The Longines World’s Best Jockey Frankie Dettori will be riding in the UAE through March, and recorded victories in the final two of seven races on opening night at the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday.
Dettori piloted Godolphin’s Land of Legends to win the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, and Equilateral to win the listed Dubai Dash for trainer Charlie Hills.
“I’ve been watching this horse for the last three years,” Dettori said of Equilateral. “What he likes is a very fast, slick, five furlong track. Sometimes the English tracks are too demanding for him, but this is tailor-made for him.”
“I’m really enjoying my time here, maybe because I’m running out of years but I’m trying to taking it all in. Most people are locked in their houses doing nothing, and at least I get to do what I love. I am going to stay here in the united Arab Emirates until Super Saturday.”
Thursday’s highlight was the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1. Won in inspired fashion by Nasir Askar’s Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained Military Law in a perfectly executed stalk-and-pounce trip, the 1600m (one mile) test set the stage for what could be an exciting season for middle-distance dirt racing in the region.
Piloted by Antonio Fresu, the son of Dubawi broke alertly and settled well on the rail behind favourite Capezzano, who set strong fractions under Mickael Barzalona. Waiting patiently for that rival to show any signs of resignation, the bay 6-year-old pounced on the opportunity when it presented itself at the top of the lane, asserted and then held off late-closing Dubai Creek Mile (Listed) winner Thegreatcollection, as well as Burj Nahaar (G3) winner Salute the Soldier to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:36.42. The same margin separated second and third, with Capezzano capsizing into seventh of 11 starters.
An invitee to the subsequently cancelled 2020 Dubai World Cup (G1), Military Law won for the fifth time in 11 starts and landed his second stakes after The Entisar (Listed) 13 months ago. Bred in England, he is a half-brother to the dam of G1 winner French King and was in the care of John Gosden until mid-2019, winning half his first six starts for breeder Qatar Racing. He was sold to Askar at Tattersalls July 2019 for $144,641.
“He has been training really well in the morning and I got a very good feeling in the last couple of gallops,” Fresu said. “Today he travelled really well, probably because he is fresh, so he travelled very well into the race and when I asked him to go, he really picked up well. Now we need to see after this. He has an entry into Saudi and otherwise the option is going to be (the Al) Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and (Round) 3 and then Dubai World Cup.”
One race prior, the first of three Group 2 races took place in the nine-furlong Singspiel (G2) on turf, named for the only horse to win both the Japan Cup (G1) and Dubai World Cup (G1) and won the past three years by owner Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor. This year, the team started favourite Military March, who had the services of Frankie Dettori, but said charge never appeared to get involved (finishing eighth) as late-running Lord Glitters trounced foes with a rush under Adrie de Vries.
Breaking slowly and sitting near the tail of the field, the veteran Group 1 winner closed resolutely between horses in the lane for trainer David O’Meara, winning going away by three lengths at the end and leaving a sea of Godolphin blue in his wake. Charlie Appleby’s 2020 Zabeel Mile (G2) winner Zakouski closed well to be second 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Bin Suroor-trained Dream Castle, winner of this in 2019. The final time was a spritely 1:46.82 for the same nine furlongs over which the Lord Glitters was third to the great Almond Eye in the 2019 Dubai Turf (G1).
The globetrotting 8-year-old winner was victorious for the eighth time in 33 starts and in his third country. A Royal Ascot winner of the Queen Anne (G1) in 2019, the big grey son of Whipper has competed in top company in France, England, America, Canada, Dubai and Bahrain.
“He missed the kick a bit, but I didn’t want to push any buttons early, he can be very keen,” De Vries said. “The pace was good enough just to leave him there. He did things so quickly, I thought I had a long way to make up, but half way through the straight I was sure to win. They ran at a good pace, which helped me a lot. After this, I can’t see any reason not to go back (to the Dubai Turf) and he is a bit older now and with a little sun on his back, he should return to his old form.”