01/19/2017 6:23PM

Championship never threatened in Al Fahidi Fort win


Championship ran the race of his life to win the Group 2, $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort Stakes, the featured race Thursday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

Going quickly to the lead from post 1 under Colm O’Donoghue, Championship set a solid pace, opened up around the far turn, came into the homestretch with a clear advantage, and never was threatened, striding 3 1/2 lengths clear at the finish and stopping the timer in 1:22.82 for 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) on good turf. The time was just .05 seconds off Safety Check’s course record.

Flash Fire, coming home on the outside, nabbed second by three-quarters of a length over Noah From Goa, who made an encouraging Dubai debut for trainer Mike de Kock. The South African import had not run in more than a year, and had a setback, de Kock said, while based in England on his way to Dubai. De Kock said earlier this week Noah From Goah came into this race only about 80 percent fit, and Noah From Goa briefly lacked room in midstretch when he tried to come outside his stablemate Anaerobio and was shut off by Flash Fire.

But it would have taken a very strong performance to beat Championship in the Al Fahidi Fort. A 6-year-old bred by Exceed and Excel who was bred in Ireland and is spending his second winter in Dubai, Champioship appears ideally suited to 1,400 meters, and was turning back from a narrow loss in a 1,800-meter handicap two weeks ago in which he set the pace and was caught on the wire by Light the Lights, another de Kock-trained horse with talent. Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, Championship won his first Group race Thursday while making his fourth start of the winter - two runs in Abu Dhabi followed by his two recent starts at Meydan.

Earlier on the card, Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor won the listed UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial with Really Special, who was at least moderately impressive scoring by 2 1/2 lengths over Complimenti. By Shamardal, Really Special ran her career record to 3 for 3, winning on dirt after an all-weather-track victory to start her career and a listed stakes victory on turf in England last fall.

Really Special still is green, jockey Christophe Soumillon said, and she was not eager to settle when positioned just behind the pacesetter on the fence during the running, but she came willingly between horses in the stretch while looking like a filly who can negotiate a longer distance.

“She gave me a good turn of foot,” Soumillon said. “She is quite talented.”

Main Stay won the sixth race on the card, a 1,200-meter dirt handicap, to become the first Korean horse to win during the Dubai World Cup Carnival.