Derbaas and Richard Hills take the Al Fahidi Fort at Meydan.

Derbaas and Richard Hills take the Al Fahidi Fort at Meydan.

Andrew Watkins

Derbaas Springs Upset in Al Fahidi Fort

Derbaas held off Raihana to take the Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-IIT) at Meydan Feb. 17.

Derbaas held off the late challenge of heavily-favored Raihana to capture the $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort Sponsored by Commercial Bank of Dubai (UAE-IIT) at Meydan Racecourse Feb. 17. The group II contest serves as a major prep for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes (UAE-IT) on March 26, and was one of a pair of stakes races that highlighted the Thursday evening card at Meydan.

The victory by the son of Seeking the Gold capped a memorable night for his trainer, Ali Rashid Al Raihe, who also notched wins on the program with Green Beret and Haatheq.

Longshot Silverside broke alertly and was sent straight to the front by jockey Julien Grosjean. They were followed closely by Derbaas, who was skimming along the inside rail under Richard Hills. Thai Haku sat just behind that pair in third, as Raihana tracked them from fifth.

The order remained unchanged as the field raced down the backstretch, with Silverside continuing to hold a length advantage over Derbaas. Thai Haku and Bushman came next, with Raihana still running comfortably in sixth.

Derbaas swept past Silverside on the far turn and hit the top of the stretch with the lead. Under a strong drive by Hills, Derbaas continued to draw off down the lane, and had plenty left in the tank to hold off the late charge of Raihana, who could only draw to within a half-length.

Outsider Le Drakkar got up for third, another 1 1/4 lengths further back. Final time for the one mile turf contest was 1:37.82 over a course labeled ‘good’.

It was the fourth straight victory over the Meydan turf course for Derbaas, who has improved his record to five wins in 17 lifetime starts.

Hills, who also had the option of riding Snaafy in the race, told reporters afterwards, “He’s improved again since the last time and when you have horses that improve in the UAE, you’ve got to stick with them.”

Derbaas was bred in Kentucky by Shadwell Farm, and is owned by Sheikh Hamdan. He is out of the winning Storm Cat mare, Sultana, who is a full-sister to the multiple group I winner, Aljabr.

Claremont Determined Winner of Nad Al Sheba Trophy

Two races prior to the Al Fahidi Fort, Claremont held off challenges from both Star Empire and Opinion Poll to take the listed $175,000 Nad Al Sheba Trophy Sponsored by Al Dana Wealth Management.

Settled into mid-division by jockey Mickael Barzalona, the son of Sadler's Wells traveled easily behind the crawling early pace set by Mojave Moon. Star Empire, with Christophe Soumillon aboard, sat just behind the leader in second, while the slight favorite Opinion Poll was placed at the back of the pack along with Drunken Sailor and Pompeyano.

Midway through the 14-furlong contest, Mojave Moon continued to show the way, opening up by as many as eight lengths on the rest of the field as they traveled down the backstretch. Star Empire continued to gallop along in second, as Claremont edged closer into third. Opinion Poll continued to trail, some 15-16 lengths behind the leader.

Mojave Moon continued to cruise along in front as the field entered the final turn, and appeared to be on his way to an easy win. The complexion of the race changed rapidly, though, as the field entered the long homestretch. Mojave Moon’s lead quickly began to evaporate as both Star Empire and Claremont were set down for the drive.

Star Empire and Claremont overtook a tiring Mojave Moon, and battled neck and neck for several strides. Claremont and Barzalona eventually gained the advantage, opening up a couple of lengths over Star Empire in deep stretch. Opinion Poll, who had made up a tremendous amount of ground around the turn, was charging hard down the center of the track and was closing rapidly on Claremont.

It wasn’t quite enough, though, as Claremont was able to hold off Opinion Poll for a quarter-length victory. Star Empire held on for third, another 1 3/4 lengths further back. Final time for the 14-furlong marathon was 2:59.48 over a turf course listed as good.

Both the winner and runner-up are owned by Godolphin and trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni. Bred in Ireland by Darley, Claremont is a 5-year-old horse out Mezzo Soprano, by Darshaan. A champion at age three in England, Mezzo Soprano won the Prix Vermeille (Fr-I) and was third in the Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II), and hails from the immediate female family of champions Glorious Song, Devil's Bag, and Singspiel.