Chief among those were one-sided victories on the turf by Godolphin's Barney Roy in the Group 1 $400,000 Jebel Hatta and a course record-setting romp from W C Racing's Doug O'Neill-trained Wildman Jack in the Group 3 $350,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.
The card kicked off with an inspired performance by Al Bayraq Stable's Emblem Storm, who was ridden confidently by Oisin Murphy for trainer Satish Seemar, flaunting a stamina-laden pedigree with a stalk-and-pounce performance that ended with a one-two finish for Zabeel Racing Stables. Tuz, whose only starts previously had been in Russia, finished a fine second for Seemar in his local debut. The winner was 1¼ lengths clear at the wire in a time of 1:58.06—just .01 off the stakes record, but far from Mendelssohn's 1:55.18 course record.
"He is a very straightforward horse to ride and may not be the biggest, but he is all heart," Murphy said. "He made my job easy because he jumped well, travelled strongly and then quickened nicely. He had to battle in the straight, but he was a very willing partner and that was a lovely spare ride, so a big thank you to all the connections."
Seemar came right back with another one-two finish in the Group 3 $350,000 Mahab Al Shimaal for dirt sprinters, with Nasir Askar's Wafy closing resolutely under Tadhg O'Shea to best stablemate Leading Spirit by three parts of a length. Spending most of the running near the rear of the field, the blue-blooded son of Dubawi and 1000 Guineas (G1) winner Ghanaati allowed the breakneck pace of stablemate and favourite Bochart and Nine Below Zero to collapse in front of him before running on late and winning his second race in a couple weeks. He is now undefeated on dirt following his Jebel Ali win on UAE bow, Feb. 21.
"He is just a very progressive horse, but to be honest, we did not really know what to expect because this was just his second run in a sprint," O'Shea said. "That said, he was very impressive at Jebel Ali and is at home every morning. He was a bit caught out for tactical speed early on, but he really picked up in exciting fashion in the straight. I assume he will go to the big night."
W C Racing's Wildman Jack blitzed the track record for 1200m on grass in the $350,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3), finishing up in 1:07.61 in nearly gate-to-wire fashion under Fernando Jara. The win was American trainer Doug O'Neill's third of the 2020 DWC Carnival and the first American win on grass in Dubai history. The final margin was nearly five lengths back to Ekhtiyaar, also runner-up in 2019. The son of two-time Breeders' Cup winner Goldencents—who was also campaigned by his owner—won for the third time in seven lifetime starts.
"I was very impressed by him," Jara said. "He was travelling and cantering around and so relaxed. He's so fast and didn't even seem like he was going full speed. He was a different horse today and just got tired going seven furlongs last time. He definitely stepped up today."
O'Neill added: "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; Leandro and the crew. 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."
Dirt milers took to the stage in the $350,000 Burj Nahaar (G3), but it was a horse making his dirt debut who won impressively in Fawzi Nass-trained Salute the Soldier, who stalked and pounced under Adrie de Vries en route to a 5½-length win. Well-regarded G3 winner Axelrod rallied for second, while the ever-consistent Secret Ambition ran on well to be third a length astern him. A high-spirited German-bred son of Sepoy, the 5-year-old won for the sixth time in 16 starts, finishing up the 1600m in 1:37.27.
"I was pretty confident," De Vries said. "He's been working very well on the dirt and we've been waiting to run him on the dirt. 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."
The first Group 1 of the season took place in the Jebel Hatta, which carries a $400,000 purse. The 1800m affair became a showcase for the skills of trainer Charlie Appleby, as his Godolphin blue-clad team finished first, second and third with Barney Roy besting mare Magic Lily and hard-trying Spotify. The final margin was 1¾ lengths, but the multiple G1 winner was leagues the best and goes into the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) as one of the horses to beat. William Buick was aboard, finishing up in 1:46.09, a new stakes record.
"I'm very happy with it," Buick said. "We had a very trick draw in 12 and we had to ride him the way we did. There were a lot of horses in the race with very little chance, but we still had to pass them all. He travels very strongly into the race. I brought him out into the straight and he picked them up easily. He has a nice cruising speed, which is helped by his big stride, but also he loves a flat track like Meydan, where he can use that stride. It's a testament to the horse and the team at home, who have done a great job with him ever since he stepped into the yard."
Appleby added: "From that draw in 12, we decided we would have to ride him for luck. The horse has not made that easy for William, but that was a great ride in the circumstances. The horse is just so enthusiastic and keen to get on with things, but once William had him on an even keel in the straight, he was always going to win. He will go to the Dubai Turf and Magic Lily may do so, as well. She has had a brilliant year at Meydan. Spotify had run very well also."
Group 1 action continued in the $600,000 Al Maktoum Challenge R3, which was a tour de force for Matterhorn , donning the light blue of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum and ridden by Mickael Barzalona for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer. In just his second dirt try, the son of Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Raven's Pass went fast early and was too much for them late, holding off Military Law by 5½ lengths. Mark of Approval was another 2½ lengths back in third. The final time was 2:04.44 and the winner won for the ninth time from 22 starts.
"We have been expecting a lot from him," Barzalona said. "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."
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."
The finale was the $350,000 Dubai City of Gold (G2) for horses with $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) dreams in three weeks and was won in determined fashion by Godolphin's Loxley by a head over heavily favoured Defoe. Giving trainer Charlie Appleby a third consecutive win in the race, the son of New Approach turned back the clock to his best form of two years ago, sweeping past the aforementioned favourite before holding off his re-rally. The final time was 2:28.59, with the final 400m in a spritely 23.31 seconds. Loxley, a multiple G2 winner, won for the fifth time from 16 starts.
"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," said winning jockey Mickael Barzalona, completing a double. "When he came into the straight, he did the job well."
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."