SOUTH African-bred runners performed exceptionally well on Super Saturday at Meydan, the so-called “dress rehearsal” for Dubai World Cup night.
Competing for USD on the world stage with quality runners from the USA, Ireland, Germany, Australia and elsewhere, Silvano’s son Vercingetorix made it six wins from as many starts with a fluent win in the Gr1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on turf (headline photo); Shea Shea (National Emblem) won his second G3 Meydan Sprint over 1000m on turf; Sanshaawes (Ashaawes) took a superb second in the Gr1 Al Maktoum Challenge over 2000m on the all-weather and Variety Club (VAR) was just run out of it late in the Gr3 Burj Nahaar over 1600m on the all-weather.
Vercingetorix, head-on view.
“I am so proud of our runners, they just keep on winning,” said an understandably high-spirited Mike de Kock after the meeting. He’ll be wishing that DWC night can be an exact replay of Super Saturday, as Vercingetorix will now almost certainly be among the leading contenders for the Gr1 Dubai Duty Free ($US5-million), to be run over the same course and distance on 29 March.
Vercingetorix had clearly improved since his debut win in the UAE a fortnight ago. He was on his toes, his coat was shiny and with a few more lengths to come, the stable will be licking their chops as the big night approaches.
“Vercingetorix was a bit nervous tonight and almost got hurt in the pens, but he strode nicely in the race. Our stablemate Anaerobio set a good pace and when we turned into the straight he was going very well and we were going better, so I thought we could run one-two. I’m glad for the team, we’ve worked very hard for this,” said in-form jockey Christophe Soumillon after unsaddling Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s four-year-old in the winner’s enclosure.
Mike, who won the 2012 renewal of the Jebel Hatta with Masterofhounds, said: “Vercingetorix is a very useful horse but it is hard to know just how good because he only ever does enough. In all his races he has travelled really well and gone to the front easily before quickening.
“He then tends to stop and wait for some company – as Christophe discovered last time. It is great to win a Group 1 here with him and the Dubai Duty Free is the obvious target. He did not take the travel and quarantine well and we are delighted to have him back at his best.”
Anaerobio (3rd) and Mushreq (5th), both earned stake cheques, both finishing within two lengths of Vercingetorix and staking their own individual claims for invites to the big night, while Mars caught the eye with an improved run from the tail-end of the field, beaten just over four lengths. He was hard to settle early and ran around in the straight but one gets the feeling that he’s a colt that will let loose and win a good few races the day he decides to put it together.
Shea Shea (Soumillon, yellow cap), wins his second Meydan Sprint with a powerful finish.
Business wizard Brian Joffe, who part-owns Shea Shea with Myron Berzack, was on course to support his top class sprinter Shea Shea, who made a superb winning return in the Meydan Sprint and will be aiming at a Gr1 Al Quoz Sprint double on World Cup night.
Shea Shea was expertly handled by Soumillon, who, from an inside draw, steered him right across the track to the standside rail where he settled, accelerated from five lengths off the pace and reeled in the leaders to get up winning well in the shadow of the post.
“Shea Shea likes to follow the rail because he’s a horse who likes some cover. If he hits the front too soon or there’s no horse to follow then he can stop a bit,” said Soumillon.
Mike added: “It was Shea Shea’s first run since August and he should certainly improve for that run but we knew he was in good shape and fit enough to go very close. Christophe has given him a lovely ride and not been at all hard on him. Hopefully he is the one they have to beat back here in three weeks’ time. Waiting for Super Saturday was always the plan, followed by Dubai World Cup night and hopefully Royal Ascot in England.”
Mike de Kock and Brian Joffe, media interviews.
Sanshaawes, a revelation for the stable this season with two wins and a fourth place from three runs coming into Round Three of the Gr1 Al Maktoum Challenge, proved his quality in second to the talented Prince Bishop.
Sanshaawes took a leap in class and handled it superbly, running on well from a wide draw, just outpaced late by Saeed bin Suroor’s seasoned Group performer, who is quoted around 12-1 in Betfair’s ante-post betting for the $US10-million Gr1 Dubai World Cup and is among some experts’ early fancies.
“On the evidence of this race, Sanshaawes could be a World Cup contender,” commented Mike. “There were a number of Cup hopefuls around him tonight and the race has always been one of the pointers to the big event. Our horse ran a great race, he was impressive out there and his progress is exciting for all of us.”
Photos supplied by Andrew Watkins.