Gladiator King
Gladiator King, ridden by Mickael Barzalona, wins the Dubawi Stakes at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival could not have got off to a better start at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday night, the six-race card producing a thoroughly exciting Classic hopeful, a gutsy victory by an American import and a popular success for a veteran local favourite.

The Carnival was created as an international event in 2004 and it lived up to its boast with three wins for horses raced in the UK and another for US-bred Gladiator King.

Prepared by Satish Seemar at his pristine Zabeel Stables in the heart of Dubai, Gladiator King showed that he will be a force to reckon with during the Carnival with hard-earned but imposing victory in the featured Group 3 $200,000 (Dh734,000) Dubawi Stakes on the dirt track.

With ace jockey Mickael Barzalona doing the steering, the four-year-old son of former Dubai World Cup winner Curlin showed plenty of heart to deny Ibn Malik, the mount of former two-time British Champion jockey Jim Crowley, by a neck.

Drafted, the winner of five starts at Meydan, typically broke late but closed powerfully inside the final half-furlong to finish third in the hands of Pat Dobbs.

The winner ran in the colours of Ajman’s Shaikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi.

“We knew the race wasn’t going to be easy, but he was sharp and looked great,” Barzalona said. “I think he will come on a lot from this race, so I’m looking forward to next time.

“On the bend, I was travelling really comfortably and I knew he was a danger. I knew Drafted would be coming from behind, but he found an extra gear. He travels strong.”

Seemar added: “You know, when you first get a horse, there’s always a little worry and a little doubt, but this horse was training so well and really coming around. It feels great to get a win for Shaikh Rashid.”

A rematch between the top three finishers in the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint is imminent and Crowley was looking forward to renewing the battle.

“He ran really well,” he said. “Obviously, he had the worst draw in nine and he probably covered a bit more ground than the winner did.

“It is nice that he is back in here and we’ll look ahead to some nice runs together.”

Dobbs said Drafted ran well in defeat but that his chances were compromised by several factors, not least a poor start.

“He ran super and was just a bit ring-rusty early,” said Dobbs. “He got away slow and they got away from me. He took loads of kickback, which he doesn’t like. I thought I could maybe still get there, but he got tired in the last furlong. He picked up really good, but he obviously missed a few weeks and felt that in the last furlong.”

Long-serving Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour was back in business saddling a double with Final Song in the UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial and Major Partnership in the 2,410m Meydan Challenge.

“That was a great ride from Pat and we are obviously very happy,” he said.

“Major Partnership showed plenty of speed and was in a nice position throughout the race. Pat Cosgrave gave him a good ride he suggested a mile would be better for Major Partnership in the future.”

Meanwhile, British trainer David Simcock, a regular at the Carnival over the years, was quick to get off the mark when he sent out Universal Order to win the Dubai Racing Club Classic.

The winner was ridden by former UAE champion jockey Richard Mullen, who said: “I watched his replays and he seems to have his best runs in small fields

“You just have to drop him out and give him time to relax. He’s still learning about the game. I think potentially bringing him out will be the making of him.

“The whole atmosphere is relaxing and will make a man of him. I let the race develop as it happened and felt that they went an even tempo. I switched him off early and gave him time to relax. This horse has potential and a bright future.”