Nieshan, ridden by Gerald Avranche, breezed to an easy victory in the 2,000 metre Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three for the Purebred Arabians, the opener of the Super Saturday in Meydan.
The Eric Lemartinel-trained six-year-old son of Akbar emerged as the early favourite for the Kahayla Classic (G1) on Dubai World Cup night after beating a strong field which included Kahayla Classic winner Seraphin Du Paon quite comfortably.
The Ernst Oertel-trained Seraphin Du Paon, the defending Kahayla Classic champion, was expected to score a revenge win over Nieshan but under Olivier Peslier finished third behind Ted Durcan-ridden Timadit Al Mels.
Avranche said: "I think this horse has probably improved this season and that is twice we have beaten last year's (Dubai) Kahayla Classic winner Seraphin Du Paon. Hopefully we can do so again on (Dubai) World Cup night in the 2012 (Dubai) Kahayla Classic."
“I expected him to win. I think we have the best Arabian horse and should repeat in the upcoming Dubai Kahayla Classic Group-1 test on the Dubai World Cup night on March 31,” said a delighted French trainer Eric Lemartinel.
“He beat Seraphin Du Paon by a neck in Abu Dhabi and increased the distance to six lengths this time. He’s an improving horse and there’s more to come from him,” he said.
Emirates Airline were the sponsor of Super Saturday, the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup meeting on Saturday March 31 and both His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum were among a host of dignitaries present to see Capponi win the Al Maktoum Challenge III.
This was the third renewal of the race at Meydan on the all-weather and Capponi, trained by Mahmoud Al Zarooni, looks set to bid to become the first horse to complete the double at Meydan.
Carrying the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the five-year-old has improved throughout the 2012 Dubai World Cup Carnival and winning jockey Ahmed Ajtebi said: "We know this horse stays very well so I was more than happy to chase the early pace and then commit him for home at the top of the straight. He has galloped all the way to the line and won nicely. Obviously the whole team will be involved in deciding where he goes on Dubai World Cup night but the big race itself must be a serious consideration after this win."
The winner is owned, trained and was ridden by an Emirati.
The second Group 1 on the card was the concluding Jebel Hatta over the same 1,800m turf course and distance as the Dubai Duty Free and that race on the big night is a possible aim for Master Of Hounds who made all under Kevin Shea for South African Mike De Kock.
It was only a second career win for the four-year-old, who was second in last year's UAE Derby for Aidan O'Brien and joined South African de Kock with a view to targeting the Dubai World Cup, but as Shea explained, plans are far from concrete.
The jockey said: "Obviously Mike has some nice horses for Dubai World Cup night and he will have to sit down with everybody and plan which horses run where. I had the widest draw this evening and we discussed making the running which has worked perfectly. He is a very talented horse and has been running well at the Carnival. Whether it is the [Dubai] World Cup or (Dubai) Duty Free, he should run well in three weeks’ time."
De Kock was completing a double for his main patron Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum after Mickdaam supplied the owner a fourth winner in the 1900m Listed Al Bastakiya. On the all-weather and the prep race for the UAE Derby, Mickdaam had finished second in the 1,600m UAE 2000 Guineas and relished this step up in trip under Christophe Soumillon.
De Kock said: "We always knew this trip would suit him better and he strikes as a horse who will improve with distance and time. Obviously the UAE Derby will be next."
De Kock's compatriot Herman Brown was also in the winner's enclosure with Royston Ffrench making virtually all on Mikhail Glinka in the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold over 2,410m on turf.
Ffrench said: "We planned to try and get out in front and it worked well. He stays further than this so stamina was never an issue and connections will have a couple of options for him on the big night."
Bahrain's Fawzi Nass is both owner and trainer of Krypton Factor who was the impressive winner of the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal, a 1,200m all-weather contest under Kieren Fallon with the pair reversing form with Hitchens who beat him in the Al Shindagha Sprint over the same course and distance.
A delighted Nass said: "That was Kieren at his very best as we were worried by the draw but he took his time and they won very nicely. We always knew he was a decent sprinter and he is so tough. Hopefully we will be back on (Dubai) World Cup night with him."
Frankie Dettori and Saeed Bin Suroor combined with African Story to win the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over 1,600m on the all-weather and Dettori, having completed his trademark flying dismount, said: "I thought this was my best chance on the night and he is an improving horse."
The 1,000m Meydan Sprint on the turf produced a great result for Ireland with the Mick Halford-trained Invincible Ash denying Sole Power and Nocturnal Affair, also trained in the Emerald Isle.
Jamie Spencer rode the winner and Halford said: "She has come back to her best the last two runs and hopefully she will be invited for the Al Quoz Sprint in which she was an unlucky fourth last year."