Super Saturday at Meydan Racecourse was highlighted by the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 sponsored by Emirates Airline, one of four dirt races on the card and won by Long River, sporting the silvery blue silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.
Drawn in stall two in a field of eight, Long River was soon in front under Mickael Barzalona, harried throughout by Special Fighter, seeking to become the first dual winner of a race he landed 12 months ago. Special Fighter was having his first start since an excellent fourth in the 2016 Dubai World Cup.
Entering the straight, the pair had the race to themselves with Fernando Jara and Special Fighter throwing down a serious challenge before tiring about 200m out when Barzalona’s mount started to pull away.
Trained by Salem bin Ghadayer, Long River was registering a first 2000m success and making his initial breakthrough in the UAE. In the process he completed a memorable double for connections who had already landed the Group 3 Burj Nahaar with Heavy Metal.
“We have always known Long River had the potential to win a big race and he has really stepped up tonight,” said Barzalona. “We did not go quickly so I was always confident he would stay the trip given the steady pace we raced at.
“He really picked up nicely when I asked him and he will be back in three weeks. The trainer will decide where he goes as he has the speed for the Godolphin Mile but I would imagine the Dubai World Cup would be the chosen option.”
Three horses, Dubai Millennium (2000), Street Cry (2002) and Electrocutionist (2006) have all won both this and the Dubai World Cup in the same season.
Of Heavy Metal’s facile six-length-and-a-half length win in the Burj Nahaar, Barzalona said: “He just loves racing like that on this dirt surface and that was a big performance.”
The meeting opened with the Listed Al Bastakiya Sponsored by Emirates Skywards, the trial for the UAE Derby over the same 1900m and restricted to three-year-olds.
Fawree unseated Bernard Fayd’Herbe as the stalls opened, while Pat Dobbs and the Doug Watson-trained Cosmo Charlie broke well and went straight to the front. They were never headed, bouncing back from a disappointing sixth in the UAE 2000 Guineas.
“We were slowly away last time and he was very green in the kickback,” said Dobbs. “He is a nice horse and, hopefully, a live contender for the UAE Derby.”
Chris Hayes then employed the same tactics on the Dhruba Selvaratnam-trained Morawij in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored by Emirates Skywards, over the same 1200m as the Group 1 Golden Shaheen.Third in that race last year, from a bad draw, he arrived here having won the 1000m Listed Jebel Ali Sprint on his previous start.
“The 1000m at Jebel Ali is a real test so the extra 200m here was never an issue,” said Hayes. “We needed to run here to try and get an invitation to come back for the Golden Shaheen.
“If we get a good draw this year, he will be very competitive.”
Source: Dubai Racing Club