Mendelsohn lights up early stages of Dubai World Cup with stunning UAE Derby win

Alex Broun 31/03/2018
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Mendelssohn, ridden by Ryan Moore, wins the UAE Derby. (Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins)

A stunning run from Mendelssohn has lit up the early stages of the Dubai World Cup with a record breaking win in the UAE Derby to set up the USA colt up perfectly for a Kentucky Derby tilt in May.

The Aidan O’Brien trained 3-year-old strode out around the final corner to win by a staggering 18 ½ lengths from Rayya with Reride in third.

The finishing time of 1:55:18 broke the existing mark of 1:56:51 set by Mizbah last year,

The pre-match  favourite, and local hero, Godolphin’s Gold Town wilted badly to finish a disappointing fourth.

Mendelssohn, the sire of Scat Daddy, will now set his sights on the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

O’Brien confirmed after his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf success that the Derby was under consideration and following a comeback success at Dundalk in early March, Mendelssohn took the next step on the road to Churchill Downs in this nine-furlong Group Two.

Jockey Ryan Moore appeared keen to get Mendelssohn to the lead from the moment the gates opened and he soon navigated his way to the front.

From that point it was a matter of margin rather than result, as one by one his rivals fell away as the US challenger galloped on impressively.

Most remarkable about the run was that it was Mendelssohn’s debut on dirt.

But the further Mendelssohn went the better he looked and he passed the post a long way clear of Rayya to score in a course-record time.

Afterwards the usually staid O’Brien worked hard to contain his delight.

“Ryan was happy he had a good draw and if he broke well he was happy to let him travel in front,” said the Irishman, “he gave him a great ride – we couldn’t be happier.

“He came forward lovely from his first run and that was good experience for him on that surface first time.”

Moore said: “He’s a very fast horse. He could have led a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf if I’d wanted to.

“It’s the first time he’s been in front today and he’s still a horse that’s learning, so he was still a bit green in places. It was his first run on dirt, so that was huge for him, and it was his first time at this trip, so that was another question mark.

“He’s a high-quality horse who has got better with every start.”

Looking ahead to a possible tilt at the Kentucky Derby, the jockey added: “Obviously the next time it’s going to be a far tougher question, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re very happy with what he’s done and I still feel he will get better.

“He’s got the pedigree and the looks to go with the form that he’s producing, so he’s a very exciting horse.”

It was Moore’s second win of the day after he got local horses off to a great start with Heavy Metal taking out the Godolphin Mile for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in the first race of the day.

The GCC again triumphed in the Dubai Kahayla Classic with a strong ride from Saudi Arabia representative Tallaab Al Khalediah, trained by Mutlaq bin Mashraf and ridden by Roberto Perez.

The ride of the day, prior to the Mendelssohn masterclass came in the third race, when Vazirabad made it an historic hat-trick of wins on Dubai World Cup day in the Dubai Gold Cup over 3200m on turf.

Trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre and ridden by Christophe Soumillon, the French  gelding charged down the straight, vanquishing Godolphin’s Frontiersman (fourth) and Rare Rhythm (third) who had led into the final 300m.

Sheikzayedroad held on for second for the UAE, trained by David Simcock and guided by Martin Harley.

There was a sensation just moments before race five, the Al Quoz Sprint, as the favourite – Godolphin’s Blue Point – was scratched at the gate with blood in his nostrils. Trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick must have started to think it wasn’t there day.

But Appleby was not to be denied with James Doyle bringing home another of his runners, Jungle Cat – the Godolphin horse cheered on by a overjoyed crowd.

Trainer Peter Miller filled out the minor placings with Stormy Liberal second and Conquest Tsunami third.

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Vazirabad makes history with third successive Dubai Gold Cup win

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Vazirabad charged home to claim a third successive victory in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan.

Just as he did last season, Alain de Royer-Dupre’s six-year-old warmed up for his big-race assignment by finishing second in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy over a mile and three-quarters a month ago and was the hot favourite to add to his tally on World Cup night.

Frontiersman took the field along ahead of fellow Godolphin representative Red Galileo and that pair rounded the home turn with a significant advantage over the rest of the field.

However, Vazirabad and Christophe Soumillon soon began to make inroads and the French challenger was well on top at the line, winning in a course-record time.

David Simcock’s Sheikhzayedroad came from a long way back to fill the runner-up spot, but last year’s Ascot Gold Cup hero Big Orange was a big disappointment for Michael Bell and Frankie Dettori.

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Bob Baffert bidding for second straight Dubai World Cup with West Coast

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Bob Baffert has high hopes for favourite West Coast in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, as the American trainer bids to land the race for the second straight year after Arrogate’s thrilling 2017 triumph.

West Coast, an even-money shot with most bookmakers, has come up just shy in the biggest dirt-track races so far this year, finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup, the world’s richest race.

But everything looks in place for the three-year-old to go one better in the $10 million race at Meydan on the richest day of the international racing calendar, after the retirements of Arrogate and old rival Gun Runner.

“West Coast likes this kind of track, a soft, sandy track. He looks really good and he looks strong,” said Baffert, who will also saddle Mubtaahij for the world’s second-most lucrative race.

“They’re both pretty happy. You can tell if they’re on point when you take them out in the morning. You can tell by the look on their faces and in their eyes if they’re happy.”

The 65-year-old Baffert, who trained American Pharoah to his stunning American Triple Crown win in 2015, saw Arrogate break in last place 12 months ago before dramatically circling the field and beating Gun Runner by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

Drawn in post nine for the mile-and-a-quarter race, West Coast will need a better start than Arrogate’s.

“The only thing I worry about is the break. They have a short run (to the first turn) here. It’s only two furlongs,” said Baffert.

A staggering $30 million is on offer across the nine races on Saturday, but despite no longer being the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup remains the jewel in the crown for its founder Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

While West Coast is a worthy favourite under jockey Javier Castellano, Godolphin has plenty of chances as the stable looks to give Sheikh Mohammed an eighth World Cup victory.

British runner Talismanic is Godolphin’s best chance, second of the 10 runners in the early betting at 7-1, and will be ridden by French jockey Mickael Barzalona, who won the race on Monterosso in 2012.

Another horse firmly in with a shout is North America, after the six-year-old laid down a marker with a dominant win over Thunder Snow at Meydan’s ‘Super Saturday’ meeting earlier this month.

“It’s a dream for me that he is peaking at the right time,” North America’s trainer Satish Seemar said. “He’s as fit as he can be, and if he’s at his best, I feel he is as good as any horse in the field.”

Thunder Snow has been installed at 14-1, while Gunnevera is a 9-1 chance after finishing a distant third behind Gun Runner and West Coast in the Pegasus.

Elsewhere on the card, Godolphin’s Cloth of Stars is the early favourite for the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic on the turf, after finishing second to Enable at last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Benbatl is well-fancied to take the Dubai Turf, also worth $6 million, after two victories and a second-placed effort from three Meydan starts.

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