“BY my personal standards of impressive performances, this was right up there, excellent!” enthused Mike de Kock after Sheikh Hamdan’s South African-bred three-year-old Soft Falling Rain produced a thrilling comeback run to win the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over 1400m on the All Weather track at Meydan, Thursday night.
Soft Falling Rain, with several question marks over his head in his first start since April 2012, as reported in the preview, answered all in true style, the way only a top-class thoroughbred could do it.
Fast out of the gates, Paul Hanagan allowed Soft Falling Rain to stride his way to the front to set a steady pace, slowing down a fraction as he relaxed and controlled the clip up front. On the home bend, however, the smooth-striding colt quickened again, putting a few lengths between himself and his opposition within a matter of strides.
Soft Falling Rain: (Photos by Andrew Watkins).
With 200m to run, the race was over as a contest and Soft Falling Rain crossed the line 2.50-lengths clear of I’m Back and Snowboarder, giving 7,5kg to both the runner-up and the third horse. Zahee, in his first run for the stable, ran on steadily into fourth.
Hanagan, for whom this proved to be no more than a strong hands-and-heels ride, was suitably impressed by his mount, saying: “He felt like a bit of class. He was easy and relaxed and has a nice change of gears.”
Mike paid tribute to Sheikh Hamdan and said: “This is the reason Sheikh Hamdan invested so much into South African racing – to find good horses in our country to race at the Carnival. Now we have a really good one for him, an unbeaten South African two-year-old champion showing his international worth at three, and it’s very rewarding. Sheikh Hamdan deserves every bit of success for his support of our industry and we are humbled by his support of my stable.
“Dubai is a window to the racing world and once again we have a top South African-bred runner showing what our breeding industry is capable of – I am sure people around the globe took note tonight. Soft Falling Rain was purchased at the inaugural Cape Premier Yearling Sales and here he is setting the track alight in Dubai. Well done also to his breeders, Highlands Farms Stud.”
Mike discussed Soft Falling Rain’s immediate future, saying: “Our main aim with Soft Falling Rain is the UAE Guineas in three weeks time, we believe he has a few more lengths of improvement to come. On what we saw tonight it appears as if he will see out a mile, though one can never be certain. He’s a big-striding horse, he likes to get on with it an Paul rode a good race in letting him go. Whatever he can contest after the Guineas will be a bonus.”
Soft Falling Rain is by National Assembly from a Giant’s Causeway mare, Gardener’s Delight. He was purchased for only R350,000 by Angus Gold and Form Bloodstock.