Godolphin’s Safety Check survived a photo finish to become the first horse to win the Group 2 Zabeel Mile twice at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday, while US star, California Chrome cruised to facile victory in his Dubai World Cup prep.
The eighth meeting of the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival, sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, proved a cracker. Dubai World Cup clues were much in evidence with Godolphin’s US raider, Marking throwing down the Dubai Golden Shaheen gauntlet with an impressive performance in his 1200m dirt prep while Doug Watson’s One Man band claimed a fourth victory of the season and looks set for a spot in the Godolphin Mile.
The Charlie Appleby-trained Safety Check made Dubai World Cup Carnival history in the featured Group 2 Zabeel Mile under William Buick, winning out in a photo finish over the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Ghaamer.
Settled in midfield by Buick Safety Check always looked to be travelling well and was asked to close early in the straight.
With 300m to run, Zahee went to the front, passing long-time leader Ghaamer with Safety Check and Harry’s Son, runner-up in the Al Fahidi Fort, the only pair emerging from the pack.
Ultra game, Ghaamer thrust his head back in front 50m from home, only to be headed right on the line by Safety Check.
“He just goes so well here and loves to please so always tries hard,” said Appleby. “The 1600m is as far as he wants to go but this lovely flat, turning track and fast ground are what he wants.
“Dirt and the Godolphin Mile were considered but he deserves a crack at Group 1 company so will go for the Hong Kong Mile next.”
Buick claimed a winning treble on the night, also steering the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Marking to his victory and was aboard Dubai debutant, Baccarat, who gave Appleby a double, in the closing Al Naboodah Civil Division Trophy.
But all eyes were on the Art Sherman-trained California Chrome in the Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy. Giving weight to all his rivals, the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner recorded a text-book prep effort under Victor Espinoza.
Racing three wide California Chrome was always going well. Korean representative, Success Story made the running under Tadhg O’Shea but Espinoza was sat motionless until the runners entered the straight.
Even then the jockey hardly moved, squeezing California Chrome to challenge and pass Success Story and Hunting Ground.
It was left to Storm Belt under Sam Hitchcott to chase him home.
“That was the perfect prep for the Dubai World Cup,” said Espinoza. “He has again showed the track and surface suit him.
“Hopefully he will be hard to beat in the big race.”
Sherman added: “That was great; it was his second run after a long break so he will improve from it.
“We decided the best way to win a Dubai World Cup was to come early and have a prep at Meydan and this race was ideal as we now have four weeks before the big one.”
Only six went to post for the opening Al Naboodah National Contracting Abu Dhabi Trophy over 1400m of the dirt and only one horse was involved for the majority of the race.
Trained by Doug Watson, One Man Band was giving weight to his five rivals but, once able to get to the front after about 200m, was never headed.
With Pat Dobbs suspended, Hitchcott rode the winner.
It was a first victory at this trip and he has now won over 1400m, 1600m and 1900m. His one defeat this season was arguably his best performance when runner-up in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes.
“That was perfect as his prep for the Godolphin Mile in 30 days,” said Watson. “He was a bit slow into his stride but he has plenty of natural speed and Sam did not panic so they were able to get to the front.
“He is a nice horse and one we have always liked.”
This week’s non-Carnival race was the 2000m Al Naboodah HSE dirt handicap and for the majority of the race it appeared Watson and Hitchcott would register a quick double.
Hitchcott tried to make all on Active Spirit, but had no answer to the challenge of Mickael Barzalona and Brabbham.
Saddled by Ahmad bin Harmash, it was a third consecutive victory for this progressive individual.
Watson did complete a double though, this time with Dane O’Neill in the saddle for owner, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, aboard local debutant Basateen.