February 25, 2021

Godolphin Mile: Track record-setter Muntazah meets Coal Front

Muntazah sets a track record in the Burj Nahaar (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

After conquering the Firebreak (G3) and Burj Nahaar (G3) at this track and trip, Muntazah is poised to become the second horse to complete the sweep in Saturday’s $1.5 million Godolphin Mile (G2) on the Dubai World Cup undercard. The only one to turn Meydan’s metric mile treble so far was likewise a Sheikh Hamdan colorbearer, Tamarkuz (2015), one year before capturing the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

Homebred Muntazah, Group 2-placed as a juvenile, failed to progress on the European turf but has fulfilled his early promise since joining Doug Watson in Dubai. While gelding, and maturity, helped, the son of Dubawi reached another level on dirt.

Making his dirt debut in last year’s Godolphin Mile, Muntazah was an eye-catching second to Heavy Metal. The six-year-old needed a couple of runs this term to get fit, including a distant third to World Cup contender North America in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2). Muntazah was ready to roll by 4 1/4 in the February 14 Firebreak, and delivered a career-best in the Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday, romping by 10 lengths in a track-record 1:34.99. He served up a tactical twist that day to set the pace on the rail, but post 6 on Saturday suggests that jockey Jim Crowley would revert to his usual off-the-pace style for Watson, trainer of two of the last three Godolphin Mile winners.

The main reason Muntazah was able to lead the Burj Nahaar was the fact that Heavy Metal blew the start. The habitual pace factor found himself in a hopeless position in last, yet gallantly worked his way into fourth, beaten narrowly by Turkey’s Good Curry and Musawaat in second and third, respectively. The leading local miler until the emergence of Muntazah, Heavy Metal was also fourth in last year’s Burj Nahaar before rebounding with a characteristic wire job in the Godolphin Mile. The Salem bin Ghadayer trainee hasn’t returned to peak form this Carnival, but could be sitting on a better effort here. Still, as a nine-year-old, he will probably find it tough to repeat.

Coal Front (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

Thus the principal dangers to Muntazah lie from the international shippers, chief among them the Todd Pletcher-trained Coal Front. Six-for-eight lifetime, the son of Stay Thirsty scored in the 2017 Amsterdam (G3) and Gallant Bob (G3) before going to the sidelines for more than 13 months. Coal Front had to knock off the cobwebs with a fifth in last November’s Bold Ruler (G3), but improved to outclass them in the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream Park. Last time he made his two-turn debut in the Razorback H. (G3) at Oaklawn Park, where post 14 complicated his task. Yet despite forcing the pace wide, Coal Front dug in to prevail. That’s an auspicious sign for his chances from post 12 here, especially since this is a one-turn mile.

Kiaran McLaughlin sends True Timber, a closing second in the Cigar Mile (G1) in a similar one-turn configuration. The Calumet Farm runner also drops into a spot with less overall strength in depth than his latest, the $9 million Pegasus World Cup (G1). Hung out wide throughout in the slop, True Timber understandably tired to seventh in a race that has produced three World Cup contenders (runner-up Seeking the Soul, fifth Audible, and sixth Gunnevera). That number would have been higher if fourth Bravazo hadn’t been injured. And the now-retired first and third, City of Light and champion Accelerate, were coming off Breeders’ Cup wins.

Japan’s Nonkono Yume boasts a top-level score in last year’s February S. (G1) around one turn at Tokyo, and not much since, most recently trudging home 13th after a slow start in his title defense. Although the deep closer used to be a more reliable character earlier in his career, he tends to respond to rider changes. In that light, the switch to Joao Moreira might wake him up, and trainer Yukihiro Kato noted that he’s training better at Meydan than he has been at home. If so, Nonkono Yume will be motoring late.

While it would be a surprise for any of the locals to eclipse Muntazah, a few are eligible to get involved for the minors. Stablemate Kimbear, last year’s Burj Nahaar hero and sixth in the Godolphin Mile from post 12, is drawn much better this time in post 4. The Watson charge began the UAE season in good form, only to exit his second to North America in Round 1 with a quarter-crack. Kimbear didn’t run up to par when fourth behind Muntazah in the Firebreak, and the foot flare-up forced him to scratch from a Burj Nahaar title defense. Watson has said he’s now in order to perform well.

Ibn Malik, twice placed to Golden Shaheen (G1) hope Drafted this season, was not right when seventh in the Burj Nahaar. Sheikh Hamdan’s useful servant was earlier third under top weight in a course-and-distance handicap to African Ride, a well-bred son of Candy Ride with potential for Simon Crisford. Secret Ambition is capable on his day, as the Jebel Ali Mile (G3) winner and runner-up to Muntazah in the Firebreak, but the inconsistent type didn’t factor in the Burj Nahaar and now draws the far outside post 13. Trainer Satish Seemar decided to add the visor in hopes of getting Secret Ambition to focus.

Godolphin hasn’t taken its eponymous race since 2012 (with African Story), and 10-time winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor pitches Major Partnership into a dirt debut. The son of Iffraaj has scored on both all-weather and turf, and responded to first-time cheekpieces to land a Carnival handicap last out. Argentine Group 1 hero Logrado was seventh to Capezzano and Thunder Snow in Super Saturday’s Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), a Dubai premiere that wasn’t enough to get him into the World Cup for new trainer Erwan Charpy. Now he dons blinkers in hopes of a better showing, but we’ll likelier hear more from him next Carnival.

Monday’s draw via emiratesracing.com: