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10 December 2023

Godolphin’s Shuruq becomes first filly to land Al Maktoum Challenge R1

Shuruq claims the featured Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 for Godolphin trainer, Saeed bin Suroor. (Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)

By Staff

Godolphin’s Shuruq, winner of last year’s UAE Oaks for Saeed bin Suroor, made history by becoming the first filly to win the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge RI, the 1,600m all-weather feature at Meydan’s opening meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival on Thursday.

In doing so, the four-year-old provided her trainer with his eighth win in the race and, on a card sponsored by Longines, she posted a very fast time, despite a steady early pace.

Shuruq hit the front close home under Silvestre de Sousa to deny Empire Storm who made a gallant attempt to make all under Kieren Fallon but could not deny the late challenge of  the winner.

“She is a lovely filly and one we think is improving,” said De Sousa. “I was always pretty happy as I knew we would find a big effort when I asked her and she was running on strongly.

“She loves this surface and has again thrived in the Dubai weather.”

South African, Mike De Kock combined with Paul Hanagan to win the inaugural running of the 1,800m Listed Singspiel Stakes on the turf. Settled off the pace by Hanagan, riding for his main employer, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Hanagan asked his mount to challenge 400m out and the pair soon hit the front to win easily.

De Kock said: “We have to be delighted with that because we thought he would really need the run. He was a Group 2 winner last season and is hopefully still improving.”

The trainer completed a double when Anaerobio won the concluding 1,400m turf handicap under Christophe Soumillon who said: “It is always nice to get that first winner on the board. I had some nice rides tonight, but some of the horses have needed the run. Mike’s had two winners tonight so it’s great to know that the team is going well at this stage in the season.”

For the second year running, Majed Al Jahouri trained the first and second in the Group 1 version of Al Maktoum Challenge RI. Like its Thoroughbred counterpart this race was held over 1,600m on the all-weather, but last year’s winner, Areem, was only fourth under Ahmed Ajtebi.

Ajtebi set a furious pace on Areem which set the race up for those with proven stamina and it was Naseem, third last year, under Harry Bentley, who won well from stable companion Rabbah De Carrere.

Bentley said: “They went very fast up front and that really helped me but I perhaps hit the front too soon on him. We were third last year so it is nice to win this time.”

All three are owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The first turf race of the season, a 1,000m handicap and first Thoroughbred race of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, provided Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby with a dream start to his UAE career. His first ever local runner, Ahtoug, landed the spoils determinedly under Mickael Barzalona while the Fawzi Nass-trained Hototo was second under Luke Morris..

The jockey said: “He showed a lot of speed and a great attitude as the runner-up was very brave also.”

Trainer and jockey wasted little time completing doubles with Fulbright leading close home to deny Ahmed Ajtebi and stable companion, Modern History in a 1,400m all-weather handicap.

Appleby said: “Obviously that is a great result for the whole team and Mickael challenged that nicely after Ahmed looked to have snatched it.”

Stable jockey, Adrie De Vries, was in the saddle for his main employer, Ahmad bin Harmash, who claimed his first Dubai World Cup carnival race when Busker claimed a 1900m all-weather handicap.

De Vries said: “We were slowly away, as planned but the early pace was far from generous so I was happy to make ground behind the leaders turning for home. When a gap opened he shot through, quickened and won well.”