01/13/2011 3:56PM

Mendip comes back with Maktoum Challenge victory at Meydan

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Mendip returned to winning ways with a comfortable victory in Round 1 of the $200,000 Maktoum Challenge on Thursday night at Meydan as the Dubai Racing Carnival got under way. The Group 3 mile, run on Meydan’s synthetic Tapeta surface, serves as the first stepping-stone to the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26, and in Mendip, trainer Saeed bin Suroor appears to have himself a prime contender for the world’s richest race.

Making his first start since finishing a disappointing third in the UAE Derby on March 27, Mendip cruised to a 2 1/4-length victory under Frankie Dettori, traveling the mile in 1:36.45. Breaking form the rail, he was soon handily placed in third as Sea Lord cut out the early fractions. The 4-year-old son of Harlan’s Holiday led approaching the eighth pole and went quickly clear as last year’s Dubai Duty Free third Imbongi was up for second by a neck from the German-bred Win For Sure, with Godolphin’s ex-Andre Fabre-trained Colonial fourth, a short head further back.

Mendip had begun his career with a juvenile maiden score on the Kempton Polytrack, after which he won a seven-furlong Meydan allowance and the listed 1 3/16-mile Al Bastakiya. Sent off as the favorite in the UAE Derby on World Cup Night, he missed the break, took the lead at the quarter pole, but was run down by a pair of Australian Southern Hemisphere 3-year-olds in Musir and Raihana. Shortly thereafter, he suffered what Suroor described as a “small setback” that had sidelined him until Thursday.

While Mendip raced for Godolphin at 2 and 3, his current owner is listed as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. As Sheikh Mohammed’s second eldest son and the crown prince of Dubai, the 28-year-old is taking a more and more prominent role in the racing affairs of the Maktoum family. Last year, he was the third leading owner in Britain behind Khalid Abdullah and Godolphin. He is not to be confused with Sheikh Mohammed’s older brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, owner of Shadwell Farm. Mendip is likely to reappear in either Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge on Feb. 3 or Round 3 on World Cup Preview Night, March 3.

An intriguing undercard featured the seven-furlong UAE 1000 Guineas Trial in which South African trainer and Dubai specialist Mike de Kock and the outstanding stallion Galileo scored a one-two with Reem and Mahbooba. Both are Australian-bred and are slated to meet again in the UAE 1000 Guineas on Feb. 3.

Rock N Roll Ransom gave Godolphin its first Carnival victory with a late-running neck score under Ryan Moore in a 1 3/8-mile Tapeta handicap in which 2009 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Man of Iron was a dull 13th. De Kock teamed up with Christophe Soumillon to guide Our Giant to win a six-furlong Tapeta allowance worth $110,000 in which Dubai Duty Free runner-up Bankable was fourth. And Moore scored a double aboard Newmarket Group 3 winner Steele Tango in a nine-furlong, $175,000 turf handicap.