01/26/2017 5:11PM

Godolphin sweeps two stakes, wins five of six races on card

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Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
Very Special wins the Cape Verdi for the second time Thursday.

Thursday was a banner night at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai for Godolphin, which won five of the six Thoroughbred races on the card and swept two Group 2 turf stakes. Favored Very Special won the Group 2 Cape Verdi for fillies and mares, while the filly Promising Run upset odds-on favorite Light the Lights in the Group 2 Al Rashidiya.

Fly At Dawn captured the listed UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, Godolphin runners Gold Trail and Prize Money finished one-two in race 2, a 1 1/2-mile turf handicap, and Godolphin's Baccarat and Jungle Cat went one-two in race 7, a six-furlong turf handicap.

The only Thoroughbred race a Godolphin horse didn’t win Thursday was race 6, a one-mile dirt handicap won by Heavy Metal.

Very Special won the Cape Verdi over about one mile on good ground for the second year in a row. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden Thursday by Jim Crowley, Very Special had last been seen finishing a good second to Alice Springs in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes in England, and she could prove a prime player in middle-distance races this winter all the way through the Group 1 Dubai Turf on the World Cup program.

Very Special, a 5-year-old mare by Lope de Vega, seems likely to follow the same pattern as last winter, when she went on from the Cape Verdi to win the Balanchine Stakes, but connections will hope she can improve on her sixth-place finish in the 2016 Dubai Turf. A pace-setting winner of her first two starts last winter in Dubai, Very Special tracked a moderate tempo Thursday before finishing solidly to beat Opal Tiara by a half-length, clocking 1:37.21.

“Saeed wanted me to settle her off the lead today,” Crowley said. “I was always happy, and she quickened nicely when I asked her. She’s a very nice mare.”

Four-year-old Promising Run also had been considered for the Cape Verdi, but Godolphin and bin Suroor elected to have her face males in the Al Rashidiya, and that worked out just fine. With Crowley up again, Promising Run tracked a slow pace, got a clean run on the outside, and wore down Light the Lights in the final furlong to win by a half-length. Earnshaw was just a neck back in third as the winner clocked 1:49.43 for about 1 1/8 miles on good ground.

Promising Run, by Hard Spun, finished second to Polar River when campaigning on dirt last winter at Meydan. A Group 3 winner in England, she appears to be more comfortable on turf, and seems likely to stick to grass racing during the World Cup Carnival.

Light the Lights, who was spotting the filly about five pounds, three weeks ago had won by a neck over Championship, who returned Jan. 19 with a sharp win in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort. But Light the Lights was forced to lead Thursday, a position he did not seem to relish, and he was left flat-footed when attacked by Promising Run. Light the Lights had beaten the fully exposed Earnshaw by three lengths in the Singspiel, and the much narrower margin Thursday suggests Light the Lights did not run to his best form while making his second start after a long layoff.

Meanwhile, Fly At Dawn has a dirt pedigree – by Discreet Cat and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Emirates Girl – and appears to have found his niche on the Meydan dirt. Trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial by Mickael Barzalona, Fly At Dawn got a good stalking trip while saving ground around the race’s one turn. He set out after pace-setting Cosmo Charlie after turning for home, caught him in the final furlong, and went on to a one-length win. Fly At Dawn was timed in 1:24.48 for about seven furlongs on a fast track.

A three-time winner last year racing on turf and all-weather surfaces, Fly At Dawn had finished second to his stablemate Van Der Decken while giving weight in his Dubai and dirt debut last month.

“We know he was improving a lot from his last run,” Barzalona said. “When I found my room, the horse went very well to the line.”

Cosmo Charlie, making his second career start after a debut win over maidens, stayed on well and finished more than six lengths ahead of third-place Top Score. The leading pair should both be back for the UAE 2000 Guineas over about one mile.

Top Score was caught terribly wide on the turn and probably is better than his distant third Thursday. Best Solution, who was fourth, could not reproduce his best turf form on turf, while Van Der Decken slogged his way through traffic and kickback Thursday while failing to improve on his win last month.