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The Group 2 middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge was claimed by gritty Chilean mare, Furia Cruzada by a nose on UAE debut in the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday evening.
The Erwan Charpy-trained five year old, who had won three times at the highest level on dirt in South America, transferred to John Gosden’s stables in Newmarket where she was campaigned at various distances on turf without success. Yet returning to dirt at Meydan proved the cure and, under Antonio Fresu, Furia Cruzada held off the challenge of the fast finishing Second Summer ridden by Pat Dobbs.
It was a second win on the night inside 35 minutes for Charpy, after Zamaam scored in the earlier EGA Casthouse Trophy handicap over 3200m on the turf.
"She is very tough," said Fresu of Furia Cruzada. "She loves the dirt and to be honest, she is not 100 per cent fit so I am looking forward to her next race."
"I ride her every day so I know. She needed the race so she could have run better."
"I think she will improve."
Charpy’s victory with the HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned Zamaam came courtesy of jockey, Jim Crowley.
“They went pretty quick for this kind of distance and it was a new trip for my horse,” said Crowley of the 3200m trip. “He settled perfectly and basically just lobbed around for the first half of the race.
“Erwan decided to step him up and it was the right move as the horse stayed on really strongly to win nicely.”
Also on the dirt surface was the main support race, the 1200m Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint Sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminium. Only six may have gone to post but it produced an exciting finish nonetheless with last year’s Group 1 Golden Shaheen winner, Muarrab easing to the front 500m out under Crowley.
However, he was always being stalked by Dobbs aboard the Doug Watson-trained Cool Cowboy, victorious in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over 1600m on Super Saturday last year.
Crowley’s mount quickened early in the straight, seeing off the other four rivals but Cool Cowboy steadily narrowed the gap, before leading in the final 100m.
He and Dobbs crossed the line a neck ahead of Muarrab with almost five lengths back to the third, Wild Dude.
“I was able to settle him in behind runners and he loved racing on their heels,” said Dobbs. “I was tracking the right horse in Muarrab and he took me there travelling very strongly before digging deep in the final 200m."
“All credit to Doug and his team; it was their idea to drop back to this 1200m trip and it has paid off. Last season he did not show as much speed but, this year, he has strengthened. He really looks like a sprinter and has shown a lot more speed.”
Watson was completing a double having already saddled first and second in the opening 1900m dirt handicap, the EGA Billets Trophy
Drawn one, Sam Hitchcott was clearly determined to utilise his inside berth, driving the Watson-trained Grand Argentier straight to the head of affairs.
They basically never saw another of their eight rivals, pulling clear entering the straight and running on strongly, eventually chased home by stable companion Galvanize.
“Everything went to plan,” said Hitchcott. “He was well away and I was always in front. He has plenty of early speed, especially for a horse who stays this trip and I was never concerned during the race. He travelled well and then picked up nicely to provide the best possible start to the evening.”
The 2000m turf handicap, the EGA Jebel Ali Trophy, was run in heavy rain but it certainly did not deter the Mike de Kock-trainer Sanshaawds who headed Belgian Bill, the eventual third, in the final 100m.
The winner was ridden by Christophe Soumillon, from Belgium, who said: “That was a good battle between two Belgians! He is a tough horse who always gives his best but not one you want to hit the front on too soon.”
Godolphin’s impressive Cymric, the only runner for Charlie Appleby on the night, made a winning local debut in the EGA Potlines Trophy, a 1600m turf handicap, under a confident-looking William Buick.
Settled in second, behind American Hope, also owned by Godolphin but trained by Saeed bin Suroor, he was sent for home at the 300m pole and soon had the race won.
A classy juvenile in 2015, when trained by John Gosden, he finished runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere but failed to build on that in 2016.He was then switched to Appleby who had him gelded and this was a striking return to action in what looked a competitive race.
“I won on this horse when he was a juvenile with John Gosden and a very promising one,” said Buick. “Things did not go totally to plan for him last year but he had been working well and we were hopeful. We had a lovely lead into the race and he responded well when I asked him."
“You would like to think there is more to come from him because, as I said, he is a nice horse.”
The finale, the EGA Al Taweelah Trophy, a 1000m turf handicap saw the Dhruba Selvaratnam-trained Speed Hawk run down a backing-up Medicean Man who has won in the Carnival seven days previously for trainer, Jeremy Gask.