Under a whipping and driving Silvestre De Sousa, Godolphin filly Shuruq sped past pacesetter Empire Storm late and won the $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge-Round I (UAE-II) Presented by Longines in a quick time Jan. 9 at Meydan Racecourse.
The race was the featured event at the first meeting of the Dubai World Cup Carnival and Shuruq gave a standout performance as the only filly in the 10-horse field. She tracked off Empire Storm's slow early pace, advanced 600 meters out, and accelerated in the stretch to pass the runner-up 50 yards out to secure a three-quarter length triumph.
Shuruq, the first filly ever to win the Al Maktoum Challenge-Round I, was timed in a swift 1:35.24 for 1,600 meters (about one mile) on the all-weather track. She gave last season's leading trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, an eighth win in the race, the first round of a three-race series of preps for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 29.
Storming up the rail in a rally from the back of the field was Brendan Brackan, who just missed second by a short head. Making his first start in 14 months, 5-2 favorite Steeler was fourth, another 1 1/4 lengths back, while fan favorite and last year's winner Barbecue Eddie faded to finish ninth after racing close up early.
With the return to the Tapeta surface in the Maktoum Challenge, Shuruq unlocked a victory.
"She did it in good fashion," De Sousa said of the 4-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality who captured last season's United Arab Emirates Oaks (UAE-II) after finishing second in the United Arab Emirates One Thousand Guineas. "She likes the surface for sure.
"She is a lovely filly and one we think is improving. I was always pretty happy as I knew we would find a big effort when I asked her and she was running on strongly. She loves this surface and has again thrived in the Dubai weather."
De Sousa was the leading rider at the 2013 Carnival.
Shuruq improved her career line to 3-2-2 from nine career starts in making her first start in more than three months since a 10th-place in a listed stakes at Yarmouth Sept. 18 to cap a three-race winless stretch on turf in Great Britain.
The bay filly was bred in Kentucky by Darley out of English group II winner Miss Lucifer.
In North American pools hosted by Kentucky-based AmWest Entertainment, Shuruq returned $13 and $3.20. Empire Storm paid $13.40 to place. The 6-8 exacta returned $121.70.
One race earlier, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's Mushreq took the listed Singspiel Stakes Presented by Longines Prima Luma after bursting between rivals 300 meters out.
Ridden by Paul Hanagan for South African trainer Mike de Kock, the Australian-bred 5-year-old Flying Spur gelding won comfortably by 1 1/4 lengths from Gabrial, who was charging hard under Haley Turner to take second. Artigiano, a Distorted Humor colt who sped to the early lead, faded to third after being headed by paternal half brother Do It All with a quarter-mile to run. A hundred meters farther, Do It All was no match for Mushreq.
Mushreq covered 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) in 1:50.32 on firm turf to earn his fifth win from 17 career starts. The race is a prep for the $200,000 Al Rashidiya (UAE-II) Jan. 30 and Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) program March 29, both at the same distance.
Fresh from 285 days since his unplaced effort in the 2013 Dubai Duty Free after taking the Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-II) in February, Mushreq was the highest rated runner in the 12-horse field.
The 4-1 second choice in North American pools, Mushreq paid $10.20 and $3.60, while keying a $66.70 exacta with Gabrial, who paid $8.80 to place.
David Livingston, the 5-2 favorite, finished last after tracking the frontrunners and weakening with 600 meters to run.
The next meeting of the Dubai World Cup Carnival is set for Jan. 16 and features the listed Dubawi Stakes and trials for the listed United Arab Emirates One Thousand Guineas and United Arab Emirates Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-II). For more information, including past performance data, selections, videos, and more, visit amwestentertainment.com.