With $1.8 million in purse money up for grabs, Meydan’s March 4 Super Saturday card is placed three weeks out from the March 25 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
The major prep for the main event, the Super Saturday card comprises seven races, six of them stakes and most with major implications for the World Cup fields. The centerpiece of the card is the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) at 10 furlongs over the dirt track.
The field of eight that answered the call to the post for this race included Furia Cruzada, the Chilean-bred winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 Sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminum (G2) and Japan-bred Lani, the gray son of Tapit who created such a media sensation last year by securing his home country a victory in the UAE Derby Sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) before moving his tack to the U.S., and tackling the Triple Crown trail. Unplaced in the first two legs, he finished third in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
Dismissed in the Round 3 field was Sheikh Hamadan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Long River. The Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy, out of the multiple grade 1-winning Awesome Again mare Round Pond, finished second in the one-mile Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 Presented by Elegance in Equestrian (G2), but struggled to the wire eighth over 9 1/2 furlongs in Furia Cruzada’s Round 2 triumph.
Third time proved the charm for the chestnut, who is trained by Salem bin Ghadayer. Under regular rider Mickael Barzalona, Long River took a rail trip as Special Fighter—making his first start in 343 days—broke well to lead in the first few strides out of the gate. The eventual winner soon headed his rival to lead the field throughout the trip down the backstretch and into the stretch.
Special Fighter, who won Round 3 last year, led a challenge at the 600-meter mark, but Barzalona asked a willing partner for more and the two crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Special Fighter, who had 1 1/4 lengths on Furia Cruzada. Last year’s International Bosphorus Cup (G2) winner Move Up, also making his first start of the year, finished fourth.
“We have always known Long River had the potential to win a big race and he has really stepped up tonight,” Barzalona said. “We did not go quickly, so I was always confident he would stay the trip given the steady pace we raced at.
“He really picked up nicely when I asked him and he will be back in three weeks."
Lani, who broke well, lost touch with the peloton and, perhaps feeling the wear and tear of the journey and quarantine, was never in contention. He finished sixth, some 16 lengths behind the winner. The finishing time for the 10 furlongs on a fast track was 2:04.20, well off California Chrome ’s track record of 2:01.83 set in last year’s Dubai Word Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1).
The most exciting race of the day belonged to the Jebel Hatta Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) at about nine furlongs on the turf course.
Irish invader Decorated Knight, a 5-year-old by Galileo out of the Storm Cat mare Pearling (a full sister to leading sires Giant's Causeway and Freud ), came into the race off a win in the Betway Winter Derby Trial over Lingfield’s all-weather course in early February.
Owned by Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar, the Roger Charlton trainee faced 11 others over the good turf course. Jockey Andrea Atzeni contentedly allowed Decorated Knight to settle mid-field, as Godolphin’s 4-year-old Folkswood set the pace, followed by his stablemate Promising Run, one of two females in the field.
The earnest running began some two furlongs before the finish. Having encountered a bit of a traffic jam in the stretch run, Decorated Knight found some room and once clear, with a quick turn of foot, caught Folkswood near the wire to win by a neck, with the mare Muffri'Ha another neck behind and a neck better than South Africa’s Sanshaawes. The final time was 1:49.95.
Atzeni wasn’t quite so fortunate in the Dubai City of Gold Sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo (G2). Aboard last year’s Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines (G1) winner Postponed, who was making his first start in 153 days, Atzeni just failed to catch Godolphin’s 4-year-old gelding Prize Money at the end of the about 12 furlongs of Meydan turf.
The winner, trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by Adrie De Vries, captured his first stakes. Earlier in the Meydan meet he won a handicap over the same course and distance. Bred by Darley in Great Britain, Prize Money is out of the Elusive Quality mare Dresden Doll. Godolphin’s Emotionless finished third behind the winning time of 2:29.33.
Darley stallion Exceed And Excel sired two of the group stakes winners on the Super Saturday card. In the eight-furlong dirt trip of the Burj Nahaar Sponsored by Emirates Holidays (G3), Heavy Metal posted a 6 1/2-length rout of the 13-horse field and gave the owner/trainer/jockey combo of Sheikh Hamdand bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Salem bin Ghadayer, and Barzalona their second graded victory of the day. In the Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored by Emirates Skywards (G3), Exceed And Excel’s 7-year-old son Morawij raced six dirt furlongs in 1:11.23 to score a head victory for owner Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam and jockey Christopher Hayes.
The only listed race on the Meydan card, the Al Bastakiya Sponsored by Emirates Skyward, was won by U.S. representative Cosmo Charlie, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred colt from the first crop of Stay Thirsty. Qatar Man finished second by a length, and five lengths ahead of Capezzano.
Doug Watson trains the newly turned black-type winner whom Patrick Dobbs guided for Frankie O’ Connor’s Kildare Stud. Roger Braugh bred the dark bay colt, who was an $85,000 purchase at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale.