02/05/2015 4:14PM

Frankyfourfingers breaks through in Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2

Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
Frankyfourfingers (third from left) wins the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 on Thursday.

Frankyfourfingers never had won a race of note when the Dubai World Cup Carnival began in January, and his trainer, Salem bin Ghadayer, never had won a race, period. But Thursday at Meydan, the pair teamed up to capture the Group 2, $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2, a breakthrough for both horse and trainer.

African Story, making his first start since winning the 2014 Dubai World Cup, never was a factor, finishing seventh.

Bin Ghadayer, a former endurance rider, is in his first season of training, and he has a major client, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum, Dubai’s crown prince, the son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. A stable for the winter’s racing was assembled through private purchases, one of which was a French horse of no great account – Frankyfourfingers. The find has been a good one.

By Sunday Break, Frankyfourfingers has proven better on the new dirt track at Meydan than he was over turf in France, where he won four minor races from 13 starts there in 2013 and 2014. He finished second to Surfer in his dirt debut, the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, but improved Thursday, beating the race’s defending champion, Prince Bishop, by a head.

Mickael Barzalona – a previous Dubai stable jockey for Godolphin – was aboard the winner, and in the short run to the first turn of the 1 3/16 mile race, he appeared to be looking for a spot to drop in for position after breaking from post 9. But there was no spot, so Barzalona let Frankyfourfingers run up to the lead, which he assumed a little more than a quarter-mile into the race. And there he stayed, though it got tight late. Well clear in mid-stretch, Frankyfourfingers appeared to tire in the final half-furlong, but Prince Bishop’s good finish from mid-division fell just short of the winner.

“I was lucky to get the lead and set my own pace,” Barzalona said. “I just could feel my horse was starting to slow down the last furlong. I was asking for the maximum.”

The 8-year-old Prince Bishop, making his first dirt start, ran well in his first race since September and only his second start since finishing ninth in the $10 million World Cup, coming home more than a length in front of the third-place Le Bernardin.

African Story, on the other hand, never really got involved in the running, racing mid-pack the entire trip without mounting a challenge. The 8-year-old thrived on the old Tapeta track at Meydan and is highly unlikely to scale similar heights on dirt.

** Earlier on the card, Local Time won the $250,000 United Arab Emirates 1000 Guineas by 3 1/2 lengths over Good Place, trainer Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin sweeping the top two placings. Local Time, by Invincible Spirit, has no obvious dirt influences in her pedigree, but she has taken nicely to the new main track at Meydan, scoring an easy front-running victory Thursday after landing the Guineas trial last month by a much narrower margin. James Doyle rode the winner.