Special Fighter sealed a memorable Super Saturday at the Dubai World Cup Carnival for trainer Musabah Al Muhairi with victory in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three at Meydan Racecourse.
The success in the Group 1 race staged over the same 2000m dirt course and distance as the $10million Dubai World Cup rounded off a treble-winning performance for the trainer. In the previous two rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge Special Fighter had finished sixth, but racing handily made a big difference as he kept finding in front for Fernando Jara. Special Fighter was well away and soon out in front, and able to easily get into his rhythm with no pressure being applied to the lead. Having shot clear of Hong Kong challenger, Gun Pit and the Doug Watson-trained Faulkner, he continued to dictate proceedings and had the race sewn up by four and a half lengths and in a new course record time.
Gun Pit claimed second and Faulkner third. The race had centred around how Keen Ice, the only horse to defeat American Pharoah last season with a surprise win in the Travers Stakes, would perform. But the Dale Romans-trained colt was unable to get involved and was well beaten, like the rest of the field. “He was absolutely spot on today,” said Jara, who claimed the Dubai World Cup winner in 2007 Invasor. “I really did not expect to get such an easy lead and that was a real bonus. “We have said all season we are not sure just how good he might be and tonight he was very good indeed.
He just relaxed out in front and was always going well within himself. He then picked up well when I asked him. It was a great performance. “Obviously he has been beaten by Frosted and California Chrome is very good so the Dubai World Cup will be a much harder race but we will just enjoy this occasion and look forward to that one.” The opening leg of the treble for Al Muhairi was won by Muarrab in the Group 3 Mahab al Shimaal, which also the 1200m dirt track record also fall. Sporting the colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Muarrab, who won the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint a year and a day ago, was soon in front under the owner’s retained jockey, Paul Hanagan. Stalked by Rich Tapestry, whom he had chased home in the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint, over the same course and distance, three weeks ago, Hanagan was clearly determined to utilise their plum draw in one. Gerald Mosse and Rich Tapestry had employed similar positive tactics in the Al Shindagha Sprint but were forced to track Muararb this time.
However on this occasion Mosse’s mount had no response when Hanagan went for home on Muarrab leaving the final turn and eventually lost second, close to the line, to the same owner’s Kifaah, trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe. Muarrab’s victory by a decent five and a lengths also broke the previous course record mark set by Secret Circle when winning the Group 1 Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup night last year. Owner, jockey and trainer completed a memorable sprint double with Fityaan denying Jungle Cat and Sole Power in the closing strides of the Group 3 Meydan Sprint. The surprise winner needed every stride of the 1000m turf dash to land the spoils, beating Jungle Cat by a nose with Sole Power a similar distance back in third. Tryster once again unleashed a devastating turn of foot to remain unbeaten on the turf at Meydan and claim a first Group 1 victory in the Jebel Hatta in some style.
The Charlie Appleby-trained five-year-old shot to prominence last season when winning six times on all-weather surfaces in England last year, including the Winter Derby and Easter Classic. This winter he shipped to Dubai and following victory in a Group 3 on his Dubai debut, he improved again to record his ninth win from 12 career starts in what is seen as the stepping stone to the Dubai Turf. It was also a first Group 1 winner in the UAE for Appleby who will be hoping Tryster can double that tally in three weeks time on Dubai World Cup Carnival Day Again partnered by Appleby’s stable jockey, William Buick, they adopted the horse’s trademark tactics, sitting at the back of the nine strong field through the early stages as Ertijaal took the field along. But as the field fanned out to challenge at the top of the straight, Buick let Tryster go and he went through the gears.
Having hit the front with more than 200 metres to run, they claimed an ultimately easy victory from outsider Farrier in second with Ertijaal holding on for third. Victory sets up a scintillating clash in the Dubai Turf with last year’s winner Solow, and Buick is a big fan of his ride, calling Tryster “breathtaking”. He added: “I’ve ridden a lot of horses who have a great turn of foot but I can safely say I’ve never ridden one like him. “He’s had a great prep and we’re looking forward to him on World Cup night.”