03/04/2017 2:54PM

Long River scores upset in al Maktoum Challenge Round 3

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Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
Long River, ridden by Mickael Barzalona, wins Round 3 of the Group 1 al Maktoum Challenge.

It had been a long, long time since Long River won a race, but the 7-year-old American expatriate, perhaps with an assist from a speed-favoring racing surface, finally broke through Saturday at Meydan in the Group 1, $400,000 al Maktoum Challenge Round 3.

With Mickael Barzalona riding for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum and trainer Salem bin Ghadayer, Long River went straight to the front in the 2,000-meter feature and, like the other three dirt winners on the card, stayed there. He beat Special Fighter by 1 1/4 lengths for his first win since Jan. 18, 2015, when Long River won the listed Evening Attire Stakes at Aqueduct.

“We have always known Long River had the potential to win a big race, and he has really stepped up tonight,” said Barzalona. “We did not go quickly, so I was always confident he would stay the trip given the steady pace.”

Long River, by A.P. Indy and out of Round Pond, by Awesome Again, paid $50.20 to win in North American betting. He was timed in a modest 2:04.20 over a fast track. Special Fighter, who chased the leader all the way, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths clear of third-place Furia Cruzada, who had won Round 2 of the al Maktoum Challenge. The Japanese horse Lani continued his string of dispiriting performances, never getting involved while finishing sixth.

The result strongly suggests that Arrogate and the rest of the North American contingent headed to the March 25 Dubai World Cup have little to fear from the local entrants in the race. The most accomplished of that set, Mubtaahij, did not race Saturday but will have to improve mightily from his lone run this winter to threaten the likes of Arrogate.

The other wire-to-wire dirt winners were Cosmo Charlie, who captured the $250,000 Al Bastakiya, a prep for the UAE Derby; Morawij, who posted a major upset in the Mahab al Shimaal over about six furlongs; and Heavy Metal, who won the Burj Nahaar, at about a mile, by more than six lengths.

Fawree, the Al Bastakiya favorite, lunged and contorted himself as the starting gate opened and dislodged jockey Bernard Fay d’Herbe. Cosmo Charlie, an American-bred by Stay Thirsty, beat Qatar Man by one length after having finished sixth behind the UAE Derby-bound Thunder Snow in the UAE 2000 Guineas last month.

Morawij, a 7-year-old winning his first group-level stakes in the Group 3 Mahab al Shimaal, was all out to hold on by a head over Cool Cowboy, who passed Dundonnell to gain second. The winner ran 1,200 meters in 1:11.23 while suggesting that American shippers will be formidable March 25 in the Golden Shaheen.

Heavy Metal, giving Sheikh Hamdan and trainer bin Ghadayer a second winner on the card, won his Dubai debut but proceeded to lose his next 12 starts. He won a handicap race at Meydan on Jan. 26 to end that skid and now has captured three of his last four starts. The 7-year-old gelding by Exceed and Excel was given a career-best 109 official rating for his romping Burj Nahaar win but will have to do even better to beat Sharp Azteca in the Godolphin Mile – unless his connections take a shot against Arrogate in the World Cup.

On turf, Postponed was surprisingly beaten by Prize Money in the Group 2, $250,000 City of Gold, but circumstances were against him, and he still should be formidable while trying to repeat March 25 in the $6 million Sheema Classic.

Breaking from the outside post under Andrea Atzeni while facing nine rivals, Postponed lost some ground around the first turn before settling into a midpack spot on the inside. He moved up partway around the far turn and was in decent position with about three furlongs to run, but Adrie de Vries on Prize Money, who had followed Postponed all the way, came up along his outside and hemmed Postponed behind tiring pace at the top of the homestretch. Atzeni had to steer several paths left to the rail to find room while Prize Money sailed steadily home on the outside, and that was the difference, as Prize Money won by a neck. Emotionless was another three-quarters of a length back in third.

“He ran good,” Atzeni said of Postponed, who raced for the first time since finishing fifth five months ago in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. “It was first run back this year. It was a bit of a messy race. He came out well, and it’s all about the big race now.”

Prize Money, a 4-year-old by Authorized and trained for Godolphin by Saeed bin Suroor, scored the best win of his 10-start career.

Atzeni, riding Decorated Knight, found the winner’s circle later Saturday in the Group 1, $300,000 Jebel Hatta, a prep for the $6 million Dubai Turf. Trained by Roger Charlton and making his Dubai debut, Decorated Knight got a ground-saving trip for most of the 1,800-meter Jebel Hatta. He came off the rail at the top of the stretch, wending his way to the outside looking for clear running, and Decorated Knight crackled home when Atzeni found him a path and set him down. He got up by a neck over Folkswood, with Muffri’ha third by the same margin.

“He’s a horse with a good turn of foot,” Atzeni said. “The pace wasn’t really strong enough for him. The good thing about him is he can pick up.”

With Ertijaal merely awaiting the Al Quoz Sprint on the World Cup card, Jungle Cat, who proved no match for Ertijaal when they met Feb. 16 at Meydan, easily won the $200,000 Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint. Jungle Cat, with William Buick riding for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby, stormed to the front a little more than a furlong from the finish of the six-furlong straight-course turf race and beat Baccarat by two lengths.