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North America rebounds to take Al Maktoum Challenge
January 12, 2019
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DUBAI: The second meeting of the 2109 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan was highlighted by a quality renewal of the $350,000 Al Maktoum Challenge round 1 sponsored by Yahsat, a Group 2 contested over 1600m that has served as a prep for both the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) and $1.5 million Godolphin Mile (G2).

Additionally, two exciting sophomore stakes were on tap, including the inaugural $100,000 Dubai Trophy over 1400m on turf and the $100,000 UAE 2000 Guineas over 1600m on dirt, as well as a trio of enthralling handicaps and a Group 1 Purebred Arabian affair.

Well away under Richard Mullen, riding for main employer Satish Seemar and owner Ramzan Kadyrov, North America was absolutely dominant in a race that shaped up as one of the most compelling and competitive dirt miles Dubai has ever seen. The 7-year-old gelded son of Dubawi soon turned that presumption on its head, going gate-to-wire and never looking in doubt.

Shaking off defending champion and Godolphin Mile (G2) winner Heavy Metal, as well as UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Gold Town, Burj Nahaar (G3) winner Kimbear and Godolphin Mile runner-up Muntazah, gingerly campaigned North America won for the sixth time in 16 starts and first time since winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on Super Saturday last March in similar fashion over subsequent Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Thunder Snow.

The victory provided some consolation for the winner’s connections, as his last two disappointing efforts—a 10th in the Dubai World Cup and third in last year’s edition of this race—were caused by poor starts. This time, there was no such worry.

“That’s the way he is,” Seemar said. “I was telling (Mullen) to let him do his thing. We had the right draw. If he pops out, just don’t stop him. I know when he’s in form like that, he’s so good. About 10 days ago, we jumped him out of the gate, just to wake him up and he did it exactly the same way. I wasn’t worried about (Heavy Metal). After (North America) broke like he did, I had no worries. His stride is about 1½ compared to other horses. He could have set a track record today, but no one was there to challenge him. He’ll go to (Al Maktoum Challenge) Round 2.”

“Unbelievable,” Mullen added. “I just said to the boss (Seemar) that there are not a lot of horses who give me goosebumps and he has done that. It was an incredible performance for his first run (this season). He has such huge stride. I think anything that comes near, he has that much pace that he just kills them off.

“This is step one. There are a few to go, so let us not get carried away. Like I said, they are horses, not machines, and anything can happen. There is potential for him to be better. He is only going to have four runs this year and he already has his program penciled out. I know he is a 7-year-old, but he has probably had less races than most 3- or 4-year-olds in Europe. He is very lightly raced and very well looked-after. They have the whole summer off, so seven is the new three or four in UAE terms.”

The Doug Watson-trained pair of Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s Kimbear and UAE Minister of Finance and Deputy Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Muntazah, ran on well, but were clearly distanced by the victor’s powerhouse performance. Kimbear saved ground under Pat Dobbs before tipping out and attempting to reel in the winner, while Muntazah dealt with a slightly more eventful trip under Jim Crowley.

“He had a nice trip around,” Dobbs said. “The winner was far too good. He’s a tough horse and ran his race, but I’m afraid the winner was in a different league today.”

“I didn’t get a great trip around,” Crowley explained. “There was a little interference on the backside, but he ran a good race and I think he’ll improve from this.”

Gold Town, African Ride, Dolkong, Etijaah, Masaarr and a shockingly flat Heavy Metal completed the field.

Walking Thunder wins

The UAE 2000 Guineas Trial sponsored by Strata, over the same 1600m dirt course and distance as the first colts’ classic, was turned into a procession by Walking Thunder, who is now unbeaten after three starts, all at Meydan on dirt. Trained by Ahmad Bin Harmash for the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate, the 3-year-old son of Violence provided the owners a winner with their first ever runner at the opening Meydan meeting of the season, at the beginning of November, over 1400m and followed up five weeks later over 1600m. Ridden by Connor Beasley on each occasion, the pair were able to overcome being drawn widest of all to stalk early leader Power Link, before sweeping past early in the straight and powering clear by nine lengths.

Harmash said: “He’s a very good horse. We are trying to get to the UAE Derby with him. He’s doing very well and has trained very well. He ran a great race. Congratulations to this new group of owners. We weren’t worried about the (draw). He’s a horse who runs fast from the gate and it didn’t scare us that much. It looks like he can travel the Derby distance.”

“From a wide draw, I just thought I would let him jump and, instead of fighting, let him breathe and find his feet,” Beasley added.

Good Fortune shines

A new race this year, the Dubai Trophy sponsored by Masdar, a 1400m turf conditions contest for the 3-year-olds, was won in determined fashion by Godolphin’s Good Fortune, a first 2019 carnival winner for both Charlie Appleby and James Doyle. Never far off the pace, Doyle asked the New Approach colt to challenge at the top of the straight with the pair hitting the front about 350m from home before drifting slightly across the track, but never appearing in much danger, although David Simcock-trained Woven did run on well to take second. Trolius ran on well to be third, which provided a small consolation for trainer Simon Crisford, whose favoured Sporting Chance disappointed in 12th of the 16 runners.

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