Special Fighter smashes track record as Keen Ice flops at Meydan

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 5th, 2016

Special Fighter photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins.

American shippers have underscored the quality of US dirt form over the course of the Dubai Carnival, but that trend was abruptly halted when Keen Ice was a distant seventh in Saturday’s Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1). Locally based Special Fighter, only sixth behind Frosted in the Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2), rebounded with a vengeance in track-record time in this final prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1).

Capping a surprising Super Saturday treble for trainer Musabah al Muhairi, Special Fighter provided conclusive proof that the Meydan dirt was heavily favoring speed on the rail. Every dirt winner on the card had the same trip – grab the early lead, get to the fence, and open up down the stretch as though on a conveyor belt.

Regular rider Fernando Jara spotted that pattern, and astutely changed tactics aboard the 33-1 shot. He hustled the son of Teofilo from post 6 in a race lacking significant early speed, and once securing the pole position, the rest fell into place. Special Fighter drew off by 4 1/2 lengths while completing about 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.09, eclipsing the record of 2:03.24 set by Prince Bishop in the 2015 World Cup.

Hong Kong’s Gun Pit gave game chase for second, finishing 2 3/4 lengths clear of the locally based Faulkner. Mubtaahij stayed on for a one-paced fourth, a neck shy of third, and has yet to recover his dynamism from last year’s Carnival.

In the circumstances, the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Watershed did well to rally from the rear for sixth. Keen Ice was out of his rhythm from the beginning, when Ryan Moore urged him from post 11 to get within early striking distance of the leaders. The one-run type was unable to adjust, and instead backpedaled at just the time he should have been cranking up.


The day’s prior front-running dirt winners were a bit more foreseeable, although their margins were likely inflated by their ideal trips on a track that favored them this night.

The Doug Watson-trained Cool Cowboy turned in a pacesetting clinic under Pat Dobbs in the Burj Nahaar (G3), a course-and-distance prep for the Godolphin Mile (G2). Watson has another prime contender for that race in One Man Band, so Dobbs will have a choice to make.


UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Market Rally likewise went pillar to post in the Al Bastakiya, setting himself up for a UAE Triple Crown sweep in the UAE Derby (G2). Despite dripping with lather beforehand, and tugging on Pat Smullen while proving truculent early, the Dhruba Selvaratnam sophomore galloped right away from Godolphin’s US Triple Crown nominee Blue Creek. Lazzam ultimately edged him for second. Unfortunately, Blue Creek sustained a likely pelvic injury, according to the Emirates Racing Authority, and will be sidelined for several months.


Muarrab gave Muhairi his first winner on the card when dominating the Mahab al Shimaal (G3), the prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1). Sprinting to the fore from his rail post, the Sheikh Hamdan colorbearer beat favored Rich Tapestry to the punch and kept on going to shatter Secret Circle’s track record. Muarrab zipped about six furlongs in 1:10.20, knocking two ticks off the old mark of 1:10.64 dating from last year’s Golden Shaheen, in an early clue about how the track was playing.


The same connections – Sheikh Hamdan, Muhairi, and jockey Paul Hanagan – teamed up to spring a shock in the Meydan Sprint (G3) on turf with the 41-1 Fityaan. Winless since October 2014 at Jebel Ali, and having placed only once from six prior starts this Carnival, Fityaan prevailed in a three-way photo with the far more logical Jungle Cat and Sole Power in this prep for the Al Quoz Sprint (G1).


The two turf routes, on the other hand, were eminently formful thanks to the obliging favorites.

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) star Postponed pounced to a cozy three-length decision in the Dubai City of Gold (G2). Making his first start for trainer Roger Varian, the handsome son of Dubawi was given an easy time by regular rider Andrea Atzeni, and he still looked in a different league from the Aga Khan’s smart runner-up, Dariyan. Postponed thus threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the internationals coming in for the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night.


Godolphin’s 2-5 shot Tryster brought the curtain down with his trademark late swoop in the Jebel Hatta (G1), the stepping stone to the Dubai Turf (G1). Hailed by jockey William Buick for having the best turn of foot of any horse he’s ridden, the Charlie Appleby charge dispatched 36-1 outsider Farrier and the South Africans Ertijaal and Harry’s Son.


For much more analysis of Super Saturday’s results, and an early look at World Cup night, tune in to Monday’s installment of “Dubai Carnival beads.”