Sponsored by Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal, the Al Rashidiya, a course and distance prep for the $6 million Dubai Turf (G1), was won stylishly by Godolphin's 2017 Royal Ascot victor Barney Roy. Meanwhile Gladiator King claimed his third lifetime G3 in the Al Shindagha against the best local sprinters.
Settling well behind horses as stablemate Loxley carved out legitimate fractions, Barney Roy swung wide turning for home and followed fellow Group 1 winner Dream Castle--last year's winner with Christophe Soumillon aboard--to the front and proceeded to measure him for the win, ultimately pulling clear in the final furlong. In the end, he provided trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick with their first victories in the race. The final margin was 2¼ lengths, with another 6¼ back to Dream Castle's Saeed bin Suroor-trained stablemate Mountain Hunter in third with Pat Cosgrave.
"He's been off for a while, so he's entitled to be a little bit fresh, but I suppose in many ways, that's a performance you want to see from a horse with his previous form and his class," Buick said. "Although Dream Castle, of course, has some form in the book. Good performance from a long layoff and he's a horse with a lot of gears who will be prepped for something Dubai World Cup night, hopefully."
"He's a very lightly framed horse, so we don't do much with him," Appleby added. "He was fresh in the paddock and for the first half of the race, but once he got into it, I was always hopeful that his class would prevail and that is what we've seen at the end. That will hopefully take the freshness out of him now and hopefully we can work backward from the (Group 1) Jebel Hatta (on Super Saturday, March 7). All being well, it's one step at a time. We'll get Super Saturday out of the way and hopefully we can book ourselves a slot for Dubai World Cup night. Visually, from what we've seen there, you'd be quite happy to step up to 10 furlongs. He was just touched off in the (2017 Group 1) Juddmonte (International at York Racecourse) and is a class animal. It's just nice to see him back to his winning ways this evening. Hopefully he'll gain a bit of confidence there and we can tiptoe toward Super Saturday."
Soumillon seemed pleased with Dream Castle's return to form after five consecutive poor showings.
"He ran much better than last time," he said. "He jumped out of the gate quite well. I think the cheek pieces helped him to be more concentrated today. When I came into the straight, I thought he would win easy, but when Barney went, he couldn't accelerate with him. I think with a race like today, he should improve for the next one."
The dirt highlight of the night was the 1200m Group 3 $200,000 Al Shindagha Sprint sponsored by DP World UAE Region, which produced a thrilling finish with Satish Seemar-trained Gladiator King and Mickael Barzalona overtaking USA invader Truck Salesman and Fernando Jara in the final yards. Owned by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, the 4-year-old Curlin colt is now 2-for-2 in the UAE, after having taken the Dubawi Stakes (G3) on opening night of the DWC Carnival. The final margin was one length, with another 1 ¼ lengths back to Ibn Malik and Drafted, who were separated by a nose and slowly closing on their aforementioned rivals.
"Things went differently than how we expected, but he still ran a great race," Barzalona said. "We were very pleased with the way he did it today. He has some natural speed. If he would be in front, it wouldn't be a problem for him. He's a lovely horse he's easy to ride and hopefully there's more to come. I was a little scared of Drafted to be fair, but I feel my horse is still improving and going the right away."
"The horse even that, even at home, knows what he's doing and knows where the finish line is," Seemar added. "He's not one of those who wastes energy, but he is a powerhouse horse and he knew what was going on in the race. He was stalking them and waiting and finished the job when Mickael asked him. It's good to have a horse like that."
Jara was pleased with longshot Truck Salesman's big effort, after battling for the early pace with swift Swedish sprinter I Kirk.
"The very first step, he was a little bit slow (out of the gate), but after that he was very quick and got into position right away," Jara said. "He was travelling nice and a really nice horse beat him. That horse ran three weeks ago, so he was probably fitter, and this guy just arrived off the plane, so I think he should improve from this race. He was very keen to run. I didn't want to take that away from him, so I let him have that momentum and hoped it would carry me to the end—and it did. He was running and wasn't stopping. It's just that a good horse beat him."
The meeting kicked off with the only Purebred Arabian contest on the card, the Group 1 $75,000 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 sponsored by JAFZA, reduced 300m in trip this year from 2200m to 1900m and won stylishly by Ziyadd, confidently ridden by Richard Mullen for Jean de Roualle. It was a fourth win for the horse, second in the UAE, both in Group 1 company. He and Mullen also landed the 2000m Al Maktoum Challenge R3 in March 2018.
"To be honest, that was not the plan because I had planned to lead but Fernando was able to get the early initiative," Mullen said. "When he slowed the pace, I was a bit stuck in a pocket. We then started racing quite hard again from a long way out but my horse has run on well and it was a good performance."
The Listed $175,000 Meydan Cup over 2810m on turf provided stayers a chance to shine, but all the focus early in the race was on heavy favourite and five-time G1-placed Dee Ex Bee. In the end, it was the grinding stamina of Godolphin colourbearer Secret Advisor, who was ridden to patient perfection by Tadhg O'Shea for Charlie Appleby, splitting horses in the final furlong and winning by a well-earned length over Dubai Horizon, Dubhe and Mekong. Dee Ex Bee checked in fifth, but was only a head and a nose from third. A six-year-old Dubawi gelding, Secret Advisor won the prestigious 2800m Melrose Handicap in August 2017 and was third in Stradivarius's Queen's Vase (G2) at Royal Ascot.
"He has some good back form this horse, including winning a Melrose Handicap, but had a few setbacks, missed a year and was disappointing last season," Appleby explained. "We decided to be patient with him today. Since arriving in Dubai, he has really thrived."
Also on turf, a 1600m handicap, the $135,000 Mina Rashid, attracted the biggest field on the card, 15 going to post. It was a popular winner as Carnival regular Fawzi Nass claimed his first of the season with Salute the Soldier under Adrie de Vries. Well positioned throughout in fifth on the rail, the 5-year-old Sepoy gelding quickened to the front halfway up the straight before bravely holding off Godolphin's Land of Legends and Good Fortune. Formerly trained by Clive Cox, winning four times including valuable 1400m handicaps at both Goodwood and Ascot, he was purchased by current connections at Tattersalls in October.
"He is a very nice horse and an exciting one going ahead," Nass said. "As you saw, he is a bit of a character, not the easiest to deal with and managed to dump Adrie in the parade ring. His form in England was good and Clive Cox did a good job with him. We will sit down now and make a plan."
The $135,000 Mina Hamriya, a 1600m dirt handicap, was contested at a furious early gallop set by Korean hope Fasuba, who was headed by USA challenger Fight On early in the straight, but the damage proximity to such a pace and a 60kgs top impost were too much for the American, who was passed in the final 150m by Swedish pair Plata O Plomo and Stricker. The grey former, trained by Susanne Berneklint, was gritty in victory, holding off the latter in impressive style. Carlos Lopez was aboard for the win.
Lopez said: "He stays further, so the fast gallop has really suited him and he ran on very strongly for me when I asked him."
In the concluding Jebel Ali Port, a 2000m turf handicap, Godolphin's American Graffiti was timed to perfection by Brett Doyle, providing trainer Charlie Appleby with a third win on the evening. Finishing up in a sharp 2:01.56, the son of Pivotal held off GM Hopkins and Certain Lad by three-quarters of a length.
"He jumped quick and dropped in nicely then picked up well," Doyle said. "He ran all the way to the line and is probably a horse who stays farther. It was a perfect race. He's a consistent horse."