Watch analysis of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three won by North America from Angus McNae and Rishi Persad.
By Tom Peacock
Owner Ramzan Kadyrov has a realistic contender for the Dubai World Cup after his North America put in an astonishing performance in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three at Meydan on Saturday.
The controversial Chechen warlord has often raced horses in Dubai in his red, white and green colours replicating the flag of the Eastern European republic and has been a keen supporter in person of World Cup night.
Given the Satish Seemar-trained North America lowered the track record held by the mighty California Chrome in a time of 2 min 1.71, perhaps he could be tempted to attend the main event on March 31.
North America waltzed through four wins during his last campaign before disappointing in the Godolphin Mile.
With the rail acting like a golden highway on the dirt, it was soon occupied by jockey Richard Mullen and he shrugged off the challenge of Godolphin’s World Cup hope and 2017 Prix Jean Prat winner Thunder Snow to come a startling five and a quarter lengths clear.
"After the maiden he ran for us (in 2016), he was always an exceptional horse. I know he started off a bit stuffy this year but our goal was this,” Seemar said.North America is a general 12-1 for the World Cup (Dubai Racing Club)
“The biggest doubt was the distance and he has proved very convincingly he can do it. We have a World Cup horse.
“Everybody was telling me to go for it last year but I wanted to stick to the Godolphin Mile and get to know the horse. This season it was always in my mind, and it worked out.”
North America is a general 12-1 shot for the World Cup behind hot favourite American raider West Coast, with Seemar adding that he was his “best ever” chance in the race.
The charismatic trainer, a long-time resident in Dubai, also teamed up with Mullen to claim the Listed Al Bastakiya with recent maiden winner Yulong Warrior, who powered 11 and a half lengths away. The son of former World Cup winner Street Cry was drawn in the innermost stall in one.
Charlie Appleby’s Masar, the hot favourite and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere third, failed to handle his first attempt on dirt and was looked after by William Buick. Yulong Warrior is earmarked for the UAE Derby, where Aidan O’Brien could bring the likes of top-class Mendelssohn.
It got rather better for the Godolphin trainer after that, as his treble also included the other Group One event on the card in the Jebel Hatta.
His colleague Saeed Bin Suroor was responsible for the favourite Benbatl, who has been in fine shape throughout the Dubai World Cup Carnival, but James Doyle slipped up the rail aboard former handicapper Blair House and beat him by three-quarters of a length.
Appleby said: "It wasn't totally expected but we thought he'd run a big race as he was so well. They've gone nice fractions and it was a great ride by James. For him to get a Group One on the board, I'm delighted.
Doyle added: “He likes to get back and have one go at them late, but he burst through very dominantly and had a quick look at the cameras.
"I guess the only race for him really on World Cup night would be the Dubai Turf and it would be a different kettle of fish altogether, a stronger field. We’ll enjoy today."
The track record for the turf six furlongs was lowered by Appleby’s Jungle Cat when he defended his crown in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint. The old stager burst down the centre of the track to lower the colours of UAE’s dominant sprinter Ertijaal by two and a quarter lengths.
“Jungle Cat is a hardened campaigner, he's danced the dance, and hopefully he'll head to Dubai World Cup night and be another player again,” said Appleby. “There's always going to be plenty of pace in the Al Quoz Sprint, I think this is his trip now."
Appleby finished the Carnival as leading trainer and William Buick top jockey when Hawkbill, the former Eclipse hero, held off a rejuvenated Frontiersman and Doyle in the Dubai City Of Gold. He is now set for the Sheema Classic, where competition is headed by Andre Fabre’s Cloth Of Stars.
Fawzi Nass, who intends to retire his fine old campaigner Krypon Factor after a solid fourth in the Mahab Al Shimaal, unveiled his replacement in the same race as Jordan Sport, trying dirt for the first time, dismantled his opposition as well as the track record.
Kimbear should represent leading UAE trainer Doug Watson in the Godolphin Mile after his return to form under Pat Hobbs from the priceless stall one in the Burj Nahaar, where hot favourite Heavy Metal weakened dramatically in the closing stages for Salem Bin Ghadayer.
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