03/05/2010 12:00AM

Gryder, Desormeaux even in jockey challenge


Aaron Gryder and Kent Desormeaux won a race apiece in the Meydan Masters jockey challenge at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on Friday night, the last meeting at the new track until Dubai World Cup Night on March 27.

Gryder was successful in the first leg of the four-race series aboard the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Alazeyab in a six-furlong handicap on the Tapeta surface. Desormeaux, who loomed large at the eighth-pole with So Will I, faded to finish fourth. In the second leg, a seven-furlong handicap, Gryder led briefly in midstretch aboard the highweight Consul General but faded to third as Richard Hills guided the Godolphin-owned Sirocco Breeze to victory. Desormeaux was victorious in the third leg, a 1 3/8-mile handicap, as he brought another Godolphin runner, Once More Dubai, with a late rush to catch the Hills-partnered Salute Him, after Olivier Peslier had nearly led throughout aboard the Godolphin-owned Firebet, only to finish third.

The Americans were both out of luck in the fourth leg of the series, a 1 1/4-mile handicap, as Desormeaux checked in ninth on Godolphin's Roman Republic with Gryder twelfth and last on multiple British group race winner Hattan. Christophe Lemaire took honors in the finale aboard the Dhruba Selvaratnam-trained Kal Berg.

Sandwiched in the middle of the Meydan Masters was a $150,000 one-mile turf allowance for 3-year-olds dubbed the Meydan Classic in which Tahitian Warrior showed nothing in his Dubai debut, finishing 10th of 12, beaten 14 lengths by his winning Saeed bin Suroor-trained stablemate Frozen Power, who covered the distance under Ahmed Ajtebi in 1:38.22 on good to firm ground. Purchased by Godolphin after a 4 3/4-length victory in his maiden debut going six furlongs on dirt at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 3, Tahitian Warrior was always at the rear end of the field in a decidedly dull effort.

A high-powered ride from Christophe Soumillon provided the South African-bred Imbongi with victory in the $250,000, Group 2 Zabeel Mile on turf. Fourth in midstretch, Imbongi was angled sharply by Soumillon for a gap on the rail, led within a few strides, and held off the late challenge of Kalahari Gold by a neck under heavy urging. Nipped at the wire by Bankable in his last start in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, Imbongi covered the mile in 1:38.64 to give trainer Mike de Kock a strong candidate for the Dubai Duty Free. The Godolphin-owned Rio de la Plata, a French Group 1 winner at 2, finished tailed off, last of 12.