Godolphin handler Saeed bin Suroor and stable jockey James Doyle enjoyed a night to remember as they dominated yesterday’s Super Saturday meeting at Meydan.
They combined to land the final three events on the eight-race card, highlighted by African Story’s victory in the Al Maktoum Challenge III, the 2,000m dirt prep race for the $10 million (Dh37.7m) Dubai World Cup in three weeks.
Winner of last year’s World Cup, but on Tapeta not dirt, Doyle’s mount had not appeared to handle the new surface well in the middle leg of the Challenge three weeks earlier.
However, he was able to race prominently on this occasion and wear down long time leader Henry Clay just over 200m from home.
The winner’s stable companion, Prince Bishop, who won this last year on the previous surface, flew home to snatch second under William Buick.
Connections then completed a Group One double with Hunter’s Light proving far too good in the Jebel Hatta, over the same 1,800m turf course and distance as the Dubai Turf in three weeks’ time.
— Neville Hopwood (@nevhopwood) March 7, 2015
Winner of the Challenge on this card two years ago, he was recording a third success at the highest level and made it three wins from three starts at Meydan this year.
Doyle said: “He has thrived this year. Full credit to Saeed and the team who have handled his preparation perfectly.”
Bin Suroor added: “We really wanted to win another Group One with him, so we are delighted with this result.”
Almost as impressive was stable companion Sky Hunter who made a winning UAE debut in the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold, over 2,400m on turf.
Employing similar tactics to those later used on Hunter’s Light, Doyle kicked his mount clear early and soon had their race won.
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Doyle said: “I won on him at Newbury last year and I think he has improved since then. He did this very well.”
The meeting opened with the Purebred Arabian version of the Al Maktoum Challenge III, like the Thoroughbred equivalent over 2,000m on dirt, and Versac PY, second in the two previous renewals, was able to go one place better. He actually won quite easily in the end, with Paul Hanagan riding for Sheikh Hamdan and trainer Erwan Charpy.
Shaishee was another winner for Sheikh Hamdan in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal on dirt. Ridden by Silvestre De Sousa, he is trained by Musabah Al Muhairi, as is Tamarkuz who won the 1,600m Group 3 Burj Nahaar, also on dirt, under Hanagan who was also completing a double.
The 1,900m Listed Al Bastakiya was won by Mubtaahij, a fifth winner for South African Mike De Kock and ridded by Dane O’Neill.
The turf dash, a 1,000m Group 3 Meydan Sprint, went to Sir Maximilian who led on the line to give UK trainer Ian Williams a first UAE victory.
Qualy league matches at Group A of the Julius Bär Gold Cup 2015 came to an end this afternoon with Bin Drai and Mahra Polo wins against Julius Bär Team and Ghantoot.
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Bin Drai defeated Julius Bär Team by 9 goals to 3 and Mahra beat Ghantoot 10-7.
This two attractive matches ended the qualifying round in Group A with Bin Drai leading the group and Julius Bär in the second place and Mahra in the third place.
Bin Drai: 1-1/ 4-2/ 5-3/ 8-3/ 9-3
Mahra: 2-1/ 4-4/ 6-6/ 8-7/ 10-7
The Julius Bär Gold Cup will continue tomorrow with the last qualifying matches of Group B. At 11 am at Desert Palm Polo Club, Zedan, already in the semifinales, will face Desert Palm 1 and from 4 pm at the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, Abu Dhabi will play against Desert Palm 2.
Muarrab won the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint, over 1,000m, at the course’s penultimate fixture on Friday.
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With two non-runners, he only faced five runners and Paul Hanagan, riding for trainer Musabah Al Muhairi, who has now won the race three times in four years and four in total, was confident throughout.
It was a third course and distance victory and seventh Jebel Ali victory in total for the horse.
Hanagan explained: “He just loves Jebel Ali where the surface and hill really suit him. I was confident throughout the race.
“We will have to hope for an invitation for one of the Dubai World Cup night sprints.”
The trainer was back in the winner’s enclosure 30 minutes later after stable jockey Silvestre De Sousa drove Conform With Fact to victory in a conditions race over the same 1,000m before Al Muhairi saddled a 1-2 in the concluding 1,400m handicap, Hanagan completing a double on Kanaf who denied De Sousa on Art Wave.
The opening 1,600m conditions race was won by Lanark, who led virtually the whole way under apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei riding for his boss, trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
Once the pair managed to get to the rail from their wide draw they soon put daylight between themselves and 15 rivals, before kicking further clear halfway up the straight to win easily.
The jockey doubled up on Copperbelt, who won a 1,200m maiden for Adulla bin Huaim.
Pat Dobbs tried similar tactics in the following 1,800m conditions contest aboard Jutland, winner of this year’s Listed Jebel Ali Stakes, but the pair were headed 300m out by Sefri.
However, Jutland is not a horse who likes to be beaten, especially when allowed to lead at Jebel Ali, and he fought back gamely, breaking Sefri in the final 100m and then holding the late challenge of 2014 Jebel Ali Stakes victor Interpret, on whom De Sousa had been hard at work for a long time.
Watson said: “He is such a lovely tough, genuine horse who loves it here at Jebel Ali and one Pat gets on so well with. When the other horse came to him, he really fought back.”