Saturday Meydan card proves revealing

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Ted Black

March 5th, 2016

Thoroughbred racing fans had to arise bright and early on Saturday morning to catch the Super Saturday card from Meydan Race Course in Dubai or perhaps wait until the early afternoon to watch the replays, but the seven-race program proved to be somewhat revealing, especially with the March 26 World Cup Night card close at hand.

In the opening race on the card, Market Rally led throughout to capture the $250,000 Al Bastakiya Stakes at the Preakness Stakes distance of one-mile and three-sixteenths and now looms as the future book favorite to capture the Grade III, $2 million UAE Derby on the World Cup undercard. Market Rally, who broke his maiden in New York last winter, has won twice in three starts over the Meydan strip and now will face serious competition from sophomore fillies Polar River and Vale Dori in the UAE Derby.

One race later on the card, Muarrab gained command soon after the break and sprinted clear from his five rivals to capture the Grade III, $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal Stakes at six furlongs on the main track, the last local prep for the Grade I, $2 million Golden Shaheen Stakes here on March 26. Muarrab notched his first victory in three starts this year, but he now owns 12 wins and $425,000 banked from 23 career outings and many of them have come over the Meydan main track. Kifaah rallied late to edge odds-on choice.

Then one race later in the Grade III, $175,000 Meydan Sprint at five furlongs on the grass, the last local sprint for the Grade I, $1 million Al Quoz Stakes here on World Cup Night, Fityaan posted a 41-1 shocker when he edged favored Jungle Cat and Sole Power in a three-way thriller. Fityaan notched his first win in seven starts this year, but will likely get overplayed in the Al Quoz. Jungle Cat and Sole Power, the defending champion of that Grade I event on the grass, both merit respect in the five-furlong affair.

Then one race later in the Grade II, $200,000 Burj Nahaar Stakes at one mile on the main track, Cool Cowboy was able to stretch his speed the added distance when he romped home eight lengths clear as the 7-5 favorite. Cool Cowboy has now won twice in four starts this year in Meydan for trainer Doug Watson, his first two tallies since posting stakes victories at Mountaineer Park and Prairie Meadows when he was stabled in North America.

Then two races later in the Grade II Al Maktoum Challenge, Special Fighter led throughout to post a 33-1 upset while Mubtaahij and Keen Ice again offered subpar performances in their final prep for the World Cup. Neither Mubtaahij, who thrived over the course one year ago, or Keen Ice, the last horse to defeat American Pharoah, have displayed anything close to their 2015 form in two starts this year. Special Fighter was beaten 12 lengths by Frosted in his prior local outing and Frosted, along with California Chrome, will be among the faves for the World Cup.

Then in the finale on the seven-race card on Saturday morning, Tryster delivered yet another superb performance while capturing the Grade I, $300,000 Jebel Hatta at nine furlongs on the Meydan lawn. A winner of both of his starts over the course this year for trainer Charlie Appleby, Tryster has delivered the two best efforts on the grass at the meet and looms the horse to beat in the Grade I, $5 million Dubai Turf at one-mile and an eighth on World Cup night. Right now he appears to be the best turf horse in the world.

Later that afternoon at Aqueduct, Shagaf benefited from a ground saving trip through the first three-quarters of the Grade III, $400,000 Gotham Stakes for three-year-olds and then prevailed late between horses for a length victory. Shagaf covered the one-mile and one-sixteenth in 1:45.90, but he was all-out to get home in front while getting the last sixteenth in a modest seven seconds. His effort hardly sent fears into the hearts of the connections or fans or Mohaymen or Nyquist, a pair of undefeated three-year-old colts who are slated to meet next month in the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.