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Soft Falling Rain lays down Classic marker

Emerges as leading contender for UAE 2000 Guineas as Al Zarouni strikes it rich

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Soft Falling Rain (left), ridden by jockey Paul Hanagan and trained by Mike de Kock won the1400m UAE 2000 Guineas Trial race at Meydan on Thursday night.
Gulf News

Dubai: With champion South African handler Mike de Kock boasting such a remarkable record at the Dubai World Cup Carnival all his horses need keeping tabs on, which is much the case with Soft Falling Rain, who has emerged as a leading contender for next month’s UAE 2000 Guineas (G3).

The unbeaten four-year-old son of National Assembly, South Africa’s former champion two-year-old colt, strongly advertised his claims to give de Kock a fifth Guineas success when recording an emphatic victory in Thursday’s trial at Meydan racecourse.

However, de Kock admitted to being somewhat in the dark about how far the horse can progress given the speed he displays whenever he runs.

“He’s won over five furlongs in very fast time in South Africa, so it was always going to be a tough ask as I was a little bit worried about the trip,” he said.

“He’s a huge action horse and to try and restrain those horses you just break their action. So the intention was let him run his race, which he did rather nicely. I think he came out in flying colours.

“We’ll be back for the Guineas for sure, and I’d love to have him in the Derby, but let’s see how he does in three weeks time first. I think he’ll get the mile but whether he gets more I’m not so sure at this point of time. But we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Thursday’s Carnival meeting, however, was dominated by the Godolphin pairing of trainer Mahmoud Al Zarouni and jockey Mickael Barzalona, who teamed up to win three races including the UAE 1000 Guineas Trials with the spirited Music Chart.

The Pick Six favorite finished strongly to deny the Saeed Bin Surour-trained Shuruq by three quarters of a length.

The handler confirmed that she would take her place in the Classic on February 7, together with stable-companion Lovely Pass, who had the measure of Music Chart when the two met in a Conditions event at Ascot last September.

“We thought she would run well and obviously the Guineas itself is the next target where we also intend to run Lovely Pass.”

Al Zarouni and Barzalona also thwarted Indian champion filly In The Spotlight’s bid for international glory, when Anatolian won the concluding 2,400m handicap on Turf.

Cheering on In The Spotlight from the Meydan Parade Ring was legendary racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil, who was a distinguished member of the Indian contingent.

Anatolian held off the challenge of Bin Surour’s Ahzeemah, de Kock’s Star Empire and the S. Padmanabhan-trained In The Spotlight, in a pulsating five-horse finish.

Less than a length separated the first four home and Padmanabhan heaped praise on his filly, a six-time Grade 1 winner in her native India.

“She ran an absolute cracker. Everything she was doing was new — running at night, going left-handed. But there is nothing to complain about,” he said spiritedly.

“She had a little hiccup taking the first left-handed turn, where she tried to go out, but after that it was smooth sailing. In the end we didn’t have the luck of the race. But she will come on for this race and we’ll look to run her again, probably in a 14 furlong race in three weeks time.”

Padmanabhan also revealed that Cecil’s advice to him after the race was: “She did nothing wrong. Train her confidently.”