02/13/2014 3:06PM

Meydan: Variety Club among Southern Hemisphere standouts during Dubai World Cup Carnival

Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins
Two-time South African Horse of the Year Variety Club romps in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes at Meydan.

It was a Southern Hemisphere kind of night on Thursday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, with horses who last started in South Africa and Australia making the strongest impressions during a six-race program.

Variety Club, two times South Africa’s Horse of the Year, looked particularly sharp winning the Group 3, $200,000 Firebreak Stakes in his first start outside South Africa.

Trained by Joey Ramsden and ridden to victory by Anton Marcus, Variety Club, a handsome chestnut South African-bred who’s a 6-year-old on Northern Hemisphere time, made the lead shortly after the start in the Firebreak, a Tapeta race around one turn and over about one mile. He set a strong pace while racing a path or two off the rail, gathered himself for the stretch run, and opened a sizeable lead before cruising home a two-length winner over Haatheq.

Variety Club’s winning time was initially called a course record, but the gate-pulse triggering the automatic timing system didn’t work properly, and Variety Club’s official clocking of 1:35.67 was hand-timed.

Variety Club won his ninth race in a row, and his connections have designs on bigger prizes during the Carnival, but Variety Club might not be a horse for the $10 million World Cup itself as that race’s 1 ¼- mile distance probably is farther than his best.

A race earlier, another South African, Vercingetorix, ran his career record to 5 for 5 capturing a $175,000 turf handicap by a half-length over Code of  Honor. Trained by Mike de Kock, Vercingetorix, by Silvano, has made all his starts on grass, winning at distances between seven and 10 furlongs, and his margin of victory Thursday night did not fully reflect the ability gap between him and his rivals in the nine-furlong race.

In the Group 3, $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas, Long John had a maturity edge over all his rivals save fellow Aussie-bred Paximadia, another horse bred on Southern Hemisphere time and considered a 4-year-old on the Northern Hemisphere calendar. Races for 3-year-olds at Meydan are open to such animals (though the Triple Crown in the United States. is not) and Long John took full advantage, blasting to the lead coming into the homestretch and going on to an easy 4 ¼- length victory over Emirates Flyer. Winning time for about one mile on Tapeta was 1:36.23. Mickael Barzalona rode Long John for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby.

Russian Soul scored a one-length win over Jamesie in the card’s other stakes race, the Group 3 Al Shindagha at about six furlongs on Tapeta.