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Raihana Ready to Roll in Al Fahidi Fort

***This article was originally published on Feb. 16 on***


Tough-as-nails Raihana will be making a quick turnaround and will jump into group company when she goes to the post in the eight furlong Al Fahidi Fort Sponsored by Commercial Bank of Dubai (UAE-IIT) at Meydan Racecourse Feb. 17. The turf contest is one of a pair of stakes races that highlight the Thursday night card.

After beating males in a nine furlong turf handicap on Feb. 10, Raihana will face 11 challengers in the Al Fahidi Fort. The field has one other distaff challenger, the rapidly-improving Thai Haku, who enters the contest off of a second-place finish in the Cape Verdi Stakes Sponsored by Bab Al Shams (UAE-IIT) in January.

Raihana, a 5-year-old Australian-bred daughter of Elusive Quality, races as a homebred for Sheik Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and is trained by Mike de Kock. She made quite a name for herself last year at the Dubai Carnival, capturing the listed UAE Oaks before finishing a strong second to Musir in the UAE Derby (UAE-II). Christophe Soumillon, who has been red-hot of late, will be aboard.

Raihana will be joined in the Al Fahidi Fort by stablemate Our Giant, who enters the race off of a fourth-place finish in the Al Shindagha Sprint Sponsored by Etisalat (UAE-III). Prior to that, the son of Giant’s Causeway won a six furlong allowance race in his seasonal debut. Both races were on the all-weather Tapeta surface; trainer de Kock is moving the group I winner back to the turf and stretching him out to what is probably his best distance. Our Giant has been in the money in nine of 11 starts going one mile. Kevin Shea will ride.

Another top challenger in the race is Hearts of Fire, who will be making his first start since being purchased for $905,249 at the Tattersalls Autumn horses in training sale in October. Winner of the Gran Criterium (It-I) and named champion 2-year-old colt in both Italy and Germany, Hearts of Fire was originally conditioned by Pat Eddery in England. The 4-year-old son of Firebreak is now with Qatar-based trainer Ibrahim Saeed Al-Malki, and is owned by Hassan Ali Abdul Malik. Ryan Moore will ride.

Sheik Hamdan’s Derbaas is another improving type in with a chance. The 5-year-old horse by Seeking the Gold will be making his stakes debut at Meydan, after reeling off three straight wins in allowance company. Richard Hills has the mount.


Star Empire Headlines Nad Al Sheba Trophy


Star Empire heads a field of nine older runners in the listed Nad Al Sheba Trophy Sponsored by Al Dana Wealth Management. The 14-furlong turf marathon will be contested as the fourth race on the seven race program.

A lightly-raced 5-year-old gelding by Second Empire, Star Empire is a stakes winner in his native South Africa, and is rounding into form nicely for Mike de Kock. Christophe Soumillon will ride.

Godolphin will send out two representatives in the race, Claremont and Opinion Poll. Opinion Poll is the more accomplished of the duo, having been victorious in the Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup (Eng-II) and finishing third in the Prix Royal Oak (Fr-I) last year. Mahmood Al Zarooni trains the son of Halling, who was a narrowly-beaten second in his seasonal debut Jan. 27. Ahmed Ajtebi will be aboard.

Another to consider is Drunken Sailor, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Luca Cumani. Although a bit off form of late, the son of Tendulkar was impressive when reeling off back to back wins last season at Meydan. He will be reunited with jockey Kieren Fallon, who has had the most success aboard him.

$250,000 Al Fahidi Fort Sponsored by Commercial Bank of Dubai (gr. II, race 6, 12:35 p.m. EST), 3yo (SH-bred) and up, 8 furlongs, turf.

PP, Horse, Wgt., Jockey, Trainer

1. Our Giant (Aus), 126, K. Shea, M. de Kock

2. Derbaas (KY), 126, R. Hills, A. Al Raihe

3. Bushman (GB), 126, W. Buick, D. Simcock

4. Raihana (Aus), 121, C. Soumillon, M. de Kock

5. Le Drakkar (Aus), 126, O. Peslier, A. bin Huzaim

6. Finjaan (GB), 126, P. Dobbs, D. Watson

7. Thai Haku (Ire), 121, C.P. Lemaire, M. Delzangles

8. Invisible Man (GB), 126, L. Dettori, S. bin Suroor

9. Silverside (VA), 126, J. Grosjean, M. Delcher

10. Hearts of Fire (GB), 126, R. Moore, I. Al-Malki

11. Snaafy (KY), 126, T. O’Shea, M. Al Muhairi

12. Mabait (GB), 126, K. Fallon, L. Cumani



$175,000 Nad Al Sheba Trophy Sponsored by Al Dana Wealth Management (listed, race 4, 11:15 a.m. EST), 3yo (SH-bred) and up, 14 furlongs, turf.

PP, Horse, Wgt., Jockey, Trainer

1. Claremont (Ire), 126, M. Barzalona, M. Al Zarooni

2. Royal Bengali (KY), 121, A. Murgia, A. bin Huzaim

3. Bergo (Ger), 126, R. Moore, G. Moore

4. Opinion Poll (Ire), 130, A. Ajtebi, M. Al Zarooni

5. Drunken Sailor (Ire), 126, K. Fallon, L. Cumani

6. Montaff (GB), 126, J. Murtagh, M. Channon

7. Mojave Moon (GB), 126, P. Cosgrave, M. bin Shafya

8. Star Empire (SAf), 126, C. Soumillon, M. de Kock

9. Pompeyano (Ire), 126, L. Dettori, S. bin Suroor


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Presvis Makes 2011 Debut in Al Rashidiya

***This article was originally published on Jan. 26 on the Blood-Horse website***

Group I winning-globetrotter Presvis makes his seasonal debut in the Al Rashidiya-Sponsored by Gulf News (UAE-IIT) at Meydan Race Course on Jan. 27. The nine furlong turf contest highlights the third night of the 2011 Dubai Carnival.

Trained by Luca Cumani for owner Leonidas Marinopoulos, Presvis will be making his first start since finishing a disappointing ninth in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) in June at Royal Ascot. A winner at each of the last two Carnivals, Presvis turned in an impressive performance to capture the 2010 Jebel Hatta (UAE-IIT), scoring by 1 ½-lengths over Alexandros. The son of Sakhee was also a sharp second to champion Gladiatorus in the 2009 Dubai Duty Free (UAE-IT) at Nad Al Sheba.

The connections of the 7-year-old gelding are hopeful of their chances, with Cumani’s assistant trainer, Charlie Henson telling The Racing Post, “He has been off a long time now and is sure to improve from the run, but he looks in good shape and enjoys his time in Dubai.”

Ryan Moore has the mount.

Trainer Mike de Kock has a strong contender in Irish Flame, a 5-year-old South African-bred colt by Dynasty. A winner of six of 11 lifetime starts, Irish Flame had a banner year in 2010, capturing the Daily News 2000 (SAf-I), the S.A. Derby (SAf-I), and the Gold Circle Derby (SAf-II). He capped off his season with a narrow defeat to stablemate Bold Silvano in the Vodacom Durban July (SAf-I).

Regular rider Kevin Shea will be aboard.

Godolphin will be represented by two runners in the Al Rashidiya. Frozen Power will be making his second start this season for trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni. The son of Oasis Dream will be hoping to make amends for his seventh-place finish to Mendip in the Al Maktoum Challenge-Round I Sponsored by Longines (UAE-III).

Frozen Power as always been well-regarded by the Godolphin team, and competed in several top races as a 3-year-old last year. A half-brother to champion Finsceal Beo, Frozen Power captured the Mehl Muhlens-Rennen-German 2000 Guineas (Ger-II) in May. Jockey Mickael Barzalona will ride.

Saeed bin Suroor trains the other half of the Godolphin entry, Caymans. The Australian-bred 6-year-old gelding has been lightly-raced due to various minor ailments, and has made just 10 career starts. He has shown plenty of ability despite his brief career, with his best result coming with a victory in the 2008 Betfair Sandown Guineas (Aus-II).

Frankie Dettori will be aboard.

Other contenders include Sea Lord, a 4-year-old colt by Cape Cross who hails from the rich female family of champions/grade I winners Numbered Account, Rhythm, Girolamo, and Super Saver, and the hard-knocking Bushman, a tough 7-year-old gelding trained by David Simcock.

$200,000 Al Rashidiya-Sponsored by Gulf News (gr. II, race 6, 12:45 p.m. EST), 3yo (SH-Bred) and Up, 9 furlongs (turf).

PP, Horse, Wgt., Jockey, Trainer

1. Sea Lord (Ire), 127, A. Ajtebi, M. Al Zarooni

2. Bushman (GB), 126, J. Spencer, D. Simcock

3. Tequilla Heights (Brz), 126, B. Reis, E. Martins

4. Bribone (Fr), 126, R. Mullen, S. Seemar

5. Le Drakkar (Aus), 126, C.P. Lemaire, A. bin Huzaim

6. Irish Flame (SAf), 129, K. Shea, M. de Kock

7. Caymans (Aus), 126, L. Dettori, S. bin Suroor

8. Steele Tango (KY), 126, T. Durcan, R. Teal

9. Grand Hombre (KY), 126, R. Burke, R. Bouresly

10. Tam Lin (GB), 126, P. Cosgrave, M. bin Shafya

11. Frozen Power (Ire), 124, M. Barzalona, M. Al Zarooni

12. Third Set (Ire), 126, R. Hills, I. Mohammed

13. Presvis (GB), 126, R. Moore, L. Cumani

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Canford Cliffs Cruises in Irish 2000 Guineas

Canford Cliffs rewarded trainer Richard Hannon’s faith in his ability with a rousing three-length victory in the Abu Dhabi Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) at the Curragh May 22.

Canford Cliffs, who captured the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) last season, entered the Irish classic off of a third-place finish in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) in his most recent start.   Despite being slightly disappointed with that result, Hannon still felt his colt would prove best a mile, and decided to give the Irish equivalent a try.

Ridden by Richard Hughes, Canford Cliffs was settled in mid-division as two of the Aidan O’Brien-trained runners, Encompassing and Purple Heart, set the pace up front.  The two colts, part of a six-horse O’Brien entry, led the field through most of the early stages of the race.

With just over two furlongs to run, Oasis Dancer took over the lead, with Keredari and Xtension hot on his heels.  Hughes sat motionless aboard Canford Cliffs, as the colt began to pick off rivals one by one.  With just over a furlong to run, Hughes pushed the button and the response was immediate, with Canford Cliffs rocketing to the front and drawing away from the field.

Free Judgement, trained by Jim Bolger, came with a sweeping run down the center of the course to claim second, three lengths behind Canford Cliffs.  Aidan O’Brien’s Viscount Nelson got up for third, another 1 ½-lengths further back.

Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:37.64 over a course rated ‘good to firm’.

Richard Hannon Jr., the winning trainer’s son and assistant, told the press after the race, “He relaxed a lot more than usual and was able to finish his race.”

“We probably have three of the best milers in the country (Canford Cliffs, Paco Boy, and Dick Turpin) and people keep saying they are all best at seven furlongs,” Hannon Jr., continued.

“He’ll go to the St. James’s Palace (Stakes, Eng-I) and deserves to take his chance.  He’s possibly the best we’ve ever had, and he’s shown it today.”

Bred in Ireland by S and S Hubbard Rodwell, Canford Cliffs is by the French group I winner, Tagula, and out of the Marju mare, Mrs. Marsh.  He is owned by the partnership of the Heffer Syndicate, Mrs. Roy, and Mrs. Instance.

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A Very ‘Special’ Guineas Double

Special Duty completed an amazing English/French 1000 Guineas double as she was awarded a classic victory once again via disqualification, this time in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (Fr-I) at Longchamp May 16.

Two weeks ago at Newmarket, Special Duty also claimed victory in the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), after the stewards ruled she had been hampered by Jacqueline Quest, who had finished a nose in front of her.

On Sunday, Special Duty was promoted to first after a storming late run saw her fall a head short of Liliside at the wire.  A stewards’ inquiry was quickly called after the finish, as there had been obvious bumping and interference between several fillies within the final furlong.

After a prolonged delay of well over an hour, the stewards deemed that Liliside had been the instigator of much of the interference, as she had bumped both Full Steam and Rosanara when jockey Jean-Bernard Eyquem switched her out to make her run with under two furlongs left.

Liliside ran on strongly to the wire, holding off a charging Special Duty by a head.  Baine finished another neck back in a blanket finish of six fillies.  Joanna and Rosanara were each just a head behind Baine, with Lady Of The Desert another neck back after having to be taken up sharply by jockey Kieren Fallon.

After the inquiry, stewards awarded Special Duty the victory.  Baine was promoted to second, and Joanna was third.  Liliside was placed sixth, behind Lady Of The Desert.

Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:37.40 over a course rated as good.

Criquette Head-Maarek, who trains Special Duty for owner/breeder Juddmonte Farm, now has won the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches seven times, and has completed the English/French Guineas double twice, after Ravinella completed the sweep in 1988.

Head-Maarek thought justice had been done following the change of result.  “Amazing-that is the word,” she told reporters.  “It feels very good and to win two Group Ones is incredible.”

“The stewards have made the correct decision as I got the race, but it was the right decision overall as Liliside stopped the Aga Khan horse (Rosanara) from being closer.”

Head-Maarek continued, “It is always a shame in these big races and leaves me with a bad feeling, especially when the result involves a small trainer from the country.”

When asked where Special Duty would run next, Head-Maarek replied, “I think I’ll give her a break now—I feel Ascot would come too soon.  She could run in the Prix d’Astarte (Fr-I) at Deauville.”

Special Duty, who was champion 2-year-old filly in England last year, races as a homebred for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm.  She is by Hennessy out of Quest To Peak, by Distant View.  Her dam, Quest To Peak, is a full-sister to multiple grade I winner Sightseek, and a half-sister to grade I winner Tates Creek.

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Paco Boy Dazzles in Lockinge Stakes

Paco Boy notched his third group I victory with an impressive performance in the Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) at Newbury Racecourse May 15.

Fourth in the race last year–after which it was discovered that he had an infected foot–Paco Boy was settled comfortably in mid-pack by jockey Richard Hughes as Stimulation led the field of nine through the early stages of the eight furlong contest.

As the pace began to quicken with three furlongs left to run, Hughes still sat motionless aboard Paco Boy, as Zacinto, Ouqba, and Lord Shanakill all began to make their moves on the leader.  As the field entered the final furlong, Hughes finally pushed the button and Paco Boy responded with an amazing turn of foot to take command.

Ouqba made a late move to challenge for the lead but was no match for Paco Boy, who won by three-quarters of a length while being geared down.  Lord Shanakill plugged on for third, another 3 ½-lengths behind Ouqba.

Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:37.31 over a good to firm turf course.

The Richard Hannon trained 5-year-old will now be pointed toward Royal Ascot and a defense of his Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) crown, which he won by 1 ½-lengths last year.  One of his challengers at Royal Ascot will more than likely be two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) champion Goldikova, who is scheduled to make her seasonal debut next weekend at Longchamp.

A delighted Hannon told the Racing Post after the race, “He’s a better horse this year than last year and he will be a hard horse to beat.”

“He is such a lovely horse to deal with and has grown into an old favorite – I’ve got pictures of him all over the place,” Hannon continued.  “He’ll definitely go for the Queen Anne next.”

Paco Boy is a 5-year-old horse by Desert Style, out of Tappen Zee, by Sandhurst Prince.  He was bred in Ireland by Joan Browne and races for The Calvera Partnership.

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Nothing to Sneeze At—Pollen Takes Park Express Stakes

The European racing season got underway this weekend with several listed and group races in England, Ireland, and France.

On Saturday in England, Tranquil Tiger captured the 10-furlong Winter Derby (Eng-III) at Lingfield Park for trainer Henry Cecil and owner Juddmonte Farm.  The 6-year-old son of Selkirk improved his overall record to 10 wins from 25 lifetime starts, and notched his first group victory.  Tranquil Tiger had seven previous stakes wins, all coming in listed stakes.

The chestnut horse has won three straight stakes races, beginning with the Churchill Stakes last November.  Tranquil Tiger is now three for three on the ‘all-weather’.

Breaking alertly from the gate, Tranquil Tiger raced comfortably in second, just off the pacesetter, Suits Me.  The first two runners kept their placings for the first mile.  As the field swung into the home straight, jockey Tom Queally gave the cue and Tranquil Tiger surged past Suits Me to open up a two-length lead.

Once he got to the front, however, Tranquil Tiger began to idle, and Suits Me began to cut back into the lead.  Tranquil Tiger had plenty left in the tank to hold off the challenge, spurting away to easily win by three-quarters of a length.

Tranquil Tiger was bred in England by his owner.  He is out of the stakes-placed Distant View mare, Serene View, and hails from the immediate family of grade I/group I winners Contredance, Skimming, Wince, Quiff, and Pryka (Arg).

Pollen Completes Memorable Day for Trainer

Pollen completed a memorable day for trainer Tommy Stack by winning the Lodge Park Stud EBF Park Express Stakes (Ire-III) on the opening day at the Curragh on Sunday.  The victory by Pollen made it four wins from four starters on the card for trainer Stack.

Pollen, a 5-year-old mare by Orpen, was held up in mid-pack by jockey William Lee, who was content to let Rare Ransom set the early pace.  Pollen swept by the early leaders with just under two furlongs to run, and was able to fend off the late challenge of favored Devoted To You.

The Park Express marked the first stakes win for Pollen, who is out of the Chief Singer mare, On Air.

First Starter—First Winner for Holy Roman Emperor

The opening race at the Curragh was a five-furlong affair for 2-year-olds, making it the first ‘baby’ race anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. (I’ve done a bit of research on this, and haven’t found any 2yo races listed yet in England or France, and none so far in the US.  However, if I’ve missed a baby race at Calder or Santa Anita, please let me know) **Editor’s Note**: As you may notice in the comments, a sharp reader pointed out that there have been a couple of baby races so far at Sunland Park.  I knew I had to have missed some!  Many thanks, Trifectabox!

There were two colts in the race sired by Holy Roman EmperorHigh Award and Emperor Hadrian. Holy Roman Emperor, a top-class son of Danehill, captured the Phoenix Stakes (Ire-I) and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Fr-I) as a juvenile, and was named the high-weighted colt in France that year.  He was pressed into ‘emergency’ stud duty by Coolmore Stud as a 3-year-old, when it became apparent that the retired champion, George Washington (also by Danehill), was having fertility problems.

High Award, who is conditioned by Tommy Stack for Susan Magnier, rated in fourth under jockey William Lordan as Clondinnery (by Choisir) went to the front.  High Award assumed the lead with just under a furlong to go, and won easily by three-quarters of a length over Suntan (Bachelor Duke).  Clondinnery held on for third.

Emperor Hadrian was never a factor, finishing seventh.

High Award is out of Tarascon, by Tirol.  After capturing the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-I) as a juvenile, Tarascon was named champion 2-year-old filly in Ireland in 1997.  She added the Airlie Coolmore Irish 1000 Guineas (Ire-I) to her resume the following season.

Tarascon’s third dam, the unraced Never Say Die mare, Cake, was a tremendous producer herself.  One of her daughters, Icing, produced nine winners, including Al Hareb (colt by El Gran Senor, winner of the William Hill Futurity [Eng-I]) and Dr. Somerville (colt by Chief’s Crown).  Snowtop, a daughter of Icing, is the granddam of Myboycharlie, champion 2yo colt in France.

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St Nicholas Abbey Soars in Racing Post Trophy

St Nicholas Abbey cemented himself as the early favorite for the 2010 Investec Derby (Eng-I) with a dominating performance in the Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I) at Doncaster Oct. 24.

The Aidan O’Brien trained-colt remains undefeated in three starts in his young career, having also captured the Juddmonte Beresford Stakes (Ire-II) and a maiden race at the Curragh in his two prior starts.

The Racing Post Trophy brought together a field of 11, with three of the most highly-rated 2-year-old colts in England and Ireland meeting for the first time.  Besides St Nicholas Abbey the field included Al Zir, an imposing son of Medaglia d’Oro who was making his stakes debut for Godolphin, and Elusive Pimpernel, an undefeated son of Elusive Quality who captured the Acomb Stakes (Eng-III) in his last start.

Ridden with great confidence by Johnny Murtagh, St Nicholas Abbey tracked Elusive Pimpernel towards the rear of the field as Shakespearean and Al Ghazal led the field in the early stages of the one mile contest.   Al Zir sat just off the pace in third, and looked ready to pounce at any time for jockey Frankie Dettori.

As the field hit the two furlong marker, Murtagh shook the reins and the response was immediate, as St Nicholas Abbey split horses and hit the front within a few strides.  The colt continued to accelerate in the final furlong, opening up several lengths on the rest of the field.

St Nicholas Abbey hit the wire 3 ¾-lengths in front of Elusive Pimpernel, who rallied to take the second spot from Al Zir by 2 ½-lengths.  Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:39.62 over a course rated ‘good to soft’

O’Brien was full of praise for the colt, telling reporters, “This is a very special horse.  He’s one of those unique horses that is bred to stay, but who has speed.”

“When you look at that turn of toe he had today,” O’Brien continued, “it was effortless.”

St Nicholas Abbey was bred in Ireland by Barton Bloodstock and Villiers Syndicate.  By Montjeu, he is out of the Sure Blade mare Leaping Water, who has also produced Grammarian (by Definite Article), winner of the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) and San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) in 2002.

Leaping Water is a half-sister to champion Ballingarry (by Sadler’s Wells), in addition to group I winners Aristotle (by Sadler’s Wells) and Starborough (by Soviet Star).

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