17 February 2017

A three pound penalty could not stop the ever-improving CHAMPIONSHIP (IRE) from gaining his second consecutive Group 2 victory in Thursday’s Zabeel Mile at Meydan. Racing over a furlong farther than last month’s Al Fahidi Fort, Colm O’Donoghue adopted different tactics, racing in midfield rather than leading, waiting to assert his advantage a furlong and a half from home and ran on well to win by two and three parts of a length. Speaking afterwards, winning trainer Ahmad bin Harmash said; “CHAMPIONSHIP (IRE) was a very good horse last year - he had a good summer rest and we can see he´s improving more and more. We´ve tried him already over the distance of the Dubai Turf and we know there´ll be a good pace for him on World Cup day.”

Bred by Natalie Cleary, CHAMPIONSHIP (IRE) sold from Oghill House Stud to Julie Wood’s Woodstock for €90,000 at the Goffs November Foal Sale. He won twice carrying Wood’s colours before being bought for Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed al Maktoum, for whom he has won four times. One of 59 Group winners by Kildangan Stud sire Exceed And Excel, he is a half-brother to three winners, out of a half-sister to Graded performer Sohgol (IRE). Less than 24 hours later, his sire celebrated yet another Stakes winner when the Dhruba Selvaratnam-trained MORAWIJ won the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint for the second year in a row.

Thursday’s card also saw OPAL TIARA (IRE) post a career-best performance to win the Group 2 Balanchine over nine furlongs for Mick Channon. A Listed winner last June and a Group 3 winner two months later, the four-year-old was beaten just half a length on her Dubai debut last month, finishing second to Very Special (IRE) in the Group 2 Cape Verdi. That winner was one of five rivals Channon’s charge faced on her latest start, in which she raced in mid-division under Oisin Murphy, ridden to take the lead a furlong from home and ran on well to deny Via Firenze (IRE) by a neck, with a further length and a quarter back to Muffri-ha (IRE) in third.

Bred by her trainer in partnership with Mrs Hedley, OPAL TIARA (IRE) was foaled and raised at Rathasker Stud and is now owned by the Filly Folly and Sweet Partnership. She is the sole foal out of her unraced dam, Zarafa, and comes from the family of Grade 1 winner Bequest and Queen Mary Stakes third Quest.

Two races later, ERTIJAAL (IRE) gained his first, and very much well-deserved, Group win in the Meydan Sprint over five furlongs, which was his fourth course and distance victory, having also finished second in last year’s Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint under the same conditions. Ridden by Jim Crowley for the second time, the six-year-old gelding tracked the fast pace set by The Happy Prince (IRE), taking over before the two pole and ran on well to score by an impressive two and three quarter lengths. Jungle Cat (IRE) was runner-up for the second consecutive year, while Caspian Prince (IRE) took third, four and a quarter lengths behind him.

Described afterwards as a “Rolls Royce” by Crowley, ERTIJAAL (IRE) will now presumably step up to six furlongs in the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night, the race having previously been run over the minimum distance. Hamdan Al Maktoum’s homebred had previously won twice at Listed level and is the best produce of the mare Shabiba, she having also produced Listed runner-up Odooj (IRE). 

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