Matterhorn, ridden by jockey Mickael Barzalona and trained by Salem Bin Ghadayer wins the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Super Saturday at Meydan racecourse 07 March 2020. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: There is less than three weeks to go for the 25th running of the $12 million Dubai World Cup (Group 1) and Emirati handler Salem Bin Ghadayer can reflect on his chances of winning the Super Saturday showpiece at Meydan with the highly promising Matterhorn.

Having only his second start on dirt, the five-year-old son of Raven’s Pass landed a red-hot renewal of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge, the final prep for the Dubai World Cup on March 28.

Although his rider, Mickael Barzalona, revealed that things did not go totally according to plan, Matterhorn’s class and quality saw him score by 5½ lengths from the favourite Military Law, with recent Jebel Ali scorer Mark of Approval finishing a game third, 2½ lengths further back.

International oddsmakers shaved Matterhorn’s odds to 25/1 (from 33/1) behind the 5/2 favourite Benbatl for the World Cup.

Bin Ghadayer’s charge has come on in leaps and bounds since he was transferred from Yorkshire-based Scottish handler Mark Johnston’s yard, but Barzalona described him as a maturing horse.

“Absolutely delighted, we were expecting a lot from him,” said the French rider who won the 2012 Dubai World Cup aboard Monterosso.

“Unfortunately it has taken a little time for me to understand how to ride him on the dirt, but the last time he ran a very good race over the mile and after that race he’s been improving a lot.

“I was pleased with his run today, even though he didn’t do everything the right way, his quality showed,” added Barzalona.

“He really enjoyed to be in the front but I don’t think that’s the best way to ride him for the future as he never really relaxed in the race.”

Super Saturday also featured six other races which lead up to the Dubai World Cup meeting and Godolphin star Barney Roy continued his strong comeback after being retired to stud, when flaunting his class to win the Group 1 Jebel Hatta Sponsored by Emirates Airline.

Retired to stud in October 2017 after the Champion Stakes (1) at Ascot, Barney Roy resumed his racing career after proving sub-fertile as a stallion, in April 2019.

Transferred from Richard Hannon’s care to Charlie Appleby at Moulton Paddocks in England, the son of Excelebration wasted no time to prove that he had more to offer on the flat winning the Prix De Montretout Listed Stakes at Longchamp, Paris last May and the Group 2 Al Rashidiya at Meydan in January.

Today’s victory, a come-from-behind performance in the hands of William Buick over stable companion Magic Lily, the mount of Barzalona, sets him up nicely for a shot at the $6 million Dubai Turf (G1) on DWC night.

Commenting on Barney Roy’s Super Saturday success Buick said: “He’s got a high cruising speed that is obviously helped by his big stride but also he loves a flat track like this.

“It’s a great testament to the horse and to Charlie Appleby and the team at home (commenting on his return to racing after stud). And here he is winning his second Group 1.”

Appleby-trained horses completed a clean sweep of the top three places in the race with fellow Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour’s defending champion Dream Castle running on for fourth.

After in-form UAE handler Satish Seemar landed the opening races on the card, the Al Bastakiya Sponsored by with Emblem Storm and the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored by Emirates Skywards with Wafy, it was the turn of Bahrain’s Fawzi Nass and American Doug O’Neil to get a piece of the pie at Meydan.

The Fawzi Nass-trained Salute The Soldier gunned down his rivals to post an authoritative victory in the Burj Nahaar Sponsored by Emirates Holidays crossing the finish line 5 ½ lengths clear of Axelrod, ridden by Xavier Ziani.

“He’s a horse with a strong front-running style” said De Vries of the winner. “He travelled into the race which is what I really liked. The good thing about him is he takes a breather and kicks back.

“The Godolphin Mile (on DWC day, March 28) is the next logical step for the horse.”

American handler O’Neill picked up his third Meydan win when speedball Wildman Jack delivered a stunning upset in the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint sponsored by Arabian Adventures, pulling clear of a high-class field to win the six furlong turf contest by an extended 4 ¾ lengths.

Trained by Doug O’Neil, Wildman Jack also shattered the existing course record at Meydan which was held by Godolphin’s Jungle Cat.

“He’s a horse with natural speed,” said Jara. “He gave me a good feel and did it well.”