By Nicholas Godfrey
More hometown dominance at Meydan for Godolphin with dynamic duo of Charlie Appleby and William Buick taking three of the five thoroughbred contests – but Bahrain pilfered the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge. Here’s some stuff you might like to know from Day 4 of the Dubai Carnival.
What’s going on?
Zakouski set for G1 Jebel Hatta
Zakouski (blue silks, white cap) is set to step up into G1 company after providing the climax to a treble for Godolphin, trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick in the G2 Al Rashidiya.
Appleby nominated the Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday (March 6) for the five-year-old after he turned the tables on the gallant Lord Glitters, who had beaten him three weeks ago in the Singspiel Stakes.
However, habitual closer Lord Glitters had benefited from an ideal setup before his three-length victory there, and this time he also had to shoulder a 3lb penalty.
Under a ground-saving ride, Zakouski sat just behind a moderate pace before running on well to justify odds-on favouritism in cosy fashion. Front-runner Court House held second – by a nose over Lord Glitters, who ran on in typical fashion from the rear without ever looking likely to get to the winner, whose career record now reads a useful five-from-eight.
Secret Protector: great things expected in UK
Most impressive performance of the night came in the second leg of the Appleby/Buick treble, with a really likeable display from Secret Protector, the comfortable 5½-length winner of the Meydan Trophy.
Sent off 4-11 favourite with British bookmakers for the all-conquering Godolphin team (blue silks, red cap), Secret Protector showed a clear class edge as he made his turf debut after two runs on the all-weather at Kempton.
Appleby reckons the well-bred son of War Front (out of a Galileo mare, $800,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland) is likely to be one of his better three-year-olds in the UK, where the Feilden Stakes at the Craven meeting was mentioned as a possible target.
Yet more Godolphin: blue silks, pink cap for Star Safari
Appleby and Buick kicked off their treble in the first thoroughbred race on the card with Star Safari.
Mind you, despite Goodlphin’s having eight of the 16 runners in this 1m4f turf handicap, there was a moment at the furlong marker as Recordman took over when it looked like Sheikh Mohammed’s team might not provide the winner for a change.
But we need not have worried; the earth hasn’t stopped spinning on its axis. Joint favourite Star Safari (blue silks, pink cap) finished powerfully from well back after being switched out to to challenge early in the straight and was always holding fellow closer Away He Goes, another non-Godolphin interloper.
Dubai World Cup in mix for Salute The Soldier
Carnival regular Fawzi Nass enjoyed another high-profile triumph for Bahrain when Salute The Soldier stepped up in trip to win Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, leaving jockey Adrie de Vries to suggest a crack at the Dubai World Cup is worth considering for the six-year-old.
The Dutchman, so accomplished at Meydan, was seen to good effect here, sitting on the flanks of Capezzano and forcing that habitual front-runner to go too fast before taking command in the stretch.
Though they were crawling home (last quarter 27.03s), he got first run on the closers and held on from Thegreatcollection and Uruguay’s Ajuste Fiscal. The Godolphin Mile offers an obvious option, but De Vries was talking about the big one.
“We went a good early pace but I was keen to pressure Mickael quite early and then my horse really picked up well,” he said. “Perhaps we can look at the 2,000m and Dubai World Cup.”
Dubai Warrior disappointing
Last year’s Winter Derby victor Dubai Warrior, a prolific winner on synthetics in Britain, flopped on his dirt debut. Unable to dominate, the John Gosden-trained five-year-old seemed to resent the kickback and was allowed to come home in his own time by Frankie Dettori.
Home advantage counts
Godolphin have now won 11 of the available 23 thoroughbred races at this year’s carnival, where Charlie Appleby leads the way at this year’s carnival with seven winners – four more than his Godolphin counterpart Saeed Bin Suroor.
William Buick has joined Frankie Dettori (winless this time) atop the jockeys’ list with five winners.
All but four of this year’s carnival winners have come from the home team in the UAE. The others are two from Britain (Lord Glitters and Equilateral on the first night), Uruguay (El Patriota) and Salute The Soldier (Bahrain).
One-two for Sheikh Hamdan
Although blue Maktoum silks also dominated the concluding sprint handicap, this time it was Sheikh Hamdan in the driving seat with four of the eight runners.
Formerly trained by Richard Hannon, longshot Motafaawit led home a one-two for the owner as he held off the favourite Mutaraffa under Sam Hitchcott. The 33-1 chance was a third carnival winner in 2021 for six-time UAE champion trainer Doug Watson.
Mind you, much of the interest in this 5f turf contest came via the identity of the third-placed horse, none other than sprightly 12-year-old veteran Caspian Prince, who blasted away in his usual style before being collared inside the final furlong. Not many would beat the old timer at 4f, that’s for sure!
Shall we talk about it?
Charlie Appleby (Secret Protector’s trainer): “We were coming into the race with a bit of confidence after his homework and what he’d produced on the track back in the UK. We toyed with the idea of running him in the Guineas on dirt but he originally looked a lot happier on the turf so we switched the options and decided to come here.
“He travelled well, picked up well and ticked all the boxes. We’ll take him back to the UK now and look at his options there. Tripwise you’d probably say ten looks his maximum but you’d have the option of coming back in trip – William said he travelled so well that it wouldn’t be a problem.
“Hopefully he’d be one of the horses towards the forefront of our three-year-old squad. He did nothing wrong in two starts as a two-year-old and physically he’s improving week-on-week, so potentially we can look at something like the Feilden over the nine at Newmarket. He’s a nice progressive three-year-old and we’re yet to see where he’s going to finish up.”
William Buick (Secret Protector’s jockey): “He’s a very nice horse, unexposed, and there’s still improvement in him. He’s quite a big robust horse and he’s not the finished article yet but he’s got plenty of natural talent and we couldn’t have asked for a better race for him. There is dirt in his pedigree obviously but he didn’t take to it at home and he trained very well on turf so I don’t see any reason to change it.”
Adrie de Vries (Salute The Soldier’s jockey): “It went to plan, I expected Capezzano to lead and I wanted to sit in second. My horse started to get a bit racy, but I could give him a blow on the turn to fill him up again. He always just does enough – he was getting very tired in the end and he was entitled to as I think we went fast and it was riding a bit deep. He needs to step up but maybe we can go for the big one with this horse. He’s a very funny horse and was late to mature, and not easy to train, and there is still room for improvement.”
Charlie Appleby (Zakouski’s trainer): “He definitely stepped forward for his first run. That race became a bit disjointed – coming into this we thought there would be a it more of a sensible pace and William got a nice ‘possy’. We’ve stepped up in trip so we’ll look at the Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday as his swansong for the carnival.”
William Buick (Zakouski’s jockey): “I always thought the race was set up nicely for him. The pace was nice and even and he did well, he really knuckled down and showed a lot of good qualities. This flat track and nine furlongs really suited him well. We’d like to think he is still improving and will perhaps now look at Super Saturday and the Group 1 Jebel Hatta.”