03/27/2010 11:00PM

Al Shemali upsets Duty Free


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Al Shemali was considered good enough as a 3-year-old in 2007 to start in races such as the English 2,000 Guineas and Irish Derby. The idea was correct, the year was wrong.

Al Shemali could not win at that level, back then. It was not until Saturday's $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Meydan Racecourse that Al Shemali scored the definitive win of his career. Few saw it coming.

Sent off as a 40-1 outsider with British bookmakers in a talented field of 16, Al Shemali paid $292.20 in the United States after rallying between horses in the stretch to win his first group stakes in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free. It was a career-best win for Dubai-based trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, one of the leaders on this country's circuit.

Ridden by Royston Ffrench, Al Shemali ran about 1 1/8 miles on turf, or 1,800 meters, in a course record time of 1:50.84.

"It was just a case of a clean split and he powered onto the line for me," Ffrench said of the stretch run. "I was very happy with where I was in the race."

Al Shemali finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Bankable, a stakes winner in England and Dubai in his last two starts. Imbongi, the winner of a Group 2 stakes here earlier this month, finished third.

The Usual Q.T., the winner of four consecutive stakes in Southern California last year, was fourth, the best finish of three American-based runners. Take the Points, a two-time Grade 1 winner last year, finished fifth, while Courageous Cat, second in the Breeders' Cup Mile last year, finished ninth.

Al Shemali was trained by Sir Michael Stoute and Saeed bin Suroor early in his career. Owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum, Al Shemali was making his fourth start in a little more than six weeks on Saturday. He was fifth and first in handicaps in an eight-day span in February before finishing sixth in a key prep to the Dubai World Cup on March 4. A 6-year-old British-bred horse by Medicean, Al Shemali has won 4 of 18 starts and $3,238,677.