Godolphin's Cavalryman made a magnificent return after bolting home by a five-length margin in the Group 3 Nad al Sheba Trophy at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
The Saeed bin Suroor-trained star will surely be hard to beat in the $1m Dubai Gold Cup day on Saturday March 29.
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor was delighted with the great performance despite the six months layoff and said: “Cavalryman will take rest before he comes back to defend his Group-3 Gold Cup title on the Dubai World Cup day later in the month.”
Cavalryman, who will be defending his 2013 crown on Dubai World Cup day, was described as "better than ever” by his jockey, Silvestre de Sousa.
The 2,810m turf contest, looked a very strong renewal on the Meydan Sobha sponsored card, with proven high-class stayers such as Simenon in the field.
But Cavalryman and De Sousa were far too good, accelerating smoothly away from the chasing pack with minimum effort.
He was chased home by Star Empire, on whom Christophe Soumillon had switched to the nearside rail 500m out but they never looked like catching the winner.
The Gold Cup, a 3,200m contest, has been elevated to Group 2 status this year.
De Sousa said: “We were very confident coming into the race as he had been working very well at home and we knew he was fit for this seasonal return. For a stayer he has a great turn of foot and he really quickened when I asked him.
“He stays the 3,200m so hopefully will be a serious contender trying to win the Gold Cup again.”
Trainer and jockey were completing a double after landing the 1,400m all-weather handicap with Free Wheeling.
There was drama at the start when the strongly-fancied Tamarkuz appeared to trip as the gates opened, unseating his jockey, Paul Hanagan.
In the race itself, Godolphin’s Well Acquainted took them along at a decent gallop before crying off about 300m out while several of his rivals threw down a challenge.
At this point De Sousa swept past on the Bin Suroor-trained Free Wheeling, second in this race last year and who held on well to go one better this time.
Bin Suroor said: “He ran really well on this surface two starts ago and we were keen to get him back on the all-weather which he also works really well on. He quickened well to win that nicely.”
The opening 2,000m all-weather handicap produced something of a surprise result with Samurai Sword, the only one of the six runners not to have previously won in the UAE, opening his local account at the sixth attempt.
He was one of two runners in the race for rookie trainer, Ahmad bin Harmash, who was saddling his eighth winner in an excellent first season. He was ridden by Mickael Barzalona.
With Paul Hanagan setting a very steady gallop on Tanfeeth, Barzalona held his mount up before the pair closed in rapid fashion about 300m out. They dashed up the rail to lead 200m and win comfortably.
Bin Harmash said: “He is a horse we have always really rated as he shows so much ability at home and has a really good turn of foot. We ran him in the Al Maktoum Challenge two starts ago and we really think he is at least Group 3 standard.”
For the second year running Kavanagh and Christophe Soumillon won the 1200m turf handicap for South African Mike De Kock.
It was a fourth 2014 Meydan Racecourse outing for the winner, but first under these conditions which clearly suit him well.
Settled in mid division by Soumillon, the pair made smooth progress to throw down the gauntlet to Dux Scholar who looked the likely winner when hitting the front 400m out.
Soumillon was at his strongest on the eventual winner finally, heading Dux Scholar in the very last strides to secure a narrow, and hard-fought victory.
Soumillon said: “He really travelled strongly to carry me into the race but the runner-up really battled hard and made it very tough. I thought we had just made it as my horse had his head down on the line. We thought a lot of him at the start of the season but were a little disappointed with him. I had to be quite strong on him at the end and it’s good to get a win with him.
“It is nice to see him back to form and he clearly likes this straight track.”
Trainer and jockey completed doubles with the victory of Sanshaawes in the finale, a 2000m turf handicap.
Runner-up in last year’s Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday, Capital Attraction bounced back to winning ways with a smooth success in a 1600m all-weather handicap, the same course and distance as his previous victory in January of last year.
Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea looked keen to lead but was then content to let the overly keen Energizer cut out the early running, settling his mount just in behind. Capital Attraction appeared to be caught flatfooted with about 600m to run but they hit the front 300m out and were always holding off the challenge of Disa Leader.
Significantly, Capital Attraction represents Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel, moving him to 29 winners for the season, just two behind Musabah Al Muhairi.
Oertel said: “He is such a nice, game horse and it is great to see him back to form. He is so tough and we might step him up in trip. We will be back next Saturday but will enter in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, as well as the Burj Nahaar.
“I would love to run him over 2000m at some stage but we will look at the enties before deciding.”
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