Super Saturday, as always, lived up to its name.
Winner after winner advanced their claims for World Cup night in three weeks’ time.
The highlight? That’s a tricky one but it was hard not to be impressed by the way Barney Roy flew past his rivals in the Jebel Hatta, a race dominated by Godolphin.
Matterhorn romped home and Wildman Jack also impressed with his “insane” performance in the Sprint.
Expect to see that trio play prominent roles at the Dubai World Cup meeting on March 28. We will be back then.
Mickael Barzalona rode the final two winners today to take his Carnival tally to 12 but William Buick, successful on Barney Roy, still leads the way.
Twenty winners for Charlie Appleby at this year's Carnival. What a tremendous achievement. That's an average of a double every meeting!
Loxley caps another fine night for Charlie Appleby, Godolphin and Mckale Barzalona with victory in the $350,000 Dubai City Of Gold.
The runners finished in a heap as the Group 2 developed into a bit of a sprint after a steady tempo.
That did not seem to suit Defoe, who got a little outpaced before finally staying on well in the closing stages. He was cutting back the leader in the final strides but the line came too soon for him.
Barzalona was on the surprise winner, with Mountain Hunter, another Godolphin runner, in third.
Pablo Escobarr and First Nation were the next pair home.
“He’s a nice little horse and today he travelled a bit strong, but I was lucky to find a way to settle just behind Defoe. When he came into the straight, he did the job well," Barzalona said.
Appleby added: “Loxley is a horse we have always really liked, but to be honest, has disappointed in both starts at the Carnival, so it is great to see him get his head back in front with such a nice performance.
Atzeni was left to think of what might have been on Defoe. He said: “The winner just got me for speed at a crucial time. My horse hasn’t run for a while, he stayed on well all the way to the line and with another stride he would have gotten up.”
Pat Cosgrave, who partnered Moutain Hunter, said: “He ran a good race. He’s a plenty-talented horse. He just bumped into two better ones today. We’ll step him up to 3200m for the long distance race (Dubai Gold Cup) on World Cup night. I think he’ll be a big player.”
Charlie Appleby will be triple-handed in the Dubai City Of Gold, with First Nation, who has finished fourth in all three of his starts this year, the choice of stable jockey William Buick.
Appleby said: “It was one of those choices, William sided with First Nation as he has been very consistent throughout his Dubai career.
“He has unfortunately always met traffic problems with his run style, but he has bounced out of every run well and we felt he deserved to have a crack at it and try to get placed.”
Jalmoud has been placed at the highest level in the past, Appleby believes he will need to produce that level of form if he is to figure on this occasion.
He said: “Looking at the form book, Jalmoud has been a bit inconsistent, but has got a fair level of ability when he channels it in the right direction.
“If he turns up with any part of his A game he will be an interesting horse, as he finished third to Japan and he is a proven Listed winner and Group One-placed.”
Loxley may have shown little in two starts this winter, but Appleby reports the five-year-old to be in a much better place now.
He said: “He has been a bit disappointing in Dubai so far for some reason and he is a bit of a head-scratcher really.
“The only thing I would say is that he looks as well as I’ve had him out there, and he goes there in a bit better health than he has been in.
“If he rekindles his A game, he would be bang there.”
Today’s superb card closes with the $350,000 Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold Sponsored By Emirates SkyCargo.
The 2410-metre contest has attracted 11 runners and a strong British raiding party that is headed by Defoe, whose exploits last year included winning the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom plus Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The six-year-old son of Dalakhani is favoured by the weights and Roger Varian, his trainer, said: “Defoe has been in great order since he got here. He did most of his work at home. Andrea (Atzeni) sat on him on Wednesday morning for a pre-race blow and he was pleased with the workout. I think he is in a good place.
“We would be expecting him to run well and hopefully run to a level that can book himself a ticket to the Sheema Classic.
“He is in stall two and we are happy coming out of that, but he is equally very straightforward. Andrea knows him very well and though it is a reasonable size field, hopefully there will be no excuses.”
David Simcock expects dual Grade One scorer Desert Encounter to benefit from the 12-furlong trip after being given a pipe-opener over 400 metres shorter on his seasonal return in the Dubai Millennium Stakes.
Simcock said: “He will come forward for his first run, which he always does, so we are expecting a much better run, but it is still going to be very competitive.
“Last time was stop-start, then they went fast and he got very tired, but that should have brought him on and this trip is much better than the mile and a quarter. We will give it our best shot before he comes back to England.”
*Pablo Escobarr *ran well on the opening night of the Carnival and is also entitled to run well.
Matterhorn romps home in Round Three of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
If the Group 1 contest had been a boxing match, then his rivals would have thrown in the towel a long way from home.
Matterhorn was always lobbing along under Mickael Barzalona at the front, while the opposition were flat out some way from home.
The five-year-old, trained by Salem bin Ghadayer, was closed down a little in the final 100 metres but there was never any possibility of him being caught.
Military Law chased him home, with Mark Of Approval claiming bronze.
It will now be fascinating to see how Matterhorn fares in the $12 million Dubai World Cup in three weeks time.
Barzalona said: “We have been expecting a lot from him. It took him a little time to understand how to run on the dirt, but last time he ran really well over a mile (finishing second in the Group 3 Firebreak). After that, he has improved a lot. We’re very pleased with him. His quality did the rest. We expect him to improve again.”
Salem bin Ghadayer added: “We always thought he would handle the dirt well and he has always trained well on it. We were very pleased with his first start when third to our Capezzano in the Firebreak. We knew this longer trip would suit him and the plan was always to be positive on him, so Mickael has given him a great ride.”
Saeed bin Suroor is hopeful Desert Fire will handle the switch to dirt on his Group 1 debut in Round Three of the Al Maktoum Challenge, which is the penultimate race on the card.
Bin Suroor landed the $600,000 contest, which is on dirt and over 2000 metres, with Hunter’s Light (2013), Prince Bishop (2014) and African Story (2015) but has been out of luck since.
“He is in good form and working well. It will be his first run on the dirt, so it will be interesting to see how he performs. We will give him a chance and see how he goes.”
Military Law has to be on any shortlist after chasing home the Bin Suroor-trained Benbatl in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 Sponsored By Mubadala. Watch a replay above.
He had Roman Rossa, Saltarin Dubai and New Trails well adrift that night.
Benbatl franked the form when finishing an excellent third to Maximum Security in last week’s Saudi Cup.
Matterhorn was a creditable third to Capezzano in the Firebreak Stakes on his debut in Dubai and seems certain to be sharper for that outing. He had Quip back in fifth that evening.
A superb display by Barney Roy as he leads home a Godolphin 1-2-3-4 in the Jebel Hatta Sponsored By Emirates Airline.
The Charlie Appleby-trained six-year-old was held up from his wide draw and had plenty to do turning from home, especially as he had been a bit keen early on.
But it made no difference at all as he engaged top gear and came home strongly to win in emphatic style in a good time.
The Dubai Turf, three weeks from now, has his name all over it.
Magic Lily, Spotify and Dream Castle were the next three home.
Appleby said: "I was a bit concerned early on from that draw but in the last furlong he put it all together and he hit the line hard.
"Hopefully, he has booked himself a slot into the Dubai Turf. It was also a great performmave by Magic Lily."
Buick added: "We had a tricky draw and why we had to ride him the way we did. As you can see travels strongly and when he picked up he setled it quickly.
"He loves a flat track, like here, as it helps him use his big stride. He's quite exuberant the way he moves."
Charlie Appleby also runs Magic Lily in the Jebel Hatta. She has already, been successful in this year’s Cape Verdi and then the Balanchine.
He said: “She is a filly we have given a lot of time to and she has repaid us over the last couple of starts, and we just felt she deserved to have a crack at a Group 1.
“She is a filly that has done nothing wrong and seems to be improving with each run to date in Dubai, and she goes into the weekend in as good order as I’ve seen her.
“Barney Roy will have to be on his A game, as she is receiving the fillies’ allowance and she has got ability herself in that.”
Completing Appleby’s trio of runners Spotify who chased home stablemate Ghaiyyath in a mile-and-a-quarter Group Three at the track last month. He said: “Spotify has come out of the race well. He is a solid Group Three horse that doesn’t look out of place in that field.”
Saeed bin Suroor said of Dream Castle: “He is doing good. He is happy and working well. We are hoping for another good run from him.”
Marco Botti is under no illusion that Wait Forever faces a tough task on ratings and said: “The owner was keen to run him in the race and he has been placed twice out there. If he runs into a place we would be delighted.”
Group 1 action next with an intriguing renewal of the Jebel Hatta Sponsored By Emirates Airline. The 1800 metres feature is on turf and over 1800 metres.
Godolphin have won four of the past five renewals and it will be a big surprise if they are not on target again as Barney Roy, Dream Castle, Magic Lily and Spotify look the quartet to concentrate on. For good measure, Royal Meeting also represents them.
Barney Roy was retired to stud at the end of his career as a three-year-old, having won the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot that summer, but was found to be infertile.
He retains plenty if not all his ability and was not extended to beat Dream Castle, winner of last year’s Jebel Hatta, in the Al Rashidiya Sponsored By Hamdan Bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal last month. Watch a replay above.
“We were delighted with his first start in Dubai. We had left him a little bit short and subsequently he has come on for that run,” trainer Charlie Appleby said.
“As we all know, he is a light-framed horse, so he doesn’t take a lot of training anyway, but he has definitely come forward for that last start. He is the class horse in the race, but we are drawn a bit wide [stall 12] unfortunately and that is the only negative.
“Hopefully he has the class to overcome that and a repeat performance of his last start there will make him hard to beat.”
Salute The Soldier is much too good for his rivals in the Burj Nahaar sponsored By Emirates Holidays.
The Fawzi Nass-trained four-year-old was having his first race on the dirt and relished the surface.
Adrie de Vries challenged Kimbear for the lead early in the home straight and it was one-way traffic from then on as he motored clear. In this kind of form, he will clearly be a player in the Godolphin Mile in three weeks time on World Cup night.
Axelroad kept on well to claim second place without remotely threatening o lay a glove on the winner.
Secret Ambition ran his usual honest race for third but was making hard work of it from some way out. Kimbear, his old rival, folded tamely.
The winner had been a close fourth in the Zabeel Mile on his previous start.
“I was pretty confident. He’s been working very well on the dirt and we’ve been waiting to run him on the dirt," De Vries said. "He showed that he’s maybe even better on the surface. He has that front-running style and has plenty of speed.
"Today he travelled really well into the race ,which I like more than making the running. He hit the front and pricked his ears. That’s what I like about him. He takes a breather and kicks on again.
Nass said: “He’s always shown he likes the surface and it was good to see him perform like that today. Obviously, the only worry was the kickback, but he has enough speed to keep himself out of it. We’re learning about him. He has been very good today and his (pre-race antics) were much better than the first time he was out here.
"When we purchased him we thought he could be a horse for the dirt and he had been working well on it. He is a nervous type, so we saddle him in a closed box and try and keep him away from the others and crowds. Adrie gave him the perfect ride."
The fourth race today is the Burj Nahaar Sponsored By Emirates Holidays, a 1600 metres contest on dirt.
Doug Watson has trained the winner of this Group 3 prize three times in the past four years and his Kimbear seems likely to make a bold bid.
He was a thrilling winner (watch above) of the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 Presented By Longines Conquest V H P two months ago – beating Secret Ambition by a short head - and perhaps should be forgiven a below-par run in Round 2, over 300 metres further, behind Benbatl last time.
Secret Ambition meets Kimbear on the same terms and has since chased home Capezzano in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes sponsored by gulfnews.com, when he had the consistent Ambassadoirial behind in fourth.
Salute The Soldier and Blitzkreig are another pair who arrive in form.
American challenger Wildman Jack is a runaway winner of the $350,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint Sponsored By Arabian Adventures.
Doug O'Neill's our-year-old won by almost five lengths in a new track record time. He must now be a leading contender for the Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night three weeks from now.
Clearly, he had come on bundles for his fourth place in a handicap here last month.
O’Neill said: “That was insane. I don’t even know what to say. That was so powerful and he looked like a winner very early on in the race. I’m so proud of the whole team surrounding him.
"I’m now fired up to stay injury-free and go on to the big day. He’s always acted special, but you never know how they’re going to mature. He’s just handled everything like a complete pro.
"Tons of credit to the owner, Glenn Sorgenstein, who is just awesome. I watched it with him while on the phone and he’s already packing for the World Cup. He’s such a lover of the sport and I’m bless to have him as an owner. He loves Goldencents and sent me two pictures of two more babies today.”
All eyes were on hot favourite Space Blues but he was in trouble some way out and finished well held. A rare setback for Charlie Appleby at this year's Carnival.
By contrast, Wildman Jack was always moving strongly at the head of affairs over by the far rail and the further he went, the further he went clear.
Ekhtiyaar kept on to finish second, with Laieth and Drummore the next pair home.
Next up in the $350,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint Sponsored By Arabian Adventures. It is again over 1200 metres but this time the action will unfold on turf.
Charlie Appleby and William Buick have won the past three renewals with Jungle Cat (2017 and 2018) and Blue Point. This time, the combination team up with Space Blues, who drops in class and is likely to be hard to be beat.
His exploits last season included finishing runner-up spot in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group One Prix Jean Prat at Deauville, plus he was third in the Maurice de Gheest back at the French track.
“Dropping back to six furlongs will be the question mark, but I had been toying with the idea after Ascot,” Appleby said.
“This has been the long game of waiting for that opportunity to do it. He goes in fresh and well, and his homework has been sharp.
“He is a solid seven-furlong horse, but hopefully as he has got a bit stronger, he will have built up a bit more speed.”
The trainer added: “He needs to be winning something like this to justify a spot in the Al Quoz on World Cup night, but he is the class horse in the race.”
Ekhtiyaar won in fine style on his return and probably did too much, too soon, when fourth to Rusumaat in the Dubai Sprint last time.
Land Of Legends has run well in both his starts this year but has something to find on these terms, but Tom Dascombe admits British challenger Angel Alexander has to up his game.
He said: “On ratings and form, he is up there with them. He seems fit and well – from day one of being here he has seemed spot on, but it hasn’t quite gone as we thought it would.”
Wow! Wafy comes from the clouds to land the $350,000 Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored By Emirates Skywards.
It’ another winner for Satish Seemar and, like in the first race, he was also responsible for the runner-up, Leading Spirit.
The 1200-metre contest was run at a frenetic gallop and, as a consequence, plenty were treading water towards the finish.
Wafy could not go the early pace under Tadgh O'Shea but the five-year-old powered past rivals who had nothing left to offer when it mattered most.
Fight On was third home but Bochart faded to be well beaten after showing up until about 250 metres out. Ibn Malik was another who failed to figure.
Wafy was having only his second start for Seemar, having impressed at Jebel Ali last time.
O'Shea said: "He didn't really travel and I wasn't confident I was going to get there. It's only his second run in a sprint and he feels like a miler all day long to me.
"He's a horse I hold in high regard and he rattled hiome. We chucked him in deep here, to be honest, but he excels on this dirt surface. I think he will get more battle-hardened with more sprints."
Seemar said: “He was purchased in an English sale and started with us at Jebel Ali last time. Honestly, I was going to be a little easier on him to be kind, but the owner pushed me to run him here and I’m glad.”
Race two is the $350,000 Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored By Emirates Skywards. We are on the dirt again with 1200 metres to be covered.
A maximum field of 14 will go to post with Satish Seemar responsible for four of the runners.
His principal hope is Bochart, runaway winner of both his starts at Meydan this year.
He has more on his plate but could not have been more impressive (watch above) when scoring by seven-and-a-half lengths over course and distance under Richard Mullen 23 days ago. Switzerland was among the trailers.
Mullen said: “I was just a passenger. He’s getting faster and better as he gets older and is testament to everybody at Zabeel.
“We never trained him as a sprinter [when he was younger]. We thought 7f was his trip and got away with that when he was better handicapped, but it stretched him.”
Ibn Malik, third in the Al Shindagha Sprint last time, is a likely danger but has a wide draw to overcome.
Satish Seemar runners dominate the Al Bastakiya sponsored by emirates.com.
Emblem Storm, ridden by British champion jockey Oisin Murphy, took the spoils from stablemate Tuz, partnered by Tadgh O'Shea.
Dubai Love kept on to be a creditable third with Commanding, another Seemar runner, was fourth.
Always in a good position, Emblem Storm, third in the UAE 2000 Guineas last time, looked the winner from some way out and stuck on gamely up the straight to keep his rivals at bay.
It paid to race prominently and they finished well strung out. Zabardast, runner-up in the UAE 2000 Guineas, failed to figure and Ya Hahati trailed home well beaten - clearly not being in love with the surface.
"The crowd is a bit depleted but they still made plenty of noise," Murphy said.
"He’s a straightforward horse and was pricking his ears from the bottom of the straight. You always hope they will pull out more when they do that."
The action gets under way today with the Al Bastakiya Sponsored by emirates.com (4pm). The $300,000 Listed contest is on dirt and over 1900 metres.
Zabardast is an obvious contender after beating all bar Fore Left in last month’s UAE 2000 Guineas.
He had Emblem Storm (third), Spirit Of Light (fifth), Al Modayar (seventh), Commanding (eighth), Laser Show (tenth) and Liam’s Legend (eleventh) behind on that occasion. Watch a full replay below.
Ya Hayati landed the Meydan Trophy on his return and represents the all-conquering Appleby/Buick combination. That win was achieved on turf but the son of Dubawi was out of a dam who won two Grade 1 contests on dirt and so is bred to be effective on this surface.
Appleby said: “He has got a pedigree that could be interesting on the dam’s side in that she is a dirt winner. He has won his last two starts, one on synthetic and one on turf, and this is his first switch to the dirt.
“His home work has been nice on it, but the challenging part for him is going to be the draw in 14, as we know that is not a kind draw.
“If he was lucky enough to win or run well, he could potentially be a UAE Derby horse.”
Dubai Love, a distant runner-up in the UAE Oaks, adds intrigue.
William Buick has naturally been a beneficiary of Charlie Appleby’s success at the Carnival even though at times he has chosen wrong or been unable to make the weight.
He has six rides today, including aboard Space Blues (5.10) and Barney Roy (6.20). It will be a surprise if he does not have add to his haul.
Charlie Appleby’s horses have been in magnificent form during this year’s Carnival and his nine runners today will include a couple of hot favourites in Space Blues (5.10) and Barney Roy (6.20).
His Godolphin compatriot, Saeed Bin Suroor, began the Carnival in great form but his winners have dried up in recent weeks. He also has nine runners, with Dream Castle seeking a repeat win in the Jebel Hatta.
Welcome to our coverage of Super Saturday race meeting, one of the most anticipated meetings of the year and something of a dress rehearsal for Dubai World Cup night in three weeks’ time.
As with the previous nine weeks of the Dubai Carnival, we will bring you all the news as it happens plus reviews, videos and reaction from the victors and vanquished at Meydan.
Watch how Blue Point lit up Super Saturday last year
It promises to be a great night of action but also an unusual one. In light of the on-going global health implications of the coronavirus and precautionary measures being implemented by the UAE government, Dubai Racing Club will be running the meeting without paid hospitality spectators.
Customers who have purchased tickets will be reimbursed.
The show on the track will go on, although with only connections of the horses, sponsors and media personnel allowed to attend.
There are two Group 1 races, a Group 2, three Group 3s plus a Listed contest to savour. Ninety runners have been declared.
The Jebel Hatta sponsored By Emirates Airline (off at 6.20) and Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored By Emirates Airline (6.55) are the two Group 1 races on the card but there promises to be plenty of thrills before then, with the action getting under way at 4pm.