Thursday’s fourth meeting of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival was highlighted by the US$250,000 Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort and the 1400m turf contest was won decisively by Jungle Cat, completing a quick treble for Godolphin.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, he was ridden by James Doyle and the pair were always prominent, tracking early leader Janoobi until committing for home halfway down the straight. After brief resistance from said game Mike De Kock-trained foe, Jungle Cat scratched his way to a gritty victory.
“This horse is something of a Carnival veteran now and never runs a bad race,” Appleby said. “He was fourth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) in March, but we tried him over this 1400m in England and he stays it well. We now have to decide whether to try him over 1600m or drop back to 1200m because there is nothing else for him at this trip. I am delighted to give James his first Carnival winner this year because he is a big part of the team.”
Doyle added: “This horse has a big following at Meydan where he has become a regular and is a big favourite at home, so this is a great result. I am not sure where he will go next; perhaps we could try 1600m, but we know he is very capable over 1200m, so we the team have options with him and a decision to make.”
Earlier in the card, seven went to post for the main support race, the US$200,000 Group 2 Al Rashidiya but from a long way out, there was only going to be one winner with Godolphin’s Benbatl supplying Saeed bin Suroor a sixth win in the race. The 1800m event was first contested in 2000.
Confidently ridden by Oisin Murphy, he quickened to the front halfway up the straight and was never in any danger afterward. This effort followed an equally impressive course and distance win in the Group 3 Singspiel Stakes on the first night of the carnival three weeks ago. Benbatl led home a Godolphin 1-2-3 with the Charlie Appleby duo, Bay of Poets and Bravo Zolo second and third.
“He is a horse we have always really liked and he has won this well tonight, following up his course and distance win in the Singspiel Stakes on the first night of the carnival,” bin Suroor said. “Obviously we will have to talk to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, but the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday and then hopefully the Group 1 Dubai Turf on Dubai World Cup night, both over this course and distance, would be the obvious targets.”
Murphy added: “He gave me a great feel throughout the race and well done to Saeed and his team, who have produced him here tonight in great form. We were drawn widest in seven, but they went quickly enough so that was not an issue as I was able to settle him and get a lead. This is a seriously nice horse and, as he showed again here, he has a serious turn-of-foot, which is a potent weapon in these races.”
The Mina Rashid, a 1600m dirt handicap, may only have attracted five runners, but it looked a quality heat, making the victory by Godolphin’s Boynton all the more impressive under William Buick. Winner of the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at two in 2016, he had not won since. Gelded since his previous run, in November, he was soon in front here and chased throughout by well-regarded Doug Watson trainee Kimbear. Turning for home, Buick’s mount was soon in control and out-kicked said foe, with the pair well clear of the rest in the end.
“He broke a fraction slowly, but once into his stride, we were always going strongly and I was able to get a bit of a breather into him which helped,” Buick said. “When I asked him to go again, he responded very well and that was a good performance. The whole team have always held this horse in the highest regard and he has been training very well on dirt at home, but this was his first race on it. His pedigree suggested it would suit and it certainly has. A fast-run 1600m is ideal for him, but he does stay 2000m, so there are plenty of options for him.”
Appleby added: “It is nice to see him get his head back in front and I think gelding him has really helped. I imagine we will stick to 1600m for now with the Firebreak Stakes the next logical target.”
The meeting began with the only Purebred Arabian race on the card, the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge over 2200m on the dirt and, just as had the 1600m first round three weeks ago, it developed into a duel between Paddy’s Day and Barnamaj, with the latter proving best in the end in an exciting photo finish.
Winning jockey Jim Crowley said: “He ran a great race first time on his dirt debut when showing he handles the surface and he stayed every yard of the longer trip tonight. Over this longer distance, I was pretty confident coming here tonight and the horse has delivered in gutsy fashion. Remember, it was only his second dirt outing and he is still learning about racing on a different surface.”
UAE champion trainer Watson may have been denied on that occasion but was in the winner’s enclosure after the Mina Rashid Marina, a 1400m dirt handicap, in which Drafted finished fast and late to snatch victory under Sam Hitchcott.
Hitchcott said: “He is a very straightforward to ride because he does not mind the kickback, so you can take your time on him and take the shortest route home. The extra 200m might have been a query, but he has really stayed on strongly and won that well.”
The Jafza, a 1200m turf handicap, produced a desperately close finish with Jordan Sport making up for being narrowly denied in a three-way photo finish over 1000m last week by winning his own photo-finish over late-charging Godolphin pupil Steady Pace.
Winning rider Gerard Mosse said: “My horse went very quick early on and I was trying to keep something in the locker for late on. The second horse was coming at us in the final strides and, at the line, it was very close, but my horse had his head down when it mattered. With 200m to go, I was still travelling very strongly. In the last 100m, the horse was telling me he was getting tired, so I was delighted to get to the line still ahead.”
The concluding Hamdan Bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal, a 2410m turf handicap, produced an exciting victory by Godolphin’s bin Suroor-trained Gold Star, who produced a belated rally under Christophe Soumillon to win by a short head over Appleby-trained banner-mate Walton Street.
“He had to be a very good horse to win the way we did,” Soumillon said. “He gave me a great effort.”
On another night flush with royal blue in the winner’s enclosure, the final tally was four wins for Godolphin, with two each for bin Suroor and Appleby.