Salem bin Ghadayer’s Matterhorn stormed into Dubai World Cup reckoning with an impressive win in the $600,000 (Dh2.2million) Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan on Saturday.
Racing only for the second time on the dirt surface at Meydan, the five-year-old son of Raven’s Pass made every yard of the running under Mickael Barzalona to come home five-and-a-half lengths clear of Military Law.
“We have been expecting a lot from him,” Barzalona said after Matterhorn reversed the placings of his previous meeting with Military Law.
“It took him a little time to understand how to run on the dirt, but last time he ran really well over a mile (finishing second in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes).
“After that, he has improved a lot. We’re very pleased with him. His quality did the rest. We expect him to improve again.”
Bin Ghadayer already has Capezzano and Gronkowski, last year’s Dubai World Cup runner up, and now Matterhorn is set to provide him another opportunity at the $12million race on March 28.
“We always thought he would handle the dirt well and he has always trained well on it,” the Emirati said.
“We were very pleased with his first start when third to our Capezzano in the Firebreak. We knew this longer trip would suit him and the plan was always to be positive on him, so Mickael has given him a great ride.”
Barzalona completed a double when he brought Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby’s Loxley first past the finishing line in the concluding Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold.
Appleby too was completing a double on the night after Barney Roy landed the Group 1 Jebel Hatta.
Drawn in gate 12 of the 13-runner field, William Buick had Barney Roy racing in third last for most of the 1,800m trip on turf.
Buick then had to bring him around a wall of horses as they approached the final turn, and once they were on the straight and clear, there was no stopping Barney Roy who raced away to the front to lead the first four home for Godolphin.
“From that draw in 12, we decided we would have to ride him for luck,” his handler Appleby said.
“The horse has not made that easy for William, but that was a great ride in the circumstances.
“The horse is just so enthusiastic and keen to get on with things, but once William had him on an even keel in the straight, he was always going to win.
“He will go to the Dubai Turf and Magic Lily (runner up) may do so as well. She has had a brilliant year at Meydan. Spotify had run very well also.”
Buick added: “I’m very happy with it. We had a very tricky draw in 12 and I had to ride him the way I did.
“There were a lot of horses in the race with very little chance, but we still had to pass them all. He travels very strongly into the race. I brought him out into the straight and he picked them up easily.
“He has a nice cruising speed, which is helped by his big stride, but also he loves a flat track like Meydan, where he can use that stride."
Satish Seemar not only saddled a double but also sent the first two in the first two races at the meeting.
British champion jockey Oisin Murphy delivered Emblem Storm with a well-timed run to lead the first two home for trainer Seemar in Al Bastakiya, the UAE Derby trial.
Tadhg O’Shea on Wafy led another one-two finish for the Zabeel Stables trainer 35 minutes later.