Three weeks ahead of the Mar. 27 Dubai World Cup extravaganza, Meydan staged its series of final course-and-distance preps on “Super Saturday.” The four dirt events showcased veterans of the Carnival scene as well as up-and-comers. Recaps of Saturday’s turf races can be found here.
Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3
In the stepping stone to the Dubai World Cup (G1), the $390,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), the Fawzi Nass-trained Salute the Soldier made the most of his tactical speed on the inside to hold sway. The Victorious colorbearer was following up on his stalk-and-pounce decision in the Feb. 11 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2), and saw out the extra sixteenth of a mile here.
Breaking from post 4 with Adrie de Vries, Salute the Soldier was not intent on bagging the lead. But his wider-drawn pace rivals, Hypothetical and Roman Rosso, did not manage to clear him early. Thus going into the clubhouse turn, Salute the Soldier accepted the gift and never relinquished it.
Although untested at this about 1 1/4-mile trip, the son of Australian sprint star Sepoy called upon his broodmare sire – 2002 Dubai World Cup hero Street Cry. That pedigree support, combined with de Vries’ astute rationing of his speed, helped him hold off Hypothetical by 1 3/4 lengths in 2:03.09.
Another three lengths back in third came Roman Rosso, followed by Thegreatcollection, Secret Ambition, late-running New Trails, Dubai Mirage, Firnas, Quip, Taylor’s Row, and Saltarin Dubai.
“I expected the pace to be set from the outside,” de Vries recapped. “he jumped well, and the guys next to me didn’t want it, so I was happy to lead. I got my own pace. He is just getting better, and he is so much fun. He is a great character, there is always something special about him. He didn’t want to go to the start today, he has his tricks in the morning as well.”
“I think he still has got a bit left in the tank, he continues to improve and I hope we have him spot-on for the big day.”
Salute the Soldier first stamped himself as a dirt performer on Super Saturday 2020, when dominating the Burj Nahaar (G3) over a metric mile in his debut on the surface. The six-year-old gelding has raced himself into peak form during the current Dubai season. Fourth in his comeback in the Dec. 17 Dubai Creek Mile and third in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) to World Cup-bound Military Law, Salute the Soldier swept the final two rounds.
“He showed us last year that he absolutely glides on the Meydan dirt, and distance-wise he always showed he would stay a lot further,” Nass said of the erstwhile seven-furlong/mile campaigner. “He was actually never built as a sprinter as you can see. Luckily it paid off going the extra couple of furlongs.”
“When you have a horse that has already qualified for the Dubai World Cup, we did think why take a risk or running a race (Round 3) where could get beaten. But we thought about it and it is pretty long gap from his last race (Feb. 11) to Dubai World Cup day, and the horse is quite enthusiastic, and we thought why not run him today.”
Smashing debut winner Panadol stayed perfect while advancing his UAE Derby (G2) candidacy in the $150,000 Al Bastakiya. Trained by Salem bin Ghadayer for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum, the New York-bred Flatter colt zipped to overcome the far outside post 12 and controlled the race throughout beneath Mickael Barzalona.
Triple Crown-nominated Speight’spercomete stayed on strongly to reduce the winning margin to three-quarters of a length, but Panadol was not in any danger as he finished about 1 3/16 miles in 1:58.13. Uruguay’s El Patriota, winner of the Jan. 28 Al Bastakiya Trial over Speight’spercomete, checked in third.
“He has only recently started with us,” bin Ghadayer said of Panadol, who just romped in his Feb. 13 premiere going a metric mile. “We had two options with him, either to go directly to the (UAE) Derby or give him one more run, just to give him a little more experience. I spoke with His Highness Sheikh Hamdan and his opinion was to give him one more run. The horse showed that he could recover well. We hope to carry on till the last goal.”
Barzalona was very much in favor of getting this bonus experience.
“He is the kind of horse we want on this kind of surface, especially in Meydan,” his rider said. “Today he felt even greener than on his first race, so I really appreciate that he had a second run this season before going for the UAE Derby. He does the distance well, he has got some good talent, and we will see whether he is able to perform on World Cup night.”
A breakout performer at last year’s Carnival before disappointing stateside, The Cool Silk Partnership’s Midnight Sands regained the winning thread back at Meydan in the $228,000 Burj Nahaar (G3). Rolling from off the contested pace with Pat Dobbs, the Doug Watson trainee overhauled front-running Chiefdom and his stablemates, Golden Goal and Kimbear. Midnight Sands kicked 2 1/4 lengths clear and finished the Godolphin Mile (G2) prep in 1:35.78 to make it six straight over the track.
Chiefdom salvaged second by a head from the closing Tuz. Golden Goal and Kimbear were relegated to fourth and fifth, respectively, while North America retreated to 11th in his comeback from a year-long layoff.
“He did everything right – he jumped super tonight from his draw,” Dobbs said. “I was there to get him into a good position early, but they were going pretty hard, so I just took him back a little and got him into a nice rhythm. Once he switches to his off, he found a couple of lengths.”
“He has improved. He has had to straighten up an awful lot from having been to America. He is really super, and fingers crossed he gets there in one piece.”
Watson wasn’t exactly confident of a win first up after Midnight Sands’ fruitless U.S. venture. In three starts for Brendan Walsh, the son of Speightstown was third in a Kentucky Derby Day allowance, seventh in the Phoenix (G2), and eighth in the Lafayette on Breeders’ Cup Friday.
“I thought Midnight Sands was a very nice surprise,” Watson said of the Meydan aficionado.
Mahab al Shimaal
The Watson/Dobbs tandem earlier struck in the $228,000 Mahab al Shimaal (G3) with Canvassed, who ran himself into the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) by collaring Good Effort in time. Good Effort nearly wired the about six-furlong dash, opening up by daylight in the stretch, only to feel his exertions late. The improving Canvassed, coming off a handicap score at this track and trip, burst from midpack to catch him by a neck in a brisk 1:10.20.
Lavaspin got up for third. Premier Star reported home fourth in a useful debut for Watson, his first start since conquering the Jersey Shore at Monmouth.
“I didn’t think I was going to get him (Frankie Dettori and Good Effort) till the last three yards,” Dobbs said. “I must have had four lengths to make up, but the fractions were very quick so Frankie just slowed in the last hundred yards.”
“Canvassed was very impressive the way he stuck his head out at the wire,” Watson noted of the lightly raced Shamardal gelding.
Out of a Dansili half-sister to Peintre Celebre, Canvassed might not have been the most obvious candidate to sprint on the dirt. But Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum’s runner has thrived since shortening up from a third in the Jan. 22 Jebel Ali Mile (G3).