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Salah Tahlak, Colm McLoughlin, Sinead El Sibai, Oisin Murphy, Juddmonte's Simon Mockridge and Elisa Yana receive the trophy after Array's victory in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Array held off a strong challenge to clinch the prestigious £90,000 Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes over six furlongs, the highlight of the two-day DDF International Weekend at Newbury Racecourse on Saturday.

In recent years the race has seen the take-off of the careers of such as Ribchester, Harry Angel, Kessaar and Dark Angel, before becoming top class stallions. This renewal was a triumph for tradition.

“Obviously we always try to find something good enough for this race named for my father’s great horse,” said a smiling trainer Andrew Balding after Array held off a pack of challengers, including stablemate Spanish Phoenix who finished close fourth.

“We hadn’t won the Mill Reef for a few years (over twenty),” observed Andrew, “So this is very welcome.”

Better prospect

The colt, ridden by Oisin Murphy, is from the family of Frankel and Balding hopes his stamina will stretch to a mile next year when both trainer and jockey were of the opinion that Array would be an even better prospect.

The seven-race Saturday card commenced with the Group 3 £70,000 Dubai International Airport World Trophy five-furlong sprint, which went to the meeting’s lone Irish raider, Thunderbear. His young trainer Jack Davison has a small string near Fairyhouse racecourse and said: “This is a big result for me”. His three-year-old, under Richard Hannon’s jockey Sean Levey, went off outsider of the five-runner field. But Thunderbear had won at a big price on an earlier visit to the UK as well as running well at Royal Ascot.

Davison gave the impression he’ll be back to Britain — on his way up the training tree.

Beckett saddles two winners

Two valuable handicaps came next and Hughie Morrison’s Not So Sleepy, aged 11 and returning from almost a year off, made all under Oisin Murphy in the one mile five furlongs £70,000 Dubai Duty Free Autumn Cup Handicap.

“He works on his own and they left him alone,” said local trainer Morrison. “You know he ran here as a two-year-old in 2014, and finished last. He’s run in the Champion Hurdle — he might go hurdling again though we’ll think about the Cesarewitch at Newmarket next month. It’s character horses like Not So Sleepy that make this game what it is.”

Ralph Beckett saddled two winners on the card the first being The Dubai Duty Free Handicap over ten furlongs and worth £75,000.

“Balance Play has got the hang of racing now,” said Beckett who is enjoying a stellar season, his best ever, and has a leading Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe candidate in Westover. “York last time with this horse was a disaster because we thought he would handle the fast ground and he didn’t. Today this soft stuff was right up his street. We might go for the November Handicap next. He’s also in the Sales.”

Godolphin's Movie Maker triumphs

The big crowd stayed on for the seventh race The Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Handicap over eight furlongs and worth £15,000 saw City of York complete a treble — off bottom weight. David Simcock was making hay while the sun shone — which it did throughout the afternoon — taking advantage of his lowly mark — which will surely be revised next time.

Godolphin’s two-year-old Movie Maker flew to a six-length win in the opening Henry Ponsonby Memorial Maiden Stakes. Trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, the grey colt in the blue colours had performed well on his Lingfield debut and here Movie Maker earned himself a trip this winter to Dubai to continue his development.

The second race on Friday, the £20,000 Dubai Duty Free Full of Surprises Fillies Conditions Stakes was also won in style — by Richard Hannon’s Serene Seraph. “We think the world of her,” said Hannon. “We could come back to Newbury for the Radley Stakes and I’d love to think she could make Newbury her second home by winning the Fred Darling (Dubai Duty Free Stakes) here next year and then taking on the One Thousand Guineas.”

Hannon's milestone this season

In the £12,650 Dubai Duty Free Nursery Handicap Boyfriend completed a double for Hannon and Dobbs — but this result was much closer. Boyfriend won by a neck. It was his first victory after four defeats but this was the first time he had encountered soft ground — and he relished it. Boyfriend was also Newbury’s most successful trainer Richard Hannon’s 100th winner of the season.

Feature race of the first day was the £40,000 Dubai Duty Free Cup Class 1 Listed race over seven furlongs. The anticipated result was victory for either of William Haggas’s two runners, Aldaary and Al Mubhir. Though starting first and second favourites they were surprised by outsider Popmaster, who usually plies his trade in handicaps but who invariably runs well at his home track.

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO of Dubai Duty Free said: “We are extremely proud of our partnership with Newbury Racecourse, which is now in its 28th year. The Dubai Duty Free International Weekend is one of the highlights of our European sponsorship portfolio and we are enjoying another fantastic renewal featuring many of racing’s biggest names.”

Salah Tahlak, Joint COO, DDF and Sinead El Sibai, Vice-President Marketing were also present during the prize presentation.