South African star mare Igugu will be reunited with regular rider Anthony Delpech for the $300,000 Jebel Hatta Sponsored By Emirates Airline (UAE-I) March 9 at Meydan as she returns to take on Godolphin's Sajjhaa, who defeated her two weeks ago.
The 1,800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) turf test is the final race on Meydan's Super Saturday card and one of two group I anchoring an evening of seven Thoroughbred stakes.
With Christophe Soumillon aboard Feb. 14 in the Balanchine (UAE-II) at the same distance, Igugu was beaten by Sajjhaa while making her first start in 13 months since winning the prestigious J&B Met (SAf-I) to cap a seven-race win streak that included a sweep of South Africa's Triple Crown for fillies.
Sajjhaa, who got an ideal stalking trip behind the pacesetting South African Horse of the Year, swooped to a 4 1/4-length triumph in course record time. Igugu, whom trainer Mike de Kock said pre-race was not at her peak of fitness, faded to third as the overwhelming favorite. She has been installed as the 3-to-1 morning-line favorite for the Jebel Hatta.
Delpech leaves for Dubai March 6. He guided Igugu in the J&B Met and the filly classics and will be back aboard the Australian-bred Galileo mare for a workout March 7.
The jockey said he was thrilled but a bit jittery to team with Igugu again in the Jebel Hatta as she bids to rebound from the heartbreaking loss.
"One wouldn't be human not to feel nervous about the occasion," Delpech said on de Kock's website. "But I am also very excited. I know that the whole of (South Africa) will be watching and expecting Igugu to set the record straight. So that is a lot of pressure and expectation, but she has shown how good she is and I know how good she is. She will be a fitter horse this time, and I just hope that everything goes well for us in the race."
Soumillon will be aboard Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's South African champion The Apache, winner of the Al Rashidiya (UAE-II) from City Style Jan. 31 at Meydan. The 5-year-old Mogok horse is the 4-to-1 second wagering choice in the 10-horse field.
De Kock and Sheikh Mohammed also will be represented by last year's front-running Jebel Hatta winner Master of Hounds, who finished second in the Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-II) Feb. 21.
In her defeat of Igugu in the Balanchine, Sajjhaa smashed the turf course record, covering the trip in 1:48.58. Mahbooba held the previous record of 1:50.27, set in last year's edition of the race.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the 6-year-old King's Best mare is going for a third consecutive victory at the meet after completing a distaff double that includes her 3 3/4-length victory in the Cape Verdi (UAE-II) Jan. 24. Silvestre De Sousa was aboard for the wins, but William Buick is in the irons for the Jebel Hatta, in which she is 5-to-1 on the morning line.
De Sousa has the mount on Godolphin's Sharestan, a 5-year-old Shamardal horse who was second in last year's edition of the Jebel Hatta. Winner of an 1,800-meter conditions race Jan. 10, he enters off a third to The Apache in the Al Rashidiya.
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