Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2: Furia Cruzada gets another chance at Meydan

The American-bred Chilean challenger lines up as the only mare of the nine runners engaged in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan Racecourse.

Jockey Frankie Dettori rides Furia Cruzada in August, 2016. Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com
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When Furia Cruzada left her native South America to race in Europe 18 months ago she almost died.

The five-year-old mare has been sent to the races by four different trainers and has competed in four different countries on two continents.

On Thursday, the American-bred Chilean challenger is given another chance and lines up as the only mare of the nine runners engaged in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan Racecourse.

Furia Cruzada is a triple South American Group 1 winner. Two of those wins at the highest level came on dirt, so in terms of her CV alone she is the standout performer in what is a race that lacks depth for the class.

She only arrived at Erwan Charpy’s Green Stables in late December, however, and whatever she achieves tonight she is sure to build on.

“She is a light-framed filly so you can’t really work her a lot,” Charpy said. “I would say she is ready to run but she is difficult to gauge.

“Being a filly, I would like more time with her. She has worked really well both on dirt and turf. She liked soft ground in Europe, but the dirt has been pretty fast this season at the Carnival so we will just have to see.

“Obviously her first run will tell us a lot more, and she has the option to go back to the turf if nothing goes right.”

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Her exploits in Chile and Argentina took place two seasons ago.

After posting her three wins at the highest level, Furia Cruzada was transferred to the Newmarket stables of John Gosden in June 2015 via Amsterdam, where she contracted pneumonia and was forced to remain in the Netherlands for an extra 10 days.

As a fragile filly, Gosden gave her a year off to recover and raced her seven times over a range of distances, surfaces and countries last season with the highlight being a second place to Godolphin’s Usherette at Royal Ascot in June.

Gosden called Charpy towards the end of the season and asked whether the Frenchman would train her for the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Although the daughter of Newfoundland clearly handles turf, Fernando Fantini — a former international Argentine polo player and part owner — prefers a dirt campaign.

It is a tough assignment tonight.

In Europe Furia Cruzada raced very keenly, and by pulling hard she wasted valuable energy early on in races to have nothing left at the finish.

With that in mind, jockey Antonio Fresu has a devilish job trying to win a race in which his mount is likely to be swamped. If he holds her up, few horses win on the Meydan dirt from anything but the front. But on Saturday both Milton, and Baratti in particular, came from off the pace.

“She won’t have a problem getting cover,” Charpy added. “Being on the inside is not always the best place to be for a runner like her. The jockeys tend to rush to the front and will probably roll on to her. She is a tough mare though.”

She will have to be if she is going to charge through kickback to reel in the boys.

Charpy’s record at Meydan is hardly inspirational — he has sent 48 horses to Dubai’s leading racecourse in the past two seasons for just two winners. On the positive side, though, Fresu’s last six rides all have made the top three.

Even by Carnival standards tonight’s feature is a cosmopolitan affair.

Champion trainer Doug Watson will give Pat Dobbs the leg-up on Second Summer, a Grade 2 winner from America who makes his first start in Dubai, while Sam Hitchcott will partner the stable’s Storm Belt.

Power Blade hails from South Korea, the country that recorded its first UAE success with Main Stay two weeks a ago.

Then there is Argentine import Lindo Amor, who will try to overhaul Long River and tonight’s favourite Le Bernardin after finishing on their heels in the opening round last month on his first start for Mike de Kock since arriving from South America.

Le Bernardin is the highest-rated horse in the US$250,000 (Dh918,224) contest on 113, but jockey Tadhg O’Shea will have to be at his best if his mount is to join Halling, Wathik and My Indy as a winner of the first two legs of this three-race challenge.

“I would have been a lot happier, especially over the 1900 metres, with a low draw,” the Irish rider said of his nine berth.

“But that is out of our hands so we will just have to see how things unfold and ride the race as I find it.”

Five things to look out for at Meydan on Thursday

Muarrab in the Al Shindagha

Muarrab adds a significant dose of stardust as one of two Dubai World Cup winners on the seven-race card. The other is Sole Power in the concluding sprint.

Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s sprinter lines up as the overwhelming favourite for the Al Shindagha Sprint. Muarrab found Hong Kong raider Rich Tapestry too good in the 1,200-metre warm up for the Dubai Golden Shaheen 12 months ago but faces nothing of that calibre. The eight-year-old bay gelding, who holds the course record at 1 minute, 10.20 seconds, has failed to get his head in front in two outings this season but was involved in a pace war early on last time and should be too good for his five rivals.

Godolphin's silks

After last week’s heroics when the famous Royal Blue colours entered the winner’s enclosure five times and Saeed bin Suroor got up his 200th Dubai World Cup Carnival winner, we are back to lean pickings. The Dubai-based operation have just three runners and two of those take each other on. Bin Suroor’s American Hope clashes with Charlie Appleby’s Cymric in the 7.05pm, while Bin Suroor also saddles Red Galileo in the 8.15pm.

Marco Botti's runners

The Newmarket-based Italian trainer struck last month with Fanciful Angel, who takes on just seven others in the EGA Potlines Trophy at 7.05pm. It looks a tricky race, but Fanciful Angel is the only horse in the contest boasting a win last time out, and it was a good one, too. Botti also sends out the Group 1 winner Dylan Mouth in the EGA Jebel Ali Trophy at 9.25pm.

Medicean Man

The 11-year-old chestnut gelding rolled back the years two weeks ago when he followed in the hoofprints of Reynaldothewizard to become a winning 11-year-old sprinter at Meydan this season. Trainer Jeremy Gask came over all emotional at the victory so watch closely the gritty Australian handler should his pride and joy go in again in the EGA Al Taweelah Trophy, which looks one of the races of the night.

Pat Dobbs

Pat Dobbs is the leading jockey at Meydan this season with 10 winners. He has guided 40 of his 65 rides at the racecourse in to the top five places, too. This obviously has a lot to do with the outstanding form of trainer Doug Watson, who has sent out 16 Meydan winners, but with mounts in six of the seven races tonight he should be in the thick of the action.

Geoffrey Riddle’s picks

6.30pm - EGA Billets Trophy: Brabbham

7.05pm – EGA Potlines Trophy: Fanciful Angel

7.40pm – Al Shindagha Sprint, Sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminium: Muarrab

8.15pm – EGA Casthouse Trophy: Blue Rambler

9.25pm - EGA Jebel Ali Trophy: Belgian Bill

10pm – EGA Al Taweelah Trophy Handicap: Polybius

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