SURFER: It was his target, and he ran like he clearly knew what he was supposed to do on the day. Surfer won the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round two in taking style while making most of his draw. Never too far off the pace, he attacked turning for home and was able to get lose one furlong out to draw clear by a bit more than two lengths in the end. This is particularly sweet since he was my selection for this race. Favourite Outstrip absolutely hated the Dirt on his Meydan debut. He was outpaced early on and subsequently never really in the race. The tough English runner Ocean Tempest also didn’t look happy at all on this surface. A fact we may have to conclude more often than not in the next couple of weeks when we talk about European runners on the Meydan Dirt track.
TRUE STORY: Impressive success for True Stroy in the Listed Singspiel Stakes. In hindsight, one could say he was very much entitled to win as good as he did. First time headgear, the gelding operation and being fresh clearly rejuvenated him. The change of gear he was able to produce entering the home straight demonstrated why he was once thought to be a leading Epsom Derby contender. Question is now if he’ll be able to reproduce the same sort of form against tougher opposition the next time. This win meant that James Doyle was off to a flying start for the boys in blue. Recently acquired as the retained jockey for Godolphin, he couldn’t have envisioned a better start.
DE KOCK: South Africa’s top trainer has a rather slow start this season but one should expect that form will pick up soon. Some horses did perform eye-catchingly today and believing his words, his whole string is expected to improve with growing match fitness. Ajeeb was one that particularly caught my eye. Over 5f in the turf sprint, he travelled very well for a long time trailing the field and making some really nice progress late without getting a particularly hard race.
Given the fact that he was off for more than a year and was once runner-up in a 7f Group 2 in Australia as well as only five lengths beaten in top class company behind Atlantic Jewel, one can easily see why this colt could be very interesting moving forward from here. Expect him to strip fitter next time and when stepping up in trip, he’ll be one to have the money on I feel. Another interesting De Kock runner to keep in mind might be classy Sansaawhes. He was in receive of a slightly odd ride by Soumillon but finished very well and should come on for this run after being back from a break as well.
MUSIC THEORY: An absolute nightmare run for the Godolphin gelding in the final race. He travelled extremely well in rear of the field but had absolutely nowhere to go in the home straight. He got bumped and had to fight for a gap, but once he got out late, he finished like a train. Keep an eye on him, he could go all the way into pattern class. Music Theory was a very promising juvenile when he finished once less than three lengths behind Kingman in the Solario Stakes. He had only two starts last year but ended 2014 with a fine runner-up effort at Lingfield. His lightly raced profile let’s assume that there is still a good deal of improvement left.
DIRT: It is almost impossible to win from the rear of the field. The kick-back is horrible and it looks a bit like Wolverhampton at its worst days before the relay of the new surface… well Meydan today looked probably even worse! The vast majority of dirt races were won by horses very much up with the speed – with the only exception the 7f Handicap where they went a relentless gallop. So the trend from the minor meetings clearly continues in that sense.
Doesn’t mean that spectacular racing is a thing unlikely to happen on this surface, however visually it isn’t particularly pretty – not to my eyes at least. The beauty of flat racing for me is when you see a strong travelling horse looming hard on the bridle around the 2f marker, waiting to be unleashed to go and win the race. That’s why I once fell so much in love with Paco Boy. His 2010 Lockinge Stakes success or the year before the Queen Anne triumph – simply poetry in motion!