THE Dubai team drew a rare blank at Meydan last Thursday, but seven of Mike’s nine runners at the meeting performed well, earning stake cheques.
With the powerful Godolphin racing outfit and a few others starting to step out their big guns, it’s now even harder to race competitively, but at the halfway mark of the 2014 Carnival Mike has every reason to be hopeful for more success going forward.
Promising Zahee finished fifth to Prince Bishop in the Gr2 Al Maktoum Challenge over 1900m on the all-weather, but this was arguably the strongest line-up seen at the Carnival this season. No fewer than 10 of the sixteen runners in this race had Group or Listed wins to their name coming into it. They’d won seven Gr1’s, six Gr2’s seven Gr3’s and eight Listed races between them, with 11 Grade 1 places in addition to that.
Mike had no option but to leave Zahee in this race only a week after his seasonal debut and, as he pointed out, this is never ideal. Zahee was beaten 6.50-lengths (shaded out of fourth by Hunter’s Light, the ante-post favourite for last year’s Dubai World Cup. Headline photo by Andrew Watkins shows Zahee, right and Hunter’s Light, disputing fourth). Considering the quality of the field and the little time in between his runs, Zahee’s bound to show marked improvement next time and remains a strong contender at Group level this term.
Mike had warned that Journeyman (Meydan Classic Trial), had been coltish and hard to train, which showed in his racing in snatches. He was beaten just three lengths into fifth by He’s No Saint, however, and is another with a chance to set the record straight if he settles.
Mensoora (UAE 1000 Guineas), could really do no more than finish second to Godolphin’s hugely talented Ihtimal, of whom jockey Silvestre De Sousa said: “When I asked her to win her race she did so in a matter of strides. You have to be impressed!”
Star Empire (red cap), whose best was simply not good enough. (Andrew Watkins).
Star Empire did everything right in the Nova Cup, but again an up-and-coming horse from the Godolphin stable proved too strong. Their younger, lightly-raced Excellent Result, in receipt of 6,5kg, won by 0.75-lengths.
El Estruendoso was beaten half-a-length into second by nine-time winner Mont Ras, giving him weight. Disa Leader confirmed his recent improvement finishing third, while Al Habayeb turned in his best performance at the Carnival, beaten only 3.75-lengths.
Interestingly Mont Ras came from a race recently won by Mike’s Alexandra Palace. The second-race winner Eastern Rules was beaten by Zahee in his penultimate race, while former South African-trained runner Zambucca (third in the Maktoum Challenge), was soundly beaten by Mujaarib last week – more form pointers the stable will be happy about.
El Estruendoso (yellow), tried hard.