Championship Headlines Record Setting Weekend at Meydan

Championship with Colm O'Donoghue up. ©Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club

It was more than luck that saw three group wins and two track records go to Irish runners in week seven of the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

Championship earned his second for Erin in this Carnival season in the featured Group 2 Zabeel Mile, finishing nearly three lengths better than Noah From Goa over the 1600 meter turf course with Godolphin’s Cymric a head back in third. The winner of the 1400m Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort a month ago at Meydan would not be slowed by the 3.5 lb. weight penalty he carried for his previous success, setting a new track record in 01:35:19. The 6-year-old gelded son of Exceed And Excel is certainly doing that this Carnival season, leaving trainer Ahmad bin Harmash the pleasant puzzle of deciding which race to aim for on Dubai World Cup day, March 25.

“That was his best effort yet, especially under the penalty,” noted winning rider Colm O’Donoghue. “He can stay longer distances, but has the speed for shorter ones. I’m not sure what his next target will be, so we’ll just enjoy this win.”

Ertijaal evaded Godolphin’s Jungle Cat by 2-3/4 lengths over 1000 meters of savannah in the Group 3 Meydan Sprint with Roger Fell-trained Caspian Prince felled by another 4-1/4 lengths. Jim Crowley piloted the Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-saddled 6-year-old by Oasis Dream, blistering to a new track record in a mere 00:55:90.

Ertijaal and Jim Crowley win the Meydan Sprint in record fashion. ©Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club

“I just sat on him and let him go through the gears,” explained Crowley of his record ride. “For me, he’s only doing a canter for the first half of the race.”

Only six contenders went to the post in the 1-1/8 mile Group 2 Balanchine Turf for fillies and mares, which ended in a 1-2-3 Irish finish. 4-year-old filly Opal Tiara got her neck over Via Firenze with Muffri’Ha back another 1-1/4 lengths. Post time favorite Very Special was a very un-special fifth on a rare night without a win for the hometown powerhouse Godolphin.

The success against Very Special has winning trainer Mick Channon eyeing a larger World Cup day target. “We have to be delighted with that but we were pretty confident going in this time against Very Special,” enthused Channon. “We will sit down and think about it, but the Group 1 Dubai Turf could be a target for her on the Dubai World Cup card.”

Opal Tiara (2nd from left) with Oisin Murphy aboard. ©Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club

The card-closing 1-1/4 mile Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes, named for the late beloved winner of the bi-millennial Dubai World Cup, went to Zarak and Carnival-leading jockey Christophe Soumillon, with Earnshaw 1-3/4 lengths less earnest and Promising Run showing less promise by another 1-1/2 lengths.

The evening opened with Raven’s Corner never more better in uncrowning King Cole by 1-1/4 lengths in the 1400-meters dirt handicap, while Mathematics could calculate only a third.

Jockey Mickael Barzalona put the pedal to Heavy Metal in strumming a 1600-meters dirt handicap win, with Nahr nowhere to be seen nearly 4 lengths back with Brex Drago dragging in third by another length and a quarter.

Stunned did just that by a length-and-a-half to Ross and four other higher-rated foes in the 1400-meters Watch Time dirt handicap.

With only one Thursday Carnival meet remaining until the March 4 Super Saturday and final preps for Dubai World Cup day, the upcoming card will feature two more Group 3 races with the biggie being the $250,000 dirt UAE Oaks, along with the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba offering $200,000 of green over the green. There are two listed runs as well—the Curlin handicap on dirt and the turf Meydan Classic.

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