Sajjhaa Upsets Igugu in Record Balanchine Win
Godolphin's Sajjhaa spoiled the highly anticipated return of South African Horse of Year Igugu in the $200,000 Balanchine Sponsored by Al Naboodah Construction Group (UAE-II) Feb. 21 as she rolled past the overwhelming favorite in the Meydan stretch and drew off to a turf course-record victory.
Spurting to the early lead under the firm hold of French champion jockey Christophe Soumillon, Igugu was starting for the first time in 13 months for trainer Mike de Kock and was eager to race. She was unable to shake off any remnants of rust from the long layoff, however, as she ran out of energy about a quarter-mile out, allowing Sajjhaa to blow past en route to a 3 1/4-length triumph.
Sajjhaa, who comfortably held back runner-up Prussian, was timed in 1:48.58 for the 1,800 meters (about nine furlongs) to eclipse the turf course record of 1:50.27 set by Mahbooba in last year's edition of the race. Igugu held on for third in the seven-horse field as the 1-to-5 favorite in North American pools hosted by Kentucky-based AmWest Entertainment. Sajjhaa was the 5-to-2 second choice.
Trainer Mike de Kock said Igugu just weakened after setting a swift early pace, and added that he still believed in his star mare.
"She got involved in fairly quick fractions early on and got tired. It was going to be tough to keep that gallop up the whole way," he said. "She pulled hard. She'll be back...I mean, nobody died."
With her Balanchine victory under Silvestre De Sousa, Sajjhaa completed a distaff double at the meet, following her 3 3/4-length victory in the Cape Verdi Sponsored by Meydan Hotels (UAE-II) Jan. 24. Her record of six wins and four seconds from 15 career starts includes a pair of listed stakes wins in England in 2010 and 2011, a group III win in Italy in 2010, and a runner-up finish to Izzi Top, a subsequent group I winner in Ireland and France, in the 2012 Betfred Middleton Stakes (Eng-II).
Godolphin racing manager said the 6-year-old King's Best mare, who is trained by Saeed bin Suroor, would be pointed to racing in the U.S. during the second half of the year.
Sajjhaa was bred in Great Britain by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum's Darley. She is out of the winning Darshaan mare Anaami. Grandam Noushkey was runner-up in the 1999 Vodafone Epsom Oaks (Eng-I). The family also includes French and Japanese group I winner and sire Alkaased.
Earlier on the card, de Kock sent out Await the Dawn to a turf course-record victory in the evening's second race, covering 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) in 2:01.54 under Pat Cosgrove.
Sent off the 8-to-5 favorite and toting high weight of 132 pounds, the 6-year-old Giant's Causeway horse stormed from off the pace and flew on the outside past frontrunner Starboard to lead 300 meters out for a 2 3/4-length triumph over French group III winner So Beautiful.
The English and Irish group winner took his career record to six wins in 11 starts. In his previous outing, Await the Dawn finished ninth after blowing the start in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (UAE-II) Feb. 7 while racing for the first time in 10 months.
Await the Dawn has raced creditably among Europe's best runners. His resume includes a third-place finish to Twice Over and Midday in the 2011 Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I) for previous owner Coolmore and partners. Last year, he set the early pace in the 2012 Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) before fading to last.
U.S.-based trainer Seth Benzel enjoyed his first win in Dubai when Dux Scholar won the evening's final race. The 5-year-old Oasis Dream horse captured the 1,000-meter (about five-furlong) race by 1 1/4 lengths and stamped himself a candidate for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-I) on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) undercard March 30.
A former assistant to trainers Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott, Benzel is currently the only U.S. trainer with runners at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. His string also includes Kadyrov's former Canadian champion Maritimer and European group winner Mikhail Glinka, winner of last year's Dubai City of Gold (UAE-II).
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