01/29/2015 3:30PM

Soumillon scores in Dubai with Vercingetorix, Cladocera

Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
Vercingetorix gave trainer Mike de Kock his fourth straight Al Rashidiya win.

Vercingetorix, away since April, returned to the races with a two-length win over True Story in the Group 2, $200,000 Al Rashidiya Stakes on Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The comeback run suggests that the South African-bred could be a force in the more important middle-distance turf races in February and March.

Trained by Mike de Kock, who has now won the Al Rashidiya four years in a row, Vercingetorix had a solid winter last season in Dubai, capping it with a second-place finish behind a standout performance from the Japanese horse Just a Way in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free. But de Kock said Thursday that Vercingetorix never was fully himself last winter, a hard ship from South Africa to Dubai hanging over him all season. And if the Vercingetorix of 2015 is measurably better than the horse of 2014, look out.

On Thursday, with Christophe Soumillon in the saddle, he got a perfect trip tracking the leaders while comfortably in hand until the end of the race’s one turn, and there, with a little more than a quarter-mile left to race, Soumillon steered Vercingetorix to the outside for his run. He easily got the better of the sharp Godolphin horse True Story, and while staying on his right lead the entire stretch run, pulled away and was eased up late in a comfortable victory.

Vercingetorix ran 1,800 meters (about nine furlongs) on good going in 1:49.12. True Story easily held second over Mr Pommeroy.

“He is in great shape this year,” said Soumillon. “He was a really good horse last year, but he felt better tonight. He is exciting.”

Soumillon also rode the impressive winner of the Group 2, $200,000 Cape Verdi Stakes, Cladocera, a German-bred 4-year-old trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre who did most of her racing last year in France. Waiting near the back of the field through a moderate pace, Cladocera spun wide into the homestretch and sprinted home.

Stretching out low to the ground and quickening nicely, she looked like a filly better suited to the good ground at Meydan to the softer courses of Europe. She won by two lengths over Zhuriga while running 1,600 meters (about one mile) in 1:37.22 over good going.

“She is a nice filly,” Royer-Dupre said. “We will bring her back in a few weeks, but the targets have to be the real big races. Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup Night are hopefully her main targets.”

While Soumillon won the two stakes, jockey James Doyle ruled the rest of the card, winning three times on the night. Doyle scored in race 1 with I’m Back, in race 2 with Ahtoug, and in race 7 with Hunter’s Light. Ahtoug won a turf-sprint handicap by a head, flashing the form that landed him a second-place finish last March in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.

The three dirt races on the card went to horses who raced inside and on the lead. The Meydan main track, a new dirt surface this season, has generally favored front-running types this month.