Dubai: Exciting UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Soft Falling Rain could sidestep next month’s UAE Derby (G1) and instead be prepared for a tilt at the Godolphin Mile (G1), with a potential Royal Ascot date also being considered.
The National Assembly colt, ridden by Paul Hanagan for trainer Mike de Kock, deployed natural speed to outclass his six rivals and post an effortless two and a quarter lengths victory over the late-finishing Snowboarder at Meydan on Thursday night.
Owner Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, who was present to watch Soft Falling Rain stretch his unbeaten record to six races spoke to the Dubai Racing Channel about the possible plans for the star.
“He is a really nice horse and the 1,600 metres seem to suit him on this surface,” Shaikh Hamdan said. “The UAE Derby is over 1,900 metres and we would perhaps not be doing the right thing to go there.
“He will also have to carry a four kilo penalty due to his breeding.”
Soft Falling Rain, who is out of the winning Giant’s Causeway mare Gardener’s Delight, was born in South Africa and is therefore considered a four-year-old in the Northern Hemisphere, for which he will be penalised four kilos should he run in the Derby on March 30.
But while Shaikh Hamdan did not totally rule out the colt’s participation in the UAE Classic, he seemed to favour keeping him at a mile.
“He was pulling hard early in the race, which indicates that he likes to sprint, so I think he will be more suited by the Godolphin Mile and possibly we will then look to run him at Royal Ascot (Diamond Jubilee Stakes, 1,200m, June 22),” said Shaikh Hamdan.
Should that plan materialise then Soft Falling Rain is likely to clash with Australian superstar Black Caviar, who may return to the Royal meeting where she posted the narrowest of her 22 wins last season.
Champion South African handler De Kock, who was celebrating his birthday on Thursday, said on his website: “This is the birthday present I wanted. It’s extremely satisfying to train a horse like this for a man like Shaikh Hamdan, who is one of the most respected racehorse owners and breeders in the world.
“He’s investing millions in the South African racing industry with a view of securing top horses to compete in Dubai and elsewhere. Angus Gold, Jehan Malherbe and I spend hours at sales looking for the plums. To find one like this for Shaikh Hamdan is wonderful.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the card was dominated by Godolphin handler Mahmood Al Zarooni, who saddled the final three winners on the card including Moonwalk In Paris in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes, Mental in the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint and Anatolian in the concluding 2,435m turf handicap.
Earlier, his Godolphin workmate Saeed Bin Surour saddled a 1-2-3 in the opening 2,200m all-weather handicap with Kassiano winning from Modun and Royal Empire.
Anatolian seemed to have impressed Al Zarouni, who indicated that he a World Cup night may now beckon for the two-time Meydan winner.
“He reminds me of Capponi, who progressed last year from handicaps to finishing second in the Dubai World Cup,” said the Emirati handler. “I think Anatolian will be suited by running over a longer distance and I would like to aim him at the Gold Cup on Dubai World Cup night next month. But I will have to discuss this first with Simon Crisford [Godolphin’s racing manager].”
One of the night’s most thrilling moments resulted when UK raider Trade Storm produced an electrifying finish to win the 1,800m turf handicap for trainer David Simcock.