Racing at Meydan returned on Thursday evening with a seven-race, all-dirt card, including five competitive handicaps and a pair of 1600m maidens.
Proceedings began with the first of the maidens, the Longines Ladies Master Collection, contested by six juveniles foaled in the northern hemisphere of whom four were making their debuts. Ahmad bin Harmash-trained Superior, who lived up to his name, prevailed after a titanic struggle with Doug Watson-trained fellow debuter Martial Art.
A thrilling stretch duel between the two well-regarded colts made for an inspiring glimpse of what could be two future Meydan stars.
A son of the impeccably swift sprinter Majesticperfection, Superior continued the perfect start to racehorse ownership for the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate, whose first ever runner, Walking Thunder, won a 1400m maiden at Meydan last Thursday. Both were ridden by Connor Beasley.
“As with Walking Thunder, we were hopeful because his work at home had been good,” bin Harmash said. “Obviously, we are delighted to have won the first two maidens for the 2-year-olds.”
Phoenix Ladies principal Pamela Cordina added: “Amazing. We could not have hoped for a better start and, again, credit to Ahmad who was confident and Connor for another great ride. I would be hesitant to suggest we’re finding this game easy. A lot of hard work goes into finding and preparing winners, but at the moment we’re proving that with the right preparation, study of races and pedigrees, you can have success.
“A massive thank you to Ahmed and his staff for their hard work and to Connor for giving our two runners such great rides. We want to get more women involved in racing and this syndicate is an ideal way for them to do that.”
Superior is a half-brother to four winners and their dam is a half-sister to the dam of Grade 2 winners War Story and Land Over Sea.
The official feature was the Longines V H P Collection, a 1400m handicap, which appeared highly competitive on paper with its eight runners.
However, Taamol, who pulled noticeably early under Dane O’Neill, had enough to quicken clear, outclassing his rivals. O’Neill, who had the choice of three for his boss, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was able to settle Taamol in behind Lytham St Annes and Mazeed. He briefly had to niggle his mount on the home turn, but they soon had the other pair in their sights and ultimately posted a comfortable triumph, completing a double on the card for trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
“We were very hopeful today when dropping the horse in class and knew he was in good form coming into the race,” Al Rayhi said. “Hopefully he can follow this up.”
O’Neill added: “I was quite impressed with him though a bit worried because he was sweating on the way to the start. He broke well and was a bit fresh early on, but once I had a bit of cover, I was happy most of the way round. He was always highly regarded in England and now, having had a Dubai summer on his back, has acclimatised properly and he could be a nice horse this season on either surface.”
The Al Rayhi double was initiated in the second 1600m maiden, the Longines La Grande Classic Collection, which was run at a searing gallop throughout the first half of the race with at least half of the 12 runners seeming to want to lead. Of those who did race prominently, Roy Orbison was the only one to remain in contention throughout, leading halfway up the straight and soon with the race in safe keeping. Fernando Jara was in the saddle for Al Rayhi and owner Mohd Khalifa Al Basti.
They may have been denied in the opener with Martial Art, but Dobbs and Doug Watson soon gained compensation, teaming up to land the following Longines Gents Record Collection, a 2000m handicap, with Al Basti’s Tried and True, who completed a one-two finish for Doug Watson, as Grand Argentier finished second.
Watson said: “Pat has given him a great ride and was able to settle him off the speed, but keep out of the kickback before he ran on very strongly in the straight. He had been training very well and we thought the small field would suit him because he does not like the kickback. Grand Argentier was slowly away, but has still run very well. We also had Storm Belt in there, but he was hampered, which cost him his chance.”
Touch Gold Racing were a second syndicate to celebrate a victory on the card, courtesy of Welford, who was the comfortable winner of the Longines Master Collection Moon Phase, a 1600m handicap, with Richard Mullen in the saddle for Satish Seemar.
Twice a winner in Great Britain when trained by Mark Johnston for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, this was just his fourth UAE outing and second of the current campaign. Welcomed to the winner’s enclosure by a large crowd of enthusiastic owners, connections revealed this race was identified as a target when the conditions book was announced.
“We knew the 1200m was on the short side for him last time and he has had a few problems since we have had him,” said syndicate manager Mike Kaye.
“Therefore we decided to give him a run at Jebel Ali, where he does not really like the hill, with this race in mind over 1600m. He will probably have a month off and then come back over 1600m or perhaps step up to 2000m. We really hope he is a Dubai World Cup Carnival horse.”
In similar fashion, jockey and trainer wasted no time in doubling up with Lavaspin, who ran out the comfortable winner of the Longines Ladies Record Collection, a handicap over 1200m. Owned by Mohd Khaleed Ahmed, this was only Lavaspin’s fifth career outing and first at Meydan, having won once in his penultimate outing.
“It was the first time he had raced around the turn, having only run on the straight at Jebel Ali, so that was a concern,” Mullen said.
“I was able to get inside other horses on the bend, which was ideal. In the end, though we were hopeful, he has probably won in better style than I expected.”
The concluding 1600m handicap, the Longines Dolce Vita Collection, featured a well-timed ride by Xavier Ziani on His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Sandeep Jadhav-trained Untold Secret, who waited patiently for daylight on the rail behind the leaders turning for home.
Once the proverbial seas parted, the son of Shamardal scooted clear with authority and won with something in reserve.