DUBAI // Mike de Kock will have plenty in his arsenal come Dubai World Cup day, if his results at Meydan Racecourse last night are anything to go by.
The South African won two features in remarkably easy fashion when his Durban July winner, Bold Silvano, claimed the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge – a traditional warm-up race for the US10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup.
He also added a first UAE 1000 Guineas to his CV with a comfortable victory from the speedy Mahbooba, who will also contest the World Cup day UAE Derby if she continues to race in the same vein.
Before the race de Kock had said that Bold Silvano was not 100 per cent fit, and in wiping out a field consisting of five Group 1 winners, the victor proved he would be fearsome competition for other World Cup hopefuls. So easy was his win that jockey, Christophe Soumillon, eased his mount, and patted him before he even crossed the finish line. Frankie Dettori was second on Godolphin's improving Spring of Fame.
"You put yourself under pressure but he came through," said de Kock after the race.
Mahbooba looked a runner to utterly dominate the fillies' races when she finished almost four lengths ahead of stablemate, Reem in the 1000 Guineas.
The step-up in trip from 1,400m to a mile suited Mahbooba, who reversed her previous form with Reem.
De Kock, the second most successful trainer of the UAE's international season behind Godolphin's Saeed bin Suroor, was saddling his 100th UAE winner and 82nd Carnival winner with Mahbooba. The South African also won a 2,485m handicap with Star Empire and a 1400m turf handicap with Warsaw.
Mahbooba will now follow in the footsteps of stablemate and 2009 UAE Oaks winner, Raihana, and attempt to capture the fillies' race before taking on the colts in the UAE Derby on World Cup night.
"That's the first time I've won that," said the trainer. "You always want Mahbooba to be kept pretty handy during the race and I would see that as being a first effort. We knew she would show improvement after her first run. She just stays and the UAE Derby would be her ultimate goal after the Oaks."
Mahbooba did not have first run at the finish post, but when asked for an effort from jockey Soumillon, she eagerly obliged, sweeping past the field and winning going away from the rest. Soumillon, who also rode Star Empire to victory, was excited by the talented filly.
"She is incredible," said the rider. "When I push her she just keeps going. She stays very well. Mike does a wonderful job. His horses come to the track fit but they always come on for their runs and get even better."
Chinese New Year was celebrated yesterday and the occasion brought luck to Hong Kong's Dynamic Blitz, who claimed the Group 3 Al Shindaga Sprint and will now contest a World Cup sprint race.
Meanwhile Erwan Charpy claimed his third Al Maktoum Challenge for Purebred Arabians.
Veteran runner Santhal threw off the years and the challengers to squeak to victory in the second round of the three-race series. He beat Gillian Duffield's Periander by a neck, and chartered a course to the World Cup-day Kahayla Classic by virtue of his victory.
Given a dream ride by Willie Supple, the 10-year-old Santhal found himself in a three-way battle with Doug Watson's Kandar du Falgas also disputing the lead. But Santhal managed to throw his head in front of Duffield's runner, who was having his UAE debut, and Kandar du Falgas, who has twice won the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
"He is very good in a close finish like that," said Charpy, whose runner claimed an Al Maktoum Challenge in 2009.
Charpy must be given plaudits for keeping an old campaigner like Santhal fresh and sound. He said he varies the horse's training in order to keep him interested, sometimes taking him to train on dirt in Al Quoz.