Dubai Carnival beads: Guineas joy for Saudi, treble for de Vries
Trained by Nicholas Bachalard (who also had Ron the Greek in his Saudi days), Nashmiah is herself the daughter of two Saudi-breds. Her sire, Alnajim Althakeb, is an Unbridled’s Song half-brother to Bellamy Road who was imported in utero. Nashmiah’s dam, the Blue Burner mare Qereerah, is in turn a half-sister to Mokarab, winner of their homeland’s coveted Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup (aka King’s Cup) in 2010.
Nashmiah won her first three starts at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, two of them at a mile, including the local Group 1 King Fahad bin Abdulaziz Cup in her sophomore debut. In hindsight, it was significant that Mickael Barzalona rode her in Riyadh. Her determined victory there presaged her hard-fought decision, with Barzalona back aboard, in the UAE 1000 Guineas.
“I knew she was tough after my win on her in Saudi last time,” Barzalona said. “I was able to give her a bit of a breather which really helped but then she was very tough and just kept battling.”
Up front throughout, Nashmiah edged clear turning for home, then had to dig deep to hang on from Nomorerichblondes. The runner-up, a well-beaten seventh in the Guineas trial, improved markedly with the addition of cheekpieces.
Conversely, Guineas trial winner Really Special was a lackluster fifth. The night may have been over for her early when she reacted to a bump at the start. Lit up, with her head in the air as Jim Crowley tried to settle her, the Godolphin filly just didn’t appear happy. It also didn’t help that she covered an extra 10 meters (about 33 feet), according to Trakus.
Really Special clung to her left lead while never leveling off down the stretch, calling to mind the hypothesis that she’s just not as fluent on the dirt. Her class helped her get away with it last time, but adversity here may have exposed it. A better trip in the UAE Oaks (G3) February 23 could produce a different result. Still, considering her European classic potential, I wonder if trainer Saeed bin Suroor would pack her off to Newmarket instead of prolonging her Carnival.
The Guineas upset has scrambled the UAE Oaks picture. Nashmiah wasn’t exactly looking for more ground at the end of the metric mile, accomplished in a slow 1:40.75. Another form reversal looks likely in the about 1 3/16-mile Oaks. Doug Watson’s Complimenti could be sneaky next time, having been second to Really Special in the trial and now fourth in the Guineas, both from bad posts. Godolphin’s Calare is the type to relish the stretch-out, and the Charlie Appleby trainee was compromised by saddle slippage when seventh in the Guineas. That list won’t include Fursa, who was tailed-off with a cardiac arrhythmia. Mike de Kock isn’t going to risk her on the dirt again.
A ‘Nobel’ defeat on debut: Although bin Suroor’s Top Score deserves credit for his perseverance in the Meydan Classic Trial, near-miss firster Nobelium is one to follow.
Indeed, the $100,000 conditions race on turf is a pretty salty spot for a career debut, and Nobelium almost pulled it off for local trainer Rashed Bouresly. Or strictly speaking, he was in the process of winning it when inexperience told. Nobelium did not hesitate to split foes like a pro, in a spot some might have been a bit shy about. His rookie mistake was idling a little once he’d headed Top Score in deep stretch. That let his street-wise rival come back to rob him on the line in 1:24.45 for about seven grassy furlongs.
Winning rider Adrie de Vries, scoring the first of his three on the night, admitted as much.
“I thought I was beaten,” de Vries said. “The runner-up went past us easily but then, perhaps, his lack of experience counted against him, whereas my horse has plenty of experience.”
Nobelium wasn’t only conceding an experience edge. His jockey, Bruno Reis, put up two pounds over, so he was actually giving that weight to Top Score. Reis wasn’t unduly hard on his mount, preferring an energetic hand ride. It’s an open question whether stronger encouragement would have made a difference, but I won’t fault Reis for that. Better to err on the side of caution than leave a youngster disheartened first time out.
The pair were 2 1/4 lengths clear of de Kock’s Daqeeq. An Australian-bred who was carrying the co-top weight of 130 pounds, Daqeeq was making only his second start.
“I am not sure what the plan is with him,” de Vries added of Top Score, “but I would assume the Meydan Classic (February 23) would be next, sticking to turf. But he did run well enough on dirt the first time (third to Fly at Dawn in the UAE 2000 Guineas trial) when we had a bad draw, which gives the trainer more options.”
Top Score is bred to be versatile, being by Hard Spun and out of a full sister to Raven’s Pass, a turf mile star who thrived on synthetic in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). But since he’s pretty exposed by this point, it’s unclear how much scope he has for improvement.
Nobelium, a Sky Mesa colt, is no slouch in the pedigree department either, and with plenty of upside. His dam is a daughter of Empire Maker and multiple Grade 1 winner and $2.4 million-earner Sightseek. As those bloodlines imply, Nobelium was bred by Juddmonte, but let go for a scant £3,000 at Goffs last September. However expendable he appeared then, he’s on the right track now.
Daqeeq likewise has dirt influences in his pedigree. By Medaglia d’Oro and out of a Maria’s Mon mare, he hails from the family of mother-daughter champions Flanders and Surfside. De Kock’s original plan was to switch to dirt for the Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday, March 4, but his team’s struggles on the main track have prompted a re-think.
Sprint old-timers, again: Picking up on the theme begun by Reynaldothewizard and continued by Medicean Man, nine-year-old Krypton Factor recaptured the glory for owner/trainer Fawzi Nass and the hot de Vries.
The 2012 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner attended the pace before imposing his will, like the Krypton Factor of old. Jamesie and Sir Maximilian did their best work late to snatch second and third, respectively.
“You need to let this horse think he is in charge of what is happening,” de Vries astutely noted, “which is what I have tried to do here and it worked.”
Before reading too much into this turf sprint handicap, held at the same trip as the Al Quoz (G1), it should be pointed out that a similar event last Saturday may be more informative. Stay tuned for the forthcoming episode on that card…
Trips told the tale: De Vries capped his triple aboard Salateen, who benefited from his rider’s shrewdness, and his relatively light impost, to prevail in a four-way photo.
The David O’Meara charge deserved better luck after his nightmarish run on the Carnival opener. Perfectly positioned in a tracking second early, Salateen was the first to pounce in the stretch, and that was the decisive move.
Godolphin’s Flash Fire, the 132-pound highweight, was left with too much to do, but found clear sailing on the outside. Richard Hannon’s Oh This Is Us also had to rally from the rear, with the additional task of having to thread his way through inside traffic, and squeeze through the tiniest of openings. In the process, he brushed with de Kock’s mare Tahanee, who was simultaneously rallying to join Salateen.
The quartet reached the wire abreast, and Salateen kept his nose in front in a brisk 1:23.72. Flash Fire couldn’t give him 10 pounds, and a head start, but this loss underscores how much he’s improved of late for Charlie Appleby. He was also conceding seven pounds to the progressive Oh This Is Us. Gelding has apparently been the making of Flash Fire, and off this evidence, he’s due for a productive European campaign too.
Second-time Emotion: Appleby could look for the silver lining in another narrow loss on the night, coincidentally with another son of Shamardal. After Emotionless was an inconclusive sixth in his dirt debut in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2), the former juvenile celebrity tried the dirt again Thursday, to much better effect.
Emotionless might even have won the handicap, held over the Dubai World Cup (G1) distance of about 1 1/4 miles, if not for some bad luck. The 132-pound co-highweight was inconvenienced at the start, shuffling him back. As he maneuvered to improve his position on the far turn, jockey William Buick had to wait behind a sputtering rival before swinging out wide.
By that point, Alabaster, from Godolphin’s bin Suroor yard, had already set sail for home beneath Oisin Murphy. Later Murphy humbly offered that, as a European jockey, he’s still learning how to ride on dirt. He’s a quick study, knowing well enough to try to blow the race open turning into the stretch.
The Watson-trained Etijaah went off in pursuit, and actually collared Alabaster. But just like younger stablemate Top Score, Alabaster came again. At last Emotionless was making furious headway, and the trio flashed past the post together. Alabaster’s neck was in front, but Emotionless had gotten up to force a dead-heat for second.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Emotionless’ performance was his attitude – his willingness to keep trying, keep adjusting, keep adapting to the new surface, and not quit in discouragement. His action certainly smacks of a dirt horse, as you might expect for a son of Unbridled Elaine. If he can secure decent early position in his third dirt attempt, Emotionless may finally put it all together. Hopefully that day will come in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on Super Saturday.
Best and worst of times: Appleby got his winner in the nightcap, thanks to the improving four-year-old Folkswood, who rolled to a two-length victory over Elleval. That well-traveled veteran endured some trouble before delivering his closing punch, but Folkswood was emphatic all the same. There could be more to come from this sparingly campaigned son of Exceed and Excel.
Thus Godolphin recorded a triple on the card, following bin Suroor’s Alabaster and Top Score. But there wouldn’t have been a celebration, for Folkswood’s race was marred by the death of his Godolphin comrade Best of Times. The bin Suroor trainee had the class to win the Newmarket S. and finish second in Goodwood’s Cocked Hat S. in 2015, and he was making his first start as a gelding here. Sadly, Best of Times was pulled up by Murphy as the field left the backstretch. Off camera, he collapsed and died, a tragic ending to an otherwise good evening for Godolphin.
Nashmiah photo courtesy of Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins