As has so often been the case, Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor and South African Mike De Kock dominated the Thoroughbred action at Meydan on Super Saturday, sharing five of the races, including the Group 1 features.
The night’s official highlight, the Group 1 concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge went to Bin Suroor, winning the race for a 10th time, who saddled Prince Bishop and Kieren Fallon to land the race over the same 2,000m Tapeta course and distance as the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup in three weeks time.
On three occasions Bin Suroor has won this with subsequent World Cup winners (Dubai Millennium in 2000, Street Cry, 2002 and Electrocutionist, 2006), and Prince Bishop was emulating stablemate Hunter’s Light, who won this last year having previously won the middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Bin Suroor said: “This is a horse we have always known had big races in him and Kieren has formed a really good understanding with him. We will have to look at the World Cup now."
The trainer was completing a treble and Fallon a double with the pair earlier combining with Excellent Result, who won the Group 3 Dubai City Of Cold over 2,410m on turf.
Fallon produced his mount to lead close home and deny stable companion Songcraft in the process.
Fallon said: “This horse stays further so I knew we would be staying on. He showed a great attitude to get there. He is only a four-yearold and could turn out to be a really nice stayer in time as that was a good race over a trip perhaps short of his optimum.”
Bin Suroor initiated his treble with Shuruq who became the first filly to win the Group 3 Burj Nahaar, over the same 1,600m Tapeta course and distance as the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge – which she is the only filly to have won having landed that Group 2 feature at the first Carnival meeting in January.
She also won last year’s UAE Oaks, and Bin Suroor said: “She is just a totally different filly on this surface which she relishes. We will obviously think about World Cup night.”
She was ridden by Mickael Barzalona, who added: “She is a really nice filly and has beaten a good field here. I think the Godolphin Mile on World Cup night will really suit her.
“Silvestre De Sousa told me all about her and I have to thank him for that help.”
De Sousa missed the meeting through suspension.
The green and yellow silks of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour were carried to yet another big race win this season when Raaziq and Olivier Peslier snatched victory in the Group 1 Purebred Arabian Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3.
Winning trainer Majed Al Jahouri said: “We were very hopeful and knew he was capable of a big run. He will be back for the Kahayla Classic.”
Like Shuruq, Raaziq would have been ridden by De Sousa.
Take Ten led in the dying strides to snatch victory in the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint, the 1,000m feature at Jebel Ali’s penultimate meeting of the season.
It was a fourth win in the race for trainer Satish Seemar and a first for apprentice Marc Monaghan in the UAE – though he has ridden a Group 3 winner in Ireland.
As soon as the gates opened, a speed duel developed with Kilt Rock, second in this last year and third in 2012, taken on by Mujaazef, and it was only in the final 100m that Kilt Rock saw off that rival.
However, as he tired, Fityaan, second in the race in 2012, hit the front under Paul Hanagan for trainer Musabah Al Muhairi and looked the likely winner, before stable companion Shaishee loomed as a danger.
However, in the final 25m, Monaghan and Take Ten threw down the decisive challenge, leading close home and just holding on from a lunging Fityaan in a photo finish.
Monaghan said: “I was not sure when we crossed the line. I thought I was in front just before the line but Fityaan had his head down in the final stride. Luckily, we just held off that final thrust.”
The Al Muhairi-trained Russian Rock, seeking an unprecedented third victory in the race, never threatened and was seventh.
Take Ten’s victory completed a quick 1,000m double for Seemar, who had already won a handicap over the trip with Glenleven, ridden by stable jockey Richard Mullen.
Monaghan was not the only up-and-coming jockey on the scoresheet with apprentices actually riding half the six winners, with Stalactite and Noel Garbutt landing the opening 1,200m maiden for Al Muhairi.
It was a first start in the UAE for the winner, opening his account at the fourth attempt. Daniel Muscutt was the third apprentice to visit the winner’s enclosure, scoring for a third time this season on the Ernst Oertel-trained Touch Gold.
They landed a 1,400m handicap in gutsy fashion. Dutchman Adrie De Vries steered the Ahmad bin Harmash-trained Ennobled Friend to a facile victory in a 1,400m handicap and the pair were denied a double when their Izaaj failed to peg back Jalaa in the concluding 1,800m handicap.
Paul Hanagan rode the winner for Doug Watson.
As the UAE’s second biggest race meeting, Super Saturday looks certain to live up to the billing with a plethora of equine superstars in action, bidding to advertise their claims for Dubai World Cup night in three weeks’ time.
Each of the eight races is over the same course and distance as a World Cup night feature, with the Group 1 concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge over the same 2,000m on Tapeta as the $10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup.
Fourteen World Cup aspirants take their chance in a race Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor has won three times with subsequent World Cup winners – including the legendary Dubai Millennium in 2000.
He saddles two this year with Prince Bishop and African Story, first and second respectively in the Group 2 1,900m middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge clashing again.
Kieren Fallon maintains his successful partnership with Prince Bishop and, with stable jockey Silvestre De Sousa suspended, William Buick gets the plum spare ride on African Story.
Bin Suroor, seeking a 10th win in the race, said: “They both ran very well last time and have been working nicely since. The 2,000m should suit them both and hopefully they will run big races.”
African Story has won on Super Saturday in each of the last two seasons – winning the 1,600m Group Burj Nahaar, on Tapeta, on each occasion. Fellow Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby relies on Cat O’Mountain with Mickael Barzalona aboard.
Appleby said: “He was disappointing last time but we can forgive him one bad run and we think he deserves a crack at this level.”
South African Mike De Kock has won this race twice in the past and has two runners this year, Sanshaawes and Alexandra Palace.
Satish Seemar saddles three, including Zambucca, third behind Prince Bishop and African Story three weeks ago and Surfer, third in this last year.
The Group 1 Jebel Hatta, the 1,800m turf trial for the Dubai Duty Free, has attracted a stellar cast of 14 with four of them trained by De Kock in a race he has won three times previously.
Christophe Soumillon rides the exciting Vercingetorix, winner of all five career starts, including over course and distance on his only UAE start to date.
Stable companion Mars, sixth in last year’s Epsom Derby for Aidan O’Brien, will be having his second start for the yard and returns to turf having struggled on Tapeta three weeks ago.
Subsequent Dubai Duty Free heroine, Sajjhaa, won this last year having won the Balanchine Stakes, also over this 1,800m turf trip, and French challenger L’Amour De Ma Vie will try and emulate that achievement.
Trade Storm and local debutants Linton and Vancouverite are others to consider in a wide open renewal.
Al Mamun Monlau won the Kahayla Classic, the Purebred Arabian equivalent of the Dubai World Cup, on the big night last year and takes his chance in the Group 1 Purebred Arabian Maktoum Challenge III.
Reynaldothewizard defends his crown in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal, a 1,200m Tapeta feature he won last year on his way to winning the Group 1 Golden Shaheen on World Cup night.
Last year’s UAE 2000 Guineas and Godolphin Mile winner Soft Falling Rain makes his seasonal reappearance in the same race. Soft Falling Rain is trained by De Kock, as is Shea Shea, seeking to win the Group 3 Meydan Sprint (1,000m turf ) for a second year running.
He then won the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on the big night. Dual South African Horse of the Year, Variety Club, faces 15 rivals in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar, over the same 1,600m on Tapeta as the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes he won on his local debut three weeks ago.
De Souza given two-day ban
Godolphin jockey Silvestre De Sousa, stable jockey to Saeed bin Suroor, misses Super Saturday after incurring a two-day suspension for careless riding at Meydan nine days earlier.
The Brazilian appealed against the decision at a hearing which began on Wednesday afternoon, but has not been resolved until over 24 hours later.