02/04/2016 4:10PM

Frosted tunes up for Dubai World Cup by winning Round 2 of Al Maktoum Challenge

Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
Frosted, ridden by William Buick, will head to the Dubai World Cup after winning Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge.

Frosted romped to victory in the Group 2, $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 on Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, looking like a major contender for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26.

Frosted won the race over 1,900 meters, or about 1 3/16 miles, by five lengths and, off a moderate tempo, easily set a course record of 1:56.67, a time far faster than the previous mark of 1:58.24 clocked last winter by Frankyfourfingers. This is only the second year of dirt racing at Meydan, however, and there have been few high-class races run at the trip.

Kiaran McLaughlin, who trained in Dubai during the early years of racing in the United Arab Emirates, won in his first start at Meydan and captured a second race on the card when Confrontation won the Group 2 Firebreak Stakes. Godolphin owns Frosted and Confrontation and wound up with wins in four of the six Thoroughbred races on the card.

Frosted, seventh last out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, arrived in Dubai less than two weeks ago and has been training at Godolphin’s Al Marmoon stables in the desert beyond the sprawling Dubai metropolis. He evidently took his trip well and has settled comfortably into his surroundings, as he turned in a representative performance Thursday night.

Breaking near the front under new rider William Buick, Godolphin’s stable jockey in Dubai, Frosted settled just outside the pacesetting longshot Munaseer through an even, measured tempo. The two still were abreast of one another turning for home, but when Frosted changed leads inside the final quarter-mile, he left Munaseer and everyone else in the race far behind.

McLaughlin said before the race that Frosted could make a second start before the World Cup in the third leg of the Maktoum Challenge, but after what looked like an ideal comeback run, McLaughlin suggested that the World Cup could be Frosted’s next race.

“The chances are that we won’t run him before the Dubai World Cup as he is fit enough and ran so well tonight, but we will talk about it,” McLaughlin said.

Things did not go so well for another World Cup hopeful, Mubtaahij, in the Firebreak Stakes. A sharp course and distance winner in the UAE Derby when last seen at Meydan and fourth in the Belmont Stakes in his most recent start, Mubtaahij never picked up his pace while coming home fifth of seven, beaten more than four lengths by the victorious Confrontation. Mubtaahij figures to improve from this start, but he’ll need to do so quickly and significantly to make an impact on the World Cup.

Confrontation, making his first start for McLaughlin and Godolphin after being privately purchased, got a good inside tracking trip behind a solid pace and came home a two-length winner over One Man Band, who edged another McLaughlin-trained starter, the late-running Watershed, for second.

Godolphin also won the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes with the filly Very Special and the card’s last race, a 1 1/4-mile turf handicap, with Think Ahead. But the other runner Thursday night of obvious consequence was Ertijaal, who scored his second straight turf-sprint handicap success, winning a handicap by two lengths while up in class after a four-length win Jan. 7. If Ertijaal can hold his form, he’ll be a horse to respect in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on the World Cup card.