Dubai Carnival beads: Furious finish, Cool customer
Settled into a snug stalking position early, Furia Cruzada burst between foes to forge clear in the stretch. Only then did her ring-rustiness show. The determined mare nevertheless held on from the fast-finishing Second Summer, who was himself making a local debut for Doug Watson. The pair had the race to themselves, with South Korea’s Power Blade five lengths back in third.
Furia Cruzada became the second distaffer to beat the boys in this stepping stone to the Dubai World Cup (G1). The first, Larrocha, took the honors what seems a lifetime ago in 1996, when it was held over 1 1/2 miles. Furia Cruzada’s accomplishment strikes me as more significant, coming in a now long-established prep at a more informative trip of about 1 3/16 miles. Indeed, this was the same race that Frosted dominated in then-track record time last Carnival.
Although Furia Cruzada earned one of her Group 1 laurels on the turf, significantly on heavy going in the 2015 Gran Premio Gilberto Lerena (G1), she was primarily a dirt performer in South America. The daughter of the Storm Cat stallion Newfoundland scored her other top-level victories at about 10 furlongs on dirt – i.e., the World Cup conditions. Both came during her championship campaign at three, in the 2014 Premio Alberto Solari Magnasco (G1) (by 3 1/4 lengths) at Hipodromo Chile and the 2015 Gran Premio Criadores (G1) over her elders at Argentina’s Palermo.
After that third Group 1 trophy, Furia Cruzada was shipped to trainer John Gosden in Newmarket. She reportedly endured a life-threatening bout with pneumonia en route, and Gosden put her away until 2016. She was worth the wait, showing her class despite going winless in Europe. Third to males in her Winter Derby (G3) comeback on Lingfield’s Polytrack, Furia Cruzada was an honorable second in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) at Royal Ascot and the Lancashire Oaks (G2) and third when last seen in the October 23 Prix de Flore (G3).
At this time last year, Furia Cruzada was under consideration for Dubai. Connections wisely held off then, and decided to base her with Charpy for the 2017 Carnival.
“She is very tough,” winning rider Antonio Fresu said. “She loves the dirt and to be honest, she is not 100 percent fit so I am looking forward to her next race.
“I ride her every day so I know. She needed the race so she could have run better.
“I think she will improve.”
Near-misser Second Summer may also move forward. Unraced since disappointing in the June 25 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) for Peter Eurton, he’d previously capped a three-race win streak in the Californian (G2).
In other Round 2 postscripts, fourth-placer Le Bernardin sustained a laceration to his right foreleg, according to the stewards’ report. I wish connections had kept to the game plan and freshened him up after his repeat in Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge (G2).
Argentine import Lindo Amor, an encouraging third in Round 1, ran well below form when seventh in Round 2. Trainer Mike de Kock isn’t giving up hope, telling his website:
Lindo Amor is better than this. He may be best up to a mile, but nothing went his way in this race. He had to run five wide and perhaps it was just a flat effort in his second run here. We’ve seen horses run dismally on the sand only to follow it with a cracking run. I prefer to draw a line through this one. Lindo Amor deserves another chance.
A stayer is born: Charpy was notching a Thursday double, having landed the prior race with seven-year-old veteran Zamaam.
The Shadwell Stud homebred hadn’t won since his French finale in a conditions race on August 29, 2014. Now in his third Carnival, Zamaam appreciated the experimental step up in distance to about two miles. He was also well treated at the weights, carrying six pounds fewer than Godolphin’s last-out winner Red Galileo (who finished third) and 11 fewer than 132-pound highweight Curbyourenthusiasm (who flopped again and must imagine he’s on vacation). Still, Zamaam may have found a new lease on life in the marathon division.
“They went pretty quick for this kind of distance, and it was a new trip for my horse,” winning rider Jim Crowley said. “He settled perfectly and basically just lobbed around for the first half of the race.
“Erwan decided to step him up and it was the right move as the horse stayed on really strongly to win nicely.”
Cool customer: American expatriate Cool Cowboy overturned reigning Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Muarrab in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3), regaining his place in the local sprint colony.
Like Furia Cruzada, Cool Cowboy had battled pneumonia a couple of years ago. The effects of that illness compromised his preparation when he arrived in Watson’s yard ahead of the 2015 Carnival. Rushing to make it to Super Saturday, and then World Cup night, Cool Cowboy did well to finish fourth in the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) and sixth in the Golden Shaheen.
You might have expected Cool Cowboy to enjoy a more productive 2016 Carnival, and he did. Only his success came after Watson tried him over seven furlongs and a metric mile. His Burj Nahaar (G3) romp made him a prime player in the Godolphin Mile (G2) on the World Cup card, but he could do no better than third.
After Cool Cowboy was well beaten in his three outings so far this Dubai season, Watson logically cut back to the about six-furlong sprint that used to suit him perfectly in his younger days. He also removed the headgear. The son of Kodiak Kowboy responded by wearing down Muarrab, and now finds himself squarely in the reckoning for the Golden Shaheen.
“I was able to settle him in behind runners and he loved racing on their heels,” stable jockey Pat Dobbs said. “I was tracking the right horse in Muarrab and he took me there traveling very strongly before digging deep in the final 200 meters.
“All credit to Doug and his team; it was their idea to drop back to this 1200-meter trip and it has paid off.
“Last season he did not show as much speed but, this year, he has strengthened. He really looks like a sprinter and has shown a lot more speed.”
Like Charpy, Watson also celebrated two winners on the card, starting with front-running Grand Argentier in the opener (a non-Carnival race for lower-rated locals).
Muarrab mystery: I can’t help but wonder if Muarrab’s team didn’t outfox themselves on his tactics. As track announcer Terry Spargo marveled out loud, it was “a turn-up for the books” when Muarrab didn’t blaze the trail, but opted to sit and stalk. That took his biggest weapon – his early speed – away from him, and allowed a classy rival like Cool Cowboy to hover within range.
The Meydan stewards found it baffling enough to haul Crowley before them for an explanation. As the report relates:
When questioned regarding the tactics on the gelding, the rider explained that he was instructed not to lead and take a position just off the leader, the same way MUARRAB (GB) was ridden when winning the 2016 Golden Shaheen and to allow another runner to give him a run into the straight. J Crowley explained that MUARRAB (GB) travelled well throughout, although racing three wide without cover, the gelding improved to the lead rounding the home turn earlier than he would have liked. He added that MUARRAB (GB) ran on fairly in the straight, however didn’t run on as well as he had anticipated.
The problem with the Golden Shaheen analogy is the pace. There was no X Y Jet to bring the heat, or Rich Tapestry to force it, in this spot. Muarrab could have been the controlling speed here without batting an eye, and instead he surrendered his tactical advantage for no obvious reason. Might he still have gotten caught? Maybe, but the fact remains he didn’t play his best hand.
As others have suggested, it’s quite possible that Muarrab has simply lost a step. Yet recall that he also lost a couple of preps here last Carnival before peaking at the right time, so I think it’s too soon to write him off. If the Musabbeh al Mheiri trainee loses again on Super Saturday, the case will be persuasive.
Cymric comes good: Furia Cruzada wasn’t the only Gosden alum to star in Dubai. Godolphin’s Cymric made a winning debut for Charlie Appleby, and his first start as a gelding, in a turf handicap over a metric mile.
The beautifully bred son of Kitten’s Joy got the jump on Elite Excalibur, who reduced his margin late to a half-length. But Elite Excalibur was race-fit, and Cymric was just resuming from a six-month holiday. There’s plenty more in store for the four-year-old descendant of Personal Ensign.
“The gelding may have just helped him to focus more,” jockey William Buick told Godolphin.com. “He has always been a pretty straightforward and very sweet horse to deal with.
“He had very high-class form as a two-year-old (when missing by a neck in the 2015 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere [G1]), so we know that the engine is there, and we just have to tweak him and work on him.
“This was a nice stepping stone and he can build from here. He could be an exciting prospect.”
Appleby mentioned the February 16 Zabeel Mile (G2) as a possibility. Considering that he’s bred to be effective going longer, Cymric could be in line for the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night.
Muwaary’s seventh-place finish hardly attracts notice, until you see de Kock raving on his website about how much better it was than his debacle last time behind Baccarat:
He arrived here on Christmas Eve and we’ve had to race him fit. He improved 15 lengths on his last run and I think next time he can be watched for a big run.
Old gladiators and a fresh Mouth: De Kock’s reliable handicapper Sanshaawes scored a well-deserved victory in an about 1 1/4-mile turf contest, with Marco Botti’s Dylan Mouth shaping with all sorts of promise in second.
Winning rider Christophe Soumillon commented that the course was riding softer, to the enjoyment of Sanshaawes. Not that Meydan ever gets truly soft, but the rain was falling late in the program, enough to make its presence felt on the last two races. Sanshaawes collared another venerable handicapper, English shipper Belgian Bill, and edged clear.
“That was a good battle between two Belgians!” quipped the Belgian-born Soumillon. “He is a tough horse who always gives his best but not one you want to hit the front on too soon.”
De Kock paid tribute to his stalwart, who's given him a bright spot in an otherwise tough Carnival for the yard.
Another old soldier from South Africa keeps our season on track! Well done to Barbara Sanne, who bred Sanshaawes at Oldlands Stud. He’s earned 17 cheques from 19 runs since joining us here in 2014 and he must have earned a ton of money in rands.
The one with proper World Cup night ambitions, though, is Italian champion Dylan Mouth. Previously incapable of lifting a hoof anywhere outside of Italy, the son of Dylan Thomas showed that he can bring his game on the road. He’s eligible to improve next time, especially when stepping up to his optimal trip of about 1 1/2 miles.
Hawk nips Man in skirmish: The concluding turf sprint handicap also featured the old guard. The 11-year-old Medicean Man, fresh off his course-and-distance win, appeared to have the upper hand, until Speed Hawk denied him on the line. The finish was so close that it even tricked Spargo into calling Medicean Man the winner.
Fityaan nearly got up on the inside, beaten all of a neck in third, and 10-year-old Sole Power ran his best race in nearly a year to snare fourth in the heap. Both were lumping 130 pounds (five more than the advantaged Speed Hawk), while 131-pound highweight Caspian Prince went down by just three-quarters of a length in fifth.
Note how wet the turf course appears in the nightcap (and the main track in the distance). Jockey Dobbs cited that for the non-effort by Sir Maximilian in 11th. Trailing Harry Hurricane ran too badly to be true as well.
Furia Cruzada photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins