We all know change can be a good thing. That maxim was proved at the World Cup Carnival as Furia Cruzada changed countries for the fifth time, trainers for the eighth time and surfaces for the third time. The ch-ch-ch-changes worked as the 5-year-old Chilean mare beat eight male rivals to score a surprise nose win in the 1-1/8-mile Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 on the dirt under a rainy sky at Meydan Thursday.
Hopping a plane to Dubai, joining the Erwan Charpy UAE stable and switching back to dirt clearly agreed with the gritty mare in snaring her seventh win in 22 starts.
Second Summer was second by a nose with Korea’s Power Blade lacking any to finish five more lengths behind in third. Favored Le Bernardin captured his second consecutive win in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 Jan. 5, but could manage only a fourth-place finish by a neck in Round 2. The 8-year-old son of Bernardini finished third last year.
It was uncertain if the rain that began at the start of the race had any effect on the outcome, won in 1:58.85 on a fast track, but still well off the 1:56.51 track record at this distance (Mizbah, 2016).
After a promising start to her career in South America that would include three Group 1 and one Group 2 consecutive wins in 2014 and 2015, the daughter of Newfoundland (by Nuestra Machi) and granddaughter of Storm Cat could only flirt with Group turf success throughout a 2016 spent at England’s Newmarket. The best she could manage in four graded contests there was two seconds and two thirds. Her last win was a 2015 Group 1 triumph in the Gran Premio Criadores in Argentina.
Trainer Charpy had no immediate comment on her next race, but a possible start in the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 or the Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday March 4 in preparation for a Dubai World Cup day start seems in the offing if Italian-born winning jockey Antonio Fresu has a vote.
“She is very tough,” asserted Fresu. “She loves the dirt and, to be honest, she is not 100% fit. I ride her every day, so I know. I am looking forward to her next race. I think she will improve.”
The Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 is a usual prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the listed Al Bastakiya for the Group 2 UAE Derby.
Another favorite was upended in the co-featured 3/4-mile Group 3 Al Shindagha dirt sprint as Cool Cowboy stalked Muarrab and lassoed the 2016 Group 1 Golden Shaheen winner to corral a neck win under Pat Dobbs. Wild Dude was a wide-open 4 3/4 lengths behind in third. The 6-year-old son of Kodiak Kowboy was saddled back from his usual mile distance by trainer Doug Watson with promising results.
“I settled him in behind the runners and he loved racing on their heels,” said Dobbs. “I was tracking the right horse in Muarrab before digging in deep in the final 200 meters.”
A start in the mile-long Group 3 dirt Burj Nahaar, which he won last year, seems likely before Watson makes a decision which race to aim for in the big rodeo March 25. Cool Cowboy finished third in last year’s Group 2 Godolphin Mile tilt. Dobbs’ post-race comments seem to suggest a stall at the shorter dirt distance in the Golden Shaheen might be where he prefers to toss his hat.
“Credit to Doug and the team as it was their idea to drop back to this 1200 meter trip,” asserted Dobbs. “He really looks like a sprinter and has shown a lot more speed this year.”
Watson was completing a double on the evening after winning the card-opening Billets handicap with Grand Argentier and jockey Sam Hitchcott over 1-1/8-miles of clay. Galvanize could only be impelled to a second-place finish by 2½ lengths with Vivernus diverted another 3/4 of a length to third.
Trainer Charpy also cheered a double with Zamaam the man by 1-1/4 lengths over Los Barbados and Red Galileo beached another 1-1/2 lengths in third after two exhausting miles of turf in the Casthouse handicap. Jim Crowley boarded the winner.
It’s a rare night when the boys in Godolphin blue don’t earn some green and they didn’t disappoint hometown fans, earning a 1-3 finish in mile-long Potlines turf. Cymric with William Buick aboard grabbed the sword from Elite Excalibur by a half-length with American Hope hoping for more than third by another length.
A steady rainfall did not prevent Sanshaawes from closing Dylan Mouth by 1-1/4 lengths in the 1-1/4-mile Jebel Ali turf handicap with Belgian Bill a soggier third by a short head.
The seasonal rain was falling heavily by evening’s end, adding to the excitement of the card’s most competitive race as the first seven of the 14 runners all were within a length at the finish of the 5-furlong Al Taweelah turf handicap.
Speed Hawk flew to the photo finish a beak in front of Medicean Man who threw a wet blanket on Fityaan by a neck. Sole Power, Caspian Prince, Line Of Reason and Taexali completed the magnificent seven.
The Carnival runs past the halfway pole this week with meetings both Thursday and Saturday, an event that happens only once a year. Thursday’s card features the dirt $250,000 UAE 1000 Guineas. Two Group 3 dirt features headline the Saturday card, the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas and the Firebreak Stakes.