Horseracing - Maktoum Challenge
Brraq, ridden by jockey Adrie De Varies and trained by Jean Claude Pecaut wins the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan on Thursday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Brraq proved the ratings wrong when he stormed to victory in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge for Purebred Arabians as racing returned to Dubai’s imposing Meydan Racecourse for the first time in the New Year.

The lowest rated horse in the 15-strong field at 87, the lightly raced eight-year-old looked the consummate pro as he ran a big race for Dutch ace Adrie de Vries to score by three quarters of a length from Fettah Du Loup and Harry Bentley.

Hanging on for third place for the championship winning jockey-trainer combination of Tadhg O’Shea and Ernst Oertel was Af Alwajel in the 1,600 metre contest, the first of many trials leading up to the 2021 $1 million Dubai Kahayla Classic (G1) the Arabian showpiece on Dubai World Cup night, March 28.

Trained by Frenchman Jean de Roualle for YAS Racing Brraq showed plenty of staying ability and looks certain to take his chance in the second leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge en route to a potential shot at the Kahayla Classic, all going well.

It was a first UAE winner for Jean Claude Pecout who appeared to be overwhelmed with his achievement of winning the Al Maktoum Challenge in its first running at Group 1 level.

Brraq was having only his second start for Pecout, having previously been trained by Jean de Roualle at Al Wathba Stables.

“Jean de Roualle told me he’s a really good horse and I wanted to run him here at Meydan because of the dirt,” sad Pecout.

De Roualle, who saddled Mirna to finish 10th in the race, praised Pecout’s confidence to run him in the Al Maktoum Challenge.

“He’s not an easy horse to train, but Jean-Claude has done a great job with him,” said the Frenchman. “He decided to run him at Meydan. Honestly, if you ask me I would not have done it. So it was a very good decision and I’m so happy for him that he was won such a nice race.”

Meanwhile, long-serving Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour got off the mark for the season, when he sent out Soft Whisper to land the 1,000 Guineas Trial in impressive fashion.

With Pat Cosgrave doing the steering the daughter of Dubawi recovered from a bit of a slow start to plough through the field turning for home to stretch out nicely for a two and a half-length victory over stable companion Last Sunset.

“She was very impressive,” said the jockey from North Ireland. “As with all Dubawi’s who improve race by race, she a horse with a lot of scope.

“It worked out nicely. She got sand in her face and she’ll improve. Hopefully we can continue to look towards the next step with her.”

Earlier in the evening Conor Beasley teamed up with trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe to scored back to back wins with Taamol and Eqtiraan in the Longines Spirit Collection Trophy handicap over six furlongs and the 1,800 metre Longines Spirit Collection Cup, respectively.