending champion: “A month ago many people thought he was at the end of his career, but he has come back to his best. He was just beaten by a better horse on the day.”
Jockey Mickael Barzalona on Heavy Metal: “When I gave him a squeeze, he went to the front and ran a great race. He’s really back at his best but maybe he was beaten by a better today.”
Doug Watson, trainer of third-placer Muntazah: “He ran a career best on his last start and I wouldn’t have mind trying to take on today’s winner that day. But we were going back to the well three weeks later and he may just have got a bit tired. He’s going to have a really good future next season.”
Muntazah’s rider, Jim Crowley: “We didn’t have a bad trip but he didn’t feel like the same horse as last time.”
Jockey Joel Rosario on True Timber’s ninth: “I was stuck inside the whole way and didn’t get a chance to get him in the clear. I couldn’t get out and was stuck between horses.”
Joao Moreira, who rode 10th-placer Nonkono Yume: “Unfortunately he didn’t bring his best today. He missed the start badly. If he hadn’t I think we could have been top four.”