Timing is everything and with Super Saturday a week away, Godolphin put its best clockers in the post and came away with a royal blue flush—three wins in six Thoroughbred contests including back-to-back 1-2-3 finishes.
Their top night began with an unexpected score by Top Score in the listed Meydan Classic over 7 furlongs on turf. Top Score was thought to be Godolphin’s third stringer in this race, but the 3-year-old son of Hard Spun flew to the finish under Adrie de Vries a half-length ahead of stablemate Fly At Dawn with Really Special a head behind.
“We actually missed the break but that probably helped us as I was able to get a nice lead,” explained De Vries. “I did not want to hit the front too soon, but I know this horse has plenty of speed. I am sure he would stay an extra 200 meters comfortably.”
That comfort with a longer distance could foreshadow a run at a possible score in the Dubai Turf or the Sheema Classic on World Cup day.
Hometown heroics followed with another 1-2-3 finish as Viren’s Army captained by Colm O’Donoghue marched to the finish line 1-1/2 lengths in front of Kidmenever in the featured 1-1/4-mile Al Naboodah turf handicap with Huge Future a lesser past by two lengths in third. The first two finishers were generaled by trainer Charlie Appleby.
“Viren’s Army disappointed me last time,” said Appleby. “But Colm gave him a great ride tonight. Kidmenever was strong and may be better over a longer distance.”
Godolphin’s Calare was denied however as fillies vied for the largest purse on the card, the $250,000 Group 3 1900-meters UAE Oaks. In that co-featured dirt contest, Nomorerichblondes was1-1/2 lengths richer than Midnight Chica with Complimenti earning a complimentary third by 3/4 of a length. Undefeated UAE 1000 Guineas winner Nashmiah sat out the race with a respiratory problem, giving the runnerup in that race her winning chance.
“We were unlucky last time in the Guineas but I knew this extra 300 meters would suit her,” said winning jockey Antonio Fresu of the Ahmad bin Harmash-trained winning daughter of Hard Spun. “She should improve from this and maybe even deserves a crack at the UAE Derby over the same course and distance.”
The UAE Derby on World Cup Day has proved to be the preliminary for exceptional runners in classic American races including Toast of New York, second in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic; Mubtaahij, eighth in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, second in the G1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga and third in the G2 Suburban handicap at Belmont; and last year’s winner, Lani, ninth in the Kentucky Derby, fifth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes.
Godolphin gained its third score on the evening when Beautiful Romance rhapsodized a 1-1/2-length Group 3 Nad Al Sheba trophy win under Oisin Murphy over 1-3/4 miles of turf. Dubai’s 2016 Gold Cup winner Vazirabad was in the lesser place and highest-rated favorite Sheikhzayedroad motored into third by another 3-1/4 lengths.
The card opened with the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 for Purebred Arabians, with Handassa handing Versac Py a half-length defeat in the 1-1/4-mile dirt contest.
The card closed with the evening’s closest race, a neck win by Suyoof denying Godolphin a fourth win by slightly less courageous Brave Zolo with only a short head to stablemate Tahanee.
The first-ever running of the listed Curlin handicap over the classic 1-1/4-mile distance on the dirt might have been the most interesting race on the card going forward as Etijaah bested former UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij by 2-1/2 lengths in a respectable 2:03.95 with Alabaster paler by another 4.5 lengths.
Winning trainer Doug Watson has to be scratching his head wondering where next to run his new potential star after passing on a Kentucky Oaks gate last year with filly Polar River.
Next week is Super Saturday, the official dress rehearsal for the March 25 Dubai World Cup Day. Featured will be the $400,000 Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 for Thoroughbreds, as well as the Group 3 Burj Nahaar and Mahab Al Shimal, all on the Meydan clay. Grass features include the $300,000 Group 1 Jebel Hatta and Group 2 $250,000 Dubai City Of Gold, along with the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.