North America
North America, ridden by Richard Mullen, wins the Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 1) at Meydan on Thursday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: An emotional UAE champion jockey Richard Mullen has made a strong plea in support of older horses after riding North America to an imperious victory in Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge (Group 2) on the second day of the Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting at Meydan on Thursday.

North America, who was a leading Dubai World Cup player last year, announced himself as a leading contender for this year’s renewal of the $12 million (Dh44 million) contest, with a powerful display of front-running to totally outshine a classy field led by defending champion and Godolphin Mile (G2) scorer Heavy Metal and UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) hero Gold Town.

North American crossed the finish nine lengths ahead of his nearest rival, Kimbear, while clocking a time just a shade outside the 01:35:21 track record set by One Man Band last season.

“Unbelievable,” said an ecstatic Mullen. “I just said to the boss (Seemar) that there are not a lot of horses who give me goosebumps and he has done that. It was an incredible performance for his first run (this season). He has such a huge stride. I think anything that comes near, he has that much pace that he just kills them off.”

North America was last seen in the 2018 Dubai World Cup where he blew his chances after missing the start. All going well, Thursday’s performance has put him on course to set the record straight at this year’s renewal.

“This is step one. There are a few to go, so let us not get carried away,” cautioned Mullen, who was on board on that occasion. “Like I said, they are horses, not machines, and anything can happen. There is potential for him to be better.

“He is only going to have four runs this year and he already has his programme pencilled out. I know he is a seven-year-old, but he has probably had less races than most three or four-year-olds in Europe,” he added.

“He is very lightly raced and very well looked-after. They have the whole summer off, so seven is the new three or four in UAE terms.

“I think they retire horses too early these days, even at the age of four, while sprinters and geldings carry. I don’t see why horses like him shouldn’t carry on,” added Mullen, who is best remembered for his exploits with 12-year-old Reynaldothewizard, a darling of the fans in Dubai, who was last summer pensioned to the Godolphin retirement facility in the UK.

North America was not the only horse popping eyes at Meydan on Thursday evening, a day when a new star emerged in the form of UAE 2000 Guineas Trial winner Walking Thursday.