MEYDAN on Thursday featured the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over a mile and the race was won in determined fashion by Godolphin’s Rebel’s Romance, who remains unbeaten now in three career starts.
Run on dirt and over the same course and distance as the first colt’s classic, the race produced a nail-biting finish with the winner, partnered by William Buick for Charlie Appleby, hitting the front just over a furlong out and holding the late challenge of Mouheeb.
On the line a head separated the first two home, with a dead-heat for the third place finishers some seven lengths in arrears.
A homebred son of Dubawi, Rebel’s Romance won on his debut on the all-weather surface at Newcastle in late October, and followed up at Kempton in the middle of November, both times over a mile.
The winning trainer said: “That was a perfect first experience on dirt and he will have learned a lot. He was a bit slowly away as we expected, but he has travelled strongly and picked up well. It looked close at the end, but when you watch it back William has really looked after him and given him a nice education with the UAE 2000 Guineas in mind.
“Whatever he does this year though he is going to be a really nice horse for 2022 and is one to look forward to. As a gelding, hopefully he will be around for a few years.”
Also for three-year-olds, the turf highlight was the six-furlong Dubai Trophy and this resulted in an upset when the odds-on favourite First Smile, who looked certain to win when cruising to the front just inside the two-furlong marker, was caught in the last 50 yards by the early leader Topper Bill.
Foaled in France and bred by Malih Al Basti, Topper Bill responded well for Richard Mullen, riding for Satish Seemar in the colours of Ali Al Shafar and Abdulla Al Shafar. A gelded son of Intrinsic making his local debut, he was doubling his career tally having won a seven-furlong maiden at Catterick in the colours of his breeder and for trainer Adrian Nicholls. Offered for sale as a yearling, Topper Bill was unsold at just €1,000.
Seemar said: “To be honest, that was quite a nice surprise because he has not shown much at home, but some horses are like that. He has shown a great attitude, as well as plenty of speed, so it was all very pleasing.”
The three-year-old maiden on dirt was dominated by runners trained by Salem bin Ghadayer. He supplied both the winner, the Irish-foaled Meshakel, and the runner-up. Only one horse mattered from the moment Royston Ffrench kicked for home on the seven-length winner. A son of Shamardal owned by Salem Rashid, Meshakel was second to stablemate Hurry Up on his UAE debut over six furlongs at Jebel Ali six days earlier, having run three times in Britain for Mark Johnston.
Placed at Haydock and Ayr, the 500,000gns yearling purchase was soon in front and had the race in safekeeping shortly after halfway. The successful rider said: “We all know the Mark Johnston horses are tough, and this horse has shown that with two good efforts in a week.
“This horse has plenty of speed and a touch of class, so is a really nice ride for a jockey. He is a nice sort.”
Ffrench denied Mickael Barzalona in that race and repeated the trick aboard Firnas in a near nine-furlong dirt handicap, as the bin Ghadayer team celebrated a second 1-2 on the card.
An eight-year-old gelding by Dubawi, owned by Ahmad Ghalita Almheiri, Firnas was posting his third consecutive victory and remains unbeaten this season, his previous wins including the Listed The Entisar.
Out of the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile winner Crystal Music and bred by Watership Down Stud, Firnas sold as a yearling for 1,600,000gs. Bin Ghadayer said: “He has always worked like a good, honest horse and is really showing on a racecourse what he shows us at home. We have lots of options with him, on dirt or even on turf, but we will see what his rating is after this before making a decision.”
The American-bred Distorted Humor gelding Gervais continued the fine form of trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, who celebrated a Meydan treble a week earlier, with a smooth two-length success under stable jockey Connor Beasley in a seven-furlong dirt handicap. The winner made a decisive challenge to lead inside the final half a furlong.
Successful just once prior to this season, Gervais doubled his tally when winning over a mile at Meydan on his penultimate start, and this was his third victory for Al Rayhi and owner Jumaa Mubarak Al Junaibi. Beasley said: “The horses are in great form and this fellow is a bonny, consistent one who is running at the top of his game.”
The mile and a half turf handicap was won easily by Godolphin’s Global Heat, always travelling well under Pat Cosgrave and recording a second career success on his seasonal debut.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the five-year-old Irish-foaled Toronado gelding was sent to the lead inside the two-furlong pole and won unchallenged. A three-year-old winner at Ripon, he was far from disgraced in two turf outings at the Dubai World Cup Carnival last year and this win will have ensured his place at this year’s edition of the international meeting.
Bin Suroor was delighted and said: “He is a nice horse and we were keen to try him over the trip. There is a Carnival race for him in four weeks, but he will stay further as well, so we have options.”
The concluding seven-furlong turf handicap provided an opportunity for trainer Ismail Mohammed to open his account for the season.
The Irish-foaled Wasim, who is owned by the trainer, landed the spoils, despite refusing to settle for Mickael Barzalona. Wasim, a six-year-old entire by Acclamation, has now won four times, twice over this course and distance having landed the Meydan Classic Trial in 2018.
Irish-bred shines in the capital
THOROUGHBREDS took centre stage at Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening, their sole race, a seven-furlong handicap, being the most valuable on the card.
It also produced the best finish, the Darley-bred Invincible Spirit entire Adventurous prevailing in a race in which the majority of the 13 runners were still in contention with less than two furlongs to race.
It appeared as though Shanaghai City was going to make it three wins from his four most recent starts, leading from the outset under Jesus Rosales. Entering the final half a furlong they were hanging on grimly, but were ultimately headed by Sandro Paiva and Adventurous, who then had to dig deep to hold off Daffg and Mashaheer who were finishing fast, but just too late, snatching the minor places from a tiring Shanaghai City.
Owned by Ahmed Belqasem, the eight-year-old winner was opening his local account at the seventh attempt, doubling his career tally in the process, having won a maiden at Newbury in July 2015 when trained by Mark Johnston. He was also adding to a treble his trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi celebrated at Meydan three days earlier.
Paiva said: “It has been a very good weekend for myself and the whole team with the horses in great form.”
Twenty-four hours earlier at Sharjah, the final and only thoroughbred race on their card was a six-furlong handicap.
It looked wide open on paper and so it proved to be, with the majority of the field still in contention with a little over a furlong to race.
Victory went to Antonio Fresu riding Apolo Kid for trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri and in the colours of H and B.
A four-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt, he was also shedding his maiden status at the ninth attempt, and this was by some way his best career performance. He was a distant third over a mile at Meydan on his final start of last season, his best previous finish.
Fresu said: “This horse has been running over further but has shown plenty of speed, so we hoped a try at sprinting would suit and it has today, which is great for everybody concerned.”