The thrills, efforts and complexities of finding the perfect horse to aim at the $ 31.5 million Dubai World Cup meeting in three weeks were in ample evidence when Meydan Racecourse hosted its annual Super Saturday extravaganza.
It was the same stage where an anticipated audience of over 50,000 racing fans would gather on March 25 for one of the world’s most highly-anticipated equine events, with millions more watching on television around the globe.
As anticipated, the all-powerful Godolphin stable, who have won more races than anyone else on the big night, won two of the nine races on the card sponsored by Emirates Airline. But it was Bahraini owner/trainer Fawzi Nass and reigning UAE champion trainer Bhupat Seemar who perhaps left the course with the biggest takeaways.
After sampling Dubai World Cup success last year when Switzerland blitzed his rivals to win the $ 2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, Seemar’s appetite for more Group 1 race glory has doubled. A pair of big wins on Saturday with Sound Money in the Mahab Al Shimaal, the prep for the Golden Shaheen, and Discovery Island in the Burj Nahar, the lead-up race to the $1m Godolphin Mile, will go a long way to rekindle new Dubai World Cup dreams for the master of Zabeel Stables.
Also evoking visions of big-race glory was Nass, who has enjoyed a fantastic 2022-2023 season in the UAE, and will now hope to put the icing on the cake three weeks from now.
The masterful handler, who last saddled a winner on Dubai World Cup day when Krypton Factor won the Golden Shaheen in 2012, has not one but two bullets to aim at races like the big race itself with a rejuvenated Salute The Soldier and UAE Derby with Go Soldier Go.
The ageless Salute The Soldier reprised his 2021 victory in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge with a huge performance under multiple-time Dutch champion Adrie de Vries and could now be given another shot at the Dubai World Cup.
“He seems to have found the stamina that we were worried about before and could be back at his very best,” said de Vries.
Nass’ veteran was completing a quick double for connections after Go Soldier Go announced himself as a leading player for the UAE Derby with a battling neck victory over Mr Raj and jockey Ray Dawson.
“He’s got a beautiful stride and looks like he can improve further,” said De Vries. “He’s still a little immature when he’s in the middle of many horses, but when he finds his stride he travels really well.”
One of the many highlights of the evening was the Jebel Hatta, which was won for the second year in a row by the Shadwell-bred Al Fareeq and Dane O’Neill.
But the son of Dark Angel needed to be at his best before prevailing by a neck in a thrilling three-horse finish and will now head to the $6m Dubai Turf with genuine chances.
“He is nothing but tough and my gosh, he dug deep for that,” said O’Neill. “He deserved that and all credit to Musabeh Al Mheri (trainer) who has done a great job with him. He’s a horse that has grown in confidence and stature.”
Another turf highlight was the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold which was won convincingly by the Appleby-trained and William Buick-ridden Global Storm, who led home a 1-2 for the Epsom Derby-winning handler.
Buick and Appleby would claim another significant victory when Al Suhail stormed home to land the second running of the Ras Al Khor.
“He showed his versatility,” said Buick. “He’s got a huge engine when he is like that he’s a hugely exciting horse to ride. He’s learning to relax and if he can tame that energy he can be a serious horse.”
That could also be said of Al Dasim who scorched home to win the Group3 Nad Al Sheba Sprint under big-race jockey Mickael Barzalona. The speedy son of Harry Angel is unbeaten this season a looks like the horse to beat in the $1m Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night.
Super Saturday began as it always does, with the final round of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge for Purebred Arabians which produced a surprise winner in Jugurtha De Monlau who was ridden with confidence by James Doyle.
The winner will now head to the $1m Dubai Kahayla Classic where he should start as one of the favourites.