Unbeaten South African champion Soft Falling Rain controlled the pace and scored a dominant 2 1/2-length victory in the $110,000 Duty Free Jumeirah Creekside United Arab Emirates Two Thousand Guineas Trial Jan. 17 at Meydan.
Toting a 137-pound impost and trying 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) for the first time while making his first start outside of his native county, Soft Falling Rain was ready to run after nearly nine months without a race. With Paul Hanagan aboard, the National Assembly colt led soon after the start and was never seriously challenged before coasting across the finish line for the clear win.
I’m Back was second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Snowboarder, who broke through the gate before the start.
Trained by Mike de Kock, Soft Falling Rain was timed in 1:23.68 on the all-weather track to remain undefeated in five career starts for owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum. He was sent off the 8-to-5 favorite in North American pools hosted by Kentucky-based simulcast company AmWest Entertainment.
“You just never know how they will cope with the surface in a race and he had a lot of weight to carry over a new trip," de Kock said. "I was very hopeful but it is nice to see him win like that and we will be back for the Guineas (UAE-III, on Feb. 14) and take it from there."
De Kock said the 1,900-meter (about 1 3/16-mile) distance of the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-II) would be a concern, but added that the Godolphin Mile (UAE-I) might be a goal if all goes well. Both are on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) undercard March 30.
South Africa's Equus champion 2-year-old last season, Soft Falling Rain entered with four easy wins in as many career starts, including the South African Nursery Stakes (SAf-I) Apr. 28 at Turffontein in his previous start. He was bred by Highlands Farms Stud, which is owned by the Beck family of Gainesway in Lexington.
Sheikh Hamdan bought Soft Falling Rain, who is out of the winning Giant's Causeway mare Gardener’s Delight, for 350,000 rands at the inaugural Cape Premier Sale in 2011 in Cape Town. He is from the family of 1995 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Gal in a Ruckus.
In a one-two finish for the Maktoum family's Godolphin, Music Chart uncoiled a strong outside rally and surged past 4-to-5 favorite Shuruq in closing strides to win the $50,000 Dubai Duty Free Dubai Golf World U.A.E. One Thousand Guineas Trial.
The two spurted clear of the front-runners in the stretch after racing near the back of the 10-horse field early and battled toward the finish line. Music Chart gave a final determined lunge when asked by jockey Mickael Barzalona to secure the win by three-quarters of a length.
"She has good speed and she is a nice filly who will win again," Barzalona said of Music Chart, who covered the 1,400-meter test on the all-weather track in 1:24.50 as the 7-to-2 second wagering choice.
The dark bay or brown filly has won two of three career starts trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni.
Saeed bin Suroor-trained Shuruq outfinished More Than Sotka by 5 1/2 lengths for second.
Bred in Kentucky by Bedford Bloodstock, Music Chart, by Three Chimneys Farm stallion Exchange Rate was a $230,000 purchase by Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock adviser John Ferguson out of the Gainesway consignment at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale. She is out of the winning Cozzene mare Conchita, a half sister to English group I winner White Moonstone.
Barzalona and Al Zarooni also teamed to win two other races, including the evening's final race with Godolphin's Anatolian, who defeated sensational Indian mare In the Spotlight when winning the 2,410-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) race in a tight finish with Ahzeemah, another Godolphin runner. In the Spotlight finished fourth in her first start outside of India.
In the second race, the jockey-trainer duo combined to win with Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid al Matoum’s Laajooj, who lowered the all-weather track record for 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) to 2:01.75.
Bred in Ireland by Kildaragh Stud, the 5-year-old son of Azamour out of English stakes winner Flanders, by Common Grounds, improved to four wins from ten career starts, including his win in the 2011 Novae Bloodstock Fairway Stakes at Newmarket. He is a half brother to 2004 Miesque Stakes (gr. III) winner Louvain, who is the dam of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) winner Flotilla and stakes winner Louvakhova.