By Nicholas Godfrey
Habitual runner-up Secret Ambition finally got back to winning ways at Meydan’s Dubai Carnival, where all six winners were trained domestically in the UAE – and a sombre mood prevailed among the racing community following news of the death of Grand National-winning jockey Pat Buckley.
What’s going on?
Matterhorn breaks down
The third night of the Dubai Carnival for 2021 was marred when leading World Cup fancy Matterhorn appeared to go horribly wrong midway through the Firebreak Stakes and did not finish behind Secret Ambition in the G3 contest.
Although there was no official confirmation of the six-year-old’s fate, there were several eye witnesses fearing the worst after Matterhorn collapsed.
A prolific winner for Mark Johnston on the all-weather in Britain before joining Salem Bin Ghadayer in Dubai, the 5-4 favourite was running for the first time since an emphatic G1 victory in Round 3 of last year’s Al Maktoum Challenge.
Hard-ridden Secret Ambition won the battle for the lead with Matterhorn giving way after about a furlong. He continued on the leader’s flank until suddenly dropping out at about halfway before collapsing at the head of the straight. Jockey Mickael Barzalona was stood down for the remainder of the meeting after the fall.
Dubai World Cup betting (Ladbrokes): 7-2 Charlatan, 5 Knicks Go, 7 Maxfield, Military Law, 8 Mishriff, Tacitus, 10 Jesus Team, 14 Chuwa Wizard, 16 Max Player, Military March, 25 bar.
Godolphin Mile on cards for Secret Ambition
The G2 Godolphin Mile is the Dubai World Cup night target for Secret Ambition – so consistent without winning too often – as the eight-year-old deservedly hit the mark in the Firebreak.
Trained by Satish Seemar, he had finished second on four of his previous five starts, and also in each of the two previous runnings of this G3 contest.
In truth, though, the race fell apart. There were only six runners to begin with, and not only did Matterhorn break down but Kimbear wasn’t on one of his going days. As one of the remaining three was a 66-1 chance, it probably wasn’t the toughest G3 in the world; in that context, it wasn’t entirely surprising to see Secret Ambition make all under eight-time UAE champion Tadhg O’Shea.
Double for reigning champ Satish Seemar
On a night when international runners were generally notable only for their absence, reigning UAE champion trainer Satish Seemar completed a double when Topper Bill claimed the Meydan Classic Trial to follow up last month’s victory on his Dubai debut.
Despite drifting markedly in the closing stages, he was always holding odds-on favourite Last Sunset, who could no more than stay on without ever looking likely to grab the winner.
Topper Bill has been gelded since leaving former trainer Adrian Nicholls, for whom he won a low-level maiden auction event at Catterick as a two-year-old.
Remembering UAE stalwart Pat Buckley
Longserving UAE jockey Richard Mullen dedicated his victory on Topper Bill to UAE racing stalwart Pat Buckley, whose death at the age of 77 was announced midway through the card.
Jockeys riding in the last two races wore black armbands in memory of Buckley, who rode Ayala to a 66-1 success as a 19-year-old in the 1963 Grand National for Lester Piggott’s father Keith.
Buckley was an integral part of racing in the UAE as the racing manager and technical adviser for the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club since 1991.
“I would just like to dedicate that win to Pat Buckley,” said Mullen. “The whole of the UAE has lost a great man. I’ve been here for 22 years and counting and Pat has been a big part of racing here and a big part of my life.
“He’s been a great friend over the years and he hasn’t been well and we received the sad news this evening. The UAE will be a quiet place without him. We can only send our condolences to his family here in the UAE and back home in Newmarket.
“As an apprentice I came here and he mentored us over the years and I have had a lot of trips with Pat over the years. He has been a great friend and it a huge loss. Like I said, the world is a smaller place without him.”
William Buick added: “I am very sorry hear of Pat Buckley’s passing, and my condolences to all of his family and friends. He was always very friendly and the ultimate professional. A very sad day for horse racing, not just in the UAE but around the world.”
Mouheeb stays on to claim UAE 2,000 Guineas
Mouheeb stayed on doggedly to get the better of front-running Meshakel in the UAE 2,000 Guineas, thereby providing Jebel Ali-based trainer Nicholas Bachalard with his highest-profile victory in Dubai. Bachalard also won the 1,000 Guineas four years ago with Nashmiah.
“I am delighted for the team and Sheikh Ahmed, who believed in us,” said Bachalard. “It has not been an easy three years for the stable and hopefully some of the trust in all of us will now be back.”
Guineas Trial winner Rebel’s Romance was absent and is heading straight for the UAE Derby, where he is likely to face a rematch with Mouheeb, a $400,000 son of US sire Flatter who clearly relishes a fight. Mouheeb also recorded the fastest time in the history of the race.
‘First Meydan winner is just brilliant’ – Ryan Curatolo
Mouheeb’s triumph represented a notable success for much-travelled Ryan Curatolo, riding his first winner at Meydan in his debut season as stable jockey at Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum’s Jebel Ali Stables.
“This win means everything to me,” said Marseille-born Curatolo, 28, who had to get pretty serious to drive his mount past front-running Meshakel.
“This is a super special moment for me tonight,” added Curatolo. “I want to thank God – and the connections who gave me the opportunity.”
Curatolo has amassed around 500 winners worldwide in a career taking in riding stints in the US, Japan, Macau, South Korea, Singapore and Qatar, where he won their Derby in 2018 on Full Moon.
Godolphin: what’s gone wrong?
The wheels are clearly coming off for Godolphin, who saw last week’s tally of four winners halved to two at their hometown fixture.
What is more, having produced a 123456 in a Listed handicap over 1m2f at last week’s meeting, they managed only a 12345 in similar class over 1m6f this time around in the Meydan Cup, where Dubai Future led home a 1-2-3 for Saeed Bin Suroor under Frankie Dettori.
The jockey leads the way at this year’s carnival with five winners – three more than anybody else – while Bin Suroor has four, the same as his Godolphin teammate Charlie Appleby, who claimed the concluding sprint handicap with Man Of Promise. Bin Suroor’s Final Song were second.
Landmark wins for Dobbs and Appleby
Canvassed’s stylish victory in the opening 6f dirt handicap was jockey Pat Dobbs’s 250th victory in the UAE, while Charlie Appleby, who brought up the century with Man Of Promise in the last.
Shall we talk about it?
Doug Watson (Canvassed’s trainer): “We always liked this horse, but he had a few problems, especially with his shins, so we had to write off the campaign. He has been running well this season and I guess we will wait for Super Saturday and stick to 1,200m with the aim of getting him in on Dubai World Cup night.”
Saeed Bin Suroor (Dubai Future’s trainer): “Frankie has given him a very good ride and was always in the right place. It is great to have him back riding for us regularly. This horse stays well and will stick to this type of race, but will probably step up in class.”
Frankie Dettori (Dubai Future’s jockey): “He obviously had a good race last time, finished strongly with a bad draw. This time he jumped well, I wasn’t so sure who to follow – Willam or Patsy. I wanted to give him plenty of options, so I got him on the outside. He was a true professional. He won easily today, was a very willing partner and he was enjoying the ride.”
Ryan Curatolo (Mouheeb’s jockey): “The horse proved that he was the best today. He is a very talented horse, and last time we almost got there. He is a bit inexperienced, but he is getting better with time. The trainer did a very good job with him and his rider in the morning did a good job as well, because he can be quite difficult.
“Today he was more relaxed before the race, and that was good. This horse is a fighter – I always thought I could get there in that long straight and, credit to the horse who has really fought hard for me. I think he will stay further so I imagine we will look at the UAE Derby but we can enjoy this first.”
Satish Seemar (Secret Ambition’s trainer): “I don’t think any horse deserves a win more than Secret Ambition. He just runs the hardest and is the most honest in every race. I must say full credit goes to Tadhg O’Shea this evening. Right out of the gates he made a smart move, and put him on the right spot and gave full confidence to Secret Ambition. Secret Ambition is that kind of horse, once he has his way, there no way of coming close to him.
“He has had two or three second-placed finishes and a third, but he needed this win to get the confidence of the people too and the connections. So a win is very important, it gives us a lot of confidence.”
Tadhg O’Shea (Secret Ambition’s jockey): “This horse has danced every dance, he is so tough and consistent and his form is there for everyone to see, so he deserved a big one again. My horse flew from the gates and then the writing was on the wall. We got to the front, and we were going with some good fractions, and we got a bit of a breather and then had a go again. It is onwards and upwards from here and we might stretch the trip for him a bit. He is going to be rock solid in the Godolphin Mile anyway.”
Richard Mullen (Topper Bill’s jockey): “He is just a bonny little horse you know. He jumped well with a nice pace on him, and travelled extremely well. He is a smashing horse, he moves very well on turf and he has had a very good education as a young horse and that is key in the making of this horse. It was a good performance and hopefully there is a little bit more to come.”
William Buick (Man Of Promise’s jockey): “He is a neat horse and he showed a little more speed today than what I expected. He travelled beautifully, and it was a nice performance and he can only get better.”