North American horses are usually prominent on World Cup night in Dubai, and this year they'll likely be joined by a British-bred rival named—wait for it—North America.
A 6-year-old son of Dubawi, North America was among the most impressive on Super Saturday at Meydan March 10, as the locally based horses sorted themselves out in preparation for the big night three weeks away. As is often the case at the glitzy track, the Godolphin team showed well, although not always with their best-fancied runners.
One of the few setbacks for Godolphin came in the penultimate race of the evening, the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored By Emirates Airline (G1), as North America shot right to the front and was never caught. He finished 2,000 meters in a track-record time of 2:01.71. The favorite, Godolphin's group 1 winner Thunder Snow, chased futilely down the stretch but was 5 1/4 lengths adrift at the end, with Furia Cruzada another 3 3/4 lengths back in third.
North America, trained by Satish Seemar for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, finished third in Round 1 of the challenge, then second to Thunder Snow in Round 2. His victory in the final round makes him the top local prospect for the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored By Emirates Airline (G1) March 31.
Winning rider Richard Mullen said he wasn't sure what to expect in the rubber match against Thunder Snow.
"You don't know. You think he has probably run the best race of his life last time," Mullen said. "The important thing was to get him out and into his rhythm. He was probably two lengths in front at the first bend.
"It was just a dominant display by a horse we always had faith in."
Godolphin capped a good night in the card's final event, the Dubai City of Gold Sponsored By Emirates SkyCargo (G2) as the 1-2-3 finish was all blue. Hawkbill edged old rival Frontiersman by a head, with Gold Star well back in third. Hawkbill, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy and a half brother to grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy, had to rally around the field from gate 11 but came even with pacesetting Frontiersman early in the stretch and survived a long, tight battle to the line.
Hawkbill finished the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:26.85—the fourth track record of the evening (two on each surface).
"He had to be versatile to cope with that," winning rider William Buick said of the outside gate and wide trip. "And he hadn't run in awhile. It was a great race and will stand him in good stead in the Sheema Classic." The Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) is a turf highlight on World Cup night.
The outcome mirrored that of the Princess of Wales's Arqana Racing Club Stakes (G2) last summer at Newmarket, where Hawkbill made all the going, then held on to edge Frontiersman by three-quarters of a length.
The first race on the Super Saturday card, the Al Bastakiya Sponsored By Emirates.com, pitted 3-year-olds aiming for the UAE Derby Sponsored By The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) on World Cup night.
Yulong Warrior, a Street Cry colt, emerged from a scramble for the lead, found another gear early in the stretch and shook free to win by 11 1/2 lengths over Nordic Defense. Rua Augusta, an Arch colt, was third. The favorite, Godolphin-trained Masar, faded badly on the turn and finished 10th in his first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) at Del Mar.
Yulong Warrior, with Mullen up for Seemar, got home in 1:58.05. He got the first win of his career in his previous start Feb. 3 over the same strip after he showed promise last summer in Ireland.
Godolphin produced a tour de force in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint Sponsored By Arabian Adventures, as trainers Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor sent out six of the first seven finishers, including the winner, Jungle Cat. The dominance was broken only by heavily favored Ertijaal, who finished second, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
The field split into two groups in the 1,200-meter fixture down the straight course, with Jungle Cat on the stands side trailing Ertijaal. In the final 200 meters, however, Buick got Jungle Cat to the front, and he drifted to the center of the course for the easy victory in a quick 1:08.24.
The Nad Al Sheba leads to the Al Quoz Sprint Sponsored By Azizi Developments (G1) on World Cup night.
The evening's dirt sprint, the Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored By Emirates Skywards, went to 11-1 shot Jordan Sport, a 5-year-old son of Dubawi who made his fifth start of the World Cup Carnival for owner and trainer Fawzi Abdulla Nass. Jordan Sport, under Adrie de Vries, sprinted clear in the lane to win by 7 1/4 lengths over Yalta, with Wild Dude third.
Godolphin's Comicas, one of the home team's better chances on the evening, never got into stride and finished a distant ninth in the Mahab Al Shimaal. Comicas came in second behind Mind Your Biscuits in last year's Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored By Gulf News (G1) on World Cup night.
In the Burj Nahaar Sponsored By Emirates Holidays (G3), a prep for the Godolphin Mile (G2), local trainer Doug Watson saddled Kimbear to a front-running win by 1 1/4 lengths over long shot Secret Ambition. Musawaat was third, and the favorite, Heavy Metal, finished fourth, albeit beaten less than two lengths.
Kimbear, a Kentucky-bred colt by Temple City , finished in 1:36.81 and notched his second win of the Carnival to go with a pair of seconds.
Godolphin had four of the first six home in the Jebel Hatta Sponsored By Emirates Airline (G1), at 1,800 meters on the turf, but again not with the favorite. Blair House, with James Doyle up, led through the final furlong and denied even-money favorite Benbatl by three-quarters of a length. Janoobi showed promise for trainer Mike de Kock, leading early in the stretch run and holding on for third.
Blair House, a 5-year-old Pivotal gelding, opened the Carnival with a pair of runner-up finishes and now has two straight wins for Appleby.