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Mythical Magic sparkles in Zabeel Mile - tops Appleby Group sweep

Six races filled with Thoroughbred stars from eight different nations allowed for a global affair on Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse, but it was locally based trainer Charlie Appleby and owner Godolphin who stole the show, with the latter landing four races and Appleby taking home a Group treble. Al Tayer Motors sponsored the evening, the eighth Dubai World Cup Carnival card of 2019, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was on hand.

$250,000 ZABEEL MILE (GROUP 2)

The feature of the evening was the $250,000 Zabeel Mile (G2), which included a complex field of milers looking to earn their way to the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) next month. In an exciting turn of affairs, the two market favourites, Century Dream (Oisin Murphy aboard) and Mythical Magic (William Buick) kicked on aggressively with 500m remaining, setting the stage for an exciting final straight. The latter, with the aid of a prep race, proved fitter of the two, collaring his foe with a furlong remaining and powering clear by three lengths at the wire for trainer Charlie Appleby and owner Godolphin.

The final time was a strong 1:36.39 for the 1600m, with First Contact (Colm O’Donoghue), Wootton (James Doyle) and South African G1 winner Marinaresco (Bernard Fayd’Herbe) closing well to complete the top five. Defending champion Janoobi, Australian G1 winner Comin’ Through, 2017 winner Championship and Top Score completed the octet at the wire. The victory was the 4-year-old gelded son of Iffraaj’s third from nine starts. He exited an excellent second in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) over 1400m on Jan. 24, finishing behind well-regarded stablemate D’bai.

“It was an excellent performance,” Buick said. “He’s a beautiful, imposing horse and he’s getting things together now. His last run over seven furlongs in the Al Fahidi Fort was obviously an eye-catching run. Up to the mile tonight, things really came together for him and he put in a good performance. He did the job well. Century Dream was the horse to beat without a question, but I think Mythical Magic had a fitness edge with a run under his belt.”

“I thought he would come forward,” Appleby added. “He went to his girth there and stayed on nicely in the Al Fahidi Fort and we thought the step up in trip was going to suit. We’ll have a chat (about the Dubai Turf). He could maybe go to Australia for the Doncaster, but obviously we’ll get back and regroup and see where we are. Very pleasing night. He’s always been a bit tricky and he’s in great nick now. It’s been worth persevering with. When you’re on the kind of roll that we’re on now, the confidence certainly flows throughout the stable.”

Murphy was pleased with the performance of Century Dream, who was making his first start since a good third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) in October.

“He jumped well and he relaxed the first three furlongs,” Murphy said. “I got a nice tow off Top Score. Christophe tried to slow the pace and (Century Dream) got a little bit keen. He did enough work to make the race, but he paid the price for it up the straight. It wasn’t a bad run. He’s a genuine Group 1 performer, so that’s where we are with him.”

“It was a good, solid run race and the pace was very good,” O’Donoghue said of First Contact. “He ran a very competitive race and he galloped straight through the line. I’m very happy with him.”

Note - the Chris Waller trained Comin' Through (AUS) was seventh under Jim Crowley, 6 1/4L from the winner.

Mythical Magic wins the Group 2 Zabeel Mile, picture Dubai Racing Club|Erika Rasmussen

$250,000 UAE OAKS (GROUP 3)

Under the watchful eye of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 1900m UAE Oaks sponsored by Range Rover (G3) went to Godolphin’s Divine Image. The progressive daughter of Scat Daddy came with a brilliant late run under William Buick to nab leader Swift Rose and Hayley Turner by a neck, handing trainer Charlie Appleby a first victory in the fillies’ $2.5 million UAE Derby preparation. Sitting handily, the 3-year-old star received plenty of kickback whilst chasing Saeed bin Suroor’s charge round the home turn, but closed resolutely to land her first Group victory in her third lifetime start.

Aside from Divine Image’s hard-fought victory, Doug Watson trainee Razeena turned in an eye-catching performance with Pat Dobbs aboard, sitting four-wide off pace setter Swift Rose to stay on for third by 3½ lengths. Stablemate Habah shifted her way through runners to hold off Al Hayette for fourth and fifth placings in the home straight. Al Shamkhah sat in the box seat under Mickael Barzalona to finish sixth, whilst Simon Crisford’s Chelmsford Novice Stakes winner Starry Eyes had to go wide, closing in seventh. Highly regarded UAE 1000 Guineas (Listed) winner Silva came under pressure 600m out, taking eighth spot followed by Dream With You and Mulhima, whilst Dubai Beauty was eased by Christophe Soumillon.

The final time was 2:01.76 for 1900m on the dirt course.  

“She was perfect away and I obviously asked her to get her position early,” Buick said. “Coming into the first turn it is a short run, so I just took her back. She was bit green in stages, but when I pulled her, she picked up really good, which is not easy on this surface. She has a big stride and I just wanted to get her out running. There wasn’t anywhere else to go, really. Once I pulled her out, I was confident I was always going to get there. She is edgy, but she is a typical kind of horse. She is fiery and that is probably what makes her the filly she is. You don’t want to fiddle too much with them and she is very game and tough when it matters. It is only her third run tonight and she is bound to improve on experience on every level. Things have happened quick and fast for her these past few months and we look forward to it.”

“I have to say, turning in, I thought Hayley had rode a nice race (on Swift Rose),” Appleby added. “I thought she would skip away from the field, but once William got our filly levelled out, I was confident in the last furlong because she’d be running along strongly. She’s a filly who’s definitely got the talent. We just need to make sure we take it in the right direction. The (UAE Derby) is certainly under consideration. She has experience on this (distance) and surface and it’ll definitely be something that’s put in the melting pot. I’d say she’s not flashy in what she does, but you can’t fault the way she gallops out there. She’s taken plenty of dirt on both occasions and she seems to face it well.”

Turner, who appeared a winner at the top of the lane, definitely felt the bittersweetness of a great effort to just fall short in second: “I was getting so excited half a furlong out. She’s ran a blinder. I’ve ridden her once before. I won on her and I was aware she had a bit of ability. She’s been a bit disappointing on her last two runs, but I think she’s just been finding her feet over here and settling in. She’s been going better at home. It’s a good advantage if you can get a good draw and get out well on the dirt.”

Dobbs was pleased with Razeena, who again showed that she is a filly, though winless from three starts, of considerable promise: “She ran well. She was drawn wide and I was four-wide all the way, so I gave up a lot of ground. She is learning and she is getting better with every run. She had no kickback tonight, which helped. I am not sure there are many races for her here, so she might be shipping back to America, most likely.”

“I had to work a little bit early to get a good position,” Murphy said of Silva, who failed to land the Guineas-Oaks double. “She didn’t travel as well as she did the last time. It is hard to say she didn’t stay, as I was beaten too far out. Fair play to the winner. She is a progressive daughter of Scat Daddy.”

$200,000 DUBAI MILLENNIUM (GROUP 3)

Charlie Appleby recorded a third success in the $200,000 Dubai Millennium Stakes, having triumphed in 2018 and 2016 with Folkswood and Tryster, respectively. The conditioner’s Spotify broke well and was sent to the front of the pack by James Doyle, setting a steady pace, reaching the 400m mark in 27.70 and 800m in 53.24. Stablemate Oasis Charm raced keenly in behind with Racing History on his inside in a good position. The pack was still tightly knit reaching the 1200m in 1.19.07 and it was still anyone’s race as they turned for home. 

Spotify attempted to draw clear into the final stretch with a sea of blue behind him all mounting their challenges. The son of Redoute’s Choice held by on a short head from a closing Racing History, with First Nation and Team Talk running on well for third and fourth place in a time of 1.42.85.

Spotify was recording his second win in as many starts for the 2019 DWC Carnival, following a success in the Al Taweelah Trophy on the Jan. 24. The 5-year-old, who maintains his 100% record for Charlie Appleby, was previously a Listed winner in France for Christophe Ferland and has placed in a number of group races from 1600-2000m.

“Firstly, it was a great ride by James on the front end” Appleby said, “He got him into a nice rhythm. The horse digs deep when they come to him. Full credit to him. We thought he came forward from that last start and coming back in trip would suit. Good performance and delighted for the team. That might be this Carnival wrapped up for him. We will point him to a European campaign. As always, we’ll get them back and see how they are and regroup. We had a strong team of horses in there and it was always going to be tactical race and James got his fractions right on the front end.”

Doyle added: “I could feel him physically lower down and stick his head out when the second horse joined me. So, full credit to the horse. It was a race that looked like there would be a lack of speed and we knew this fellow won here from a mile and a half stage and all the way around. We knew he would keep going. We got the soft end and we got some soft fractions down the back and then stretched in the straight and I think that won it for him. He will have to raise his game a bit to get into something on Super Saturday. There will be plenty of nice races for him in Europe in the summer. So, I think that was what Charlie was aiming for. He showed a nice burst in the straight and he is quite versatile, the mile and a half would not be a problem for him.”

Christophe Soumillon rode runner-up Racing History and was happy with his performance, though concerned that his path may have been impeded.

“He ran really well. They didn’t go very fast,” he said. “When I came into the straight, I thought we would get it, but the winner hangs out.”

William Buick offered no comment on beaten favourite First Nation’s performance. Team Talk, Oasis Charm, Muzdawaj, Vintager and Connect rounded out the order of finish.

Remainder of Card

The meeting opened with the Jaguar F Pace, a 1400m dirt handicap, in which Rodiani landed the spoils, despite being one of the first under pressure with Connor Beasley sending out distress signals on the home turn. However, the 5-year-old gelded son of Exchange Rate found plenty for pressure and produced a decisive turn of foot about 250m out. Bred beautifully for the surface, Moqarrab ran on well for second in his dirt debut.

“We think 1400m is probably his best trip, but when we tried him the last time over the distance, he was basically disappointing in HH The President Cup,” said winning trainer Ahmad bin Harmash. “That was a Listed race on the Abu Dhabi turf, and back in class on dirt he has delivered tonight at the carnival. Connor has probably hit the front as early as we would want because the horse does not seem to like headgear, but was almost waiting for the others in the final stages.”

The 1200m turf handicap, the Land Rover Discovery, looked open on paper, but as it transpired proved a straightforward assignment for Ekhtiyaar, saddled by Doug Watson for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and partnered by the owner’s retained jockey, Jim Crowley. Formerly trained in Great Britain by Roger Varian, winning three times, the 5-year-old gelded son of Bated Breath made a very pleasing local debut when third on the first night of the Carnival, at the beginning of January, but had not been seen in competitive action since. Always travelling well for Crowley, he powered clear entering the final 400m to win in the style of a progressive sprinter.

Watson said: “We were drawn two which was a bit of a concern, especially dropping back in trip with him because we know he stays further, but everything worked out. Credit to Jim who has given him a great ride and managed to find some company to race with, so we will have to talk to the owner before making plans. We dropped him back from 1400m because there are no races over that trip on Super Saturday or Dubai World Cup night, so it is exciting to see him win like that.”

Watson confirmed afterward that Super Saturday’s (Mar. 9) $350,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3) was the likely next target for Ekhtiyaar.

The concluding 1600m turf handicap, the Range Rover Velar was contested by the biggest field of the night, the maximum allowed of 16 and provided Godolphin a fourth success, this time Saeed bin Suroor saddling the winner courtesy of Major Partnership, a first ever UAE success for jockey Kevin Stott. Having been settled in midfield, the 4-year-old Iffraaj gelding was having his third Carnival start and made taking progress early in the straight before hitting the front about 250m from home, after which they always seemed to have the race in safekeeping.

Stott said: “This horse shows so much speed at home, we even tried him over 1200m, but we put cheek-pieces on today over this longer trip and they really helped. Basically, he is a horse who just does enough, so the headgear helped, but he probably still kept him a bit for himself, so there could be more to come.”

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