DUBAI // First City stole the Group 2 Cape Verdi from the pre-race favourite, Mahbooba, last night, prompting her trainer to plot a course for her to the Dubai Duty Free race on World Cup night.
The Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained mare has been regularly placed at racing's highest level in the UK but captured her first Group 2 race yesterday.
Now she will have a tilt at the Group 2 Balanchine for fillies and mares on February 17 before being aimed at the Group 1 US$5 million (Dh18.4m) Dubai Duty Free turf race.
Al Raihe is the defending-champion trainer here and also leads the leader board this season with 26 winners to the second-placed Doug Watson's 22, and the Emirati said he felt there was more improvement to come in his mare, First City.
"When she came to us she had an injury on her hind leg and so she had a month off," said Al Raihe, who claimed the 2010 Dubai Duty Free with stable star Al Shemali.
"But since she has come back into training she has worked very well and we knew she had a lot of potential. We don't feel she is at her very best yet and believe that she will improve for this run."
Last night, First City came off best in a photo finish after scooting into contention from the tail of the field.
She needed her final strides to reel in Mike de Kock's front-running Mahbooba, the 2011 UAE 1,000 Guineas winner, who claimed the Al Rashidiya Trial by four lengths at the beginning of the month.
The jockey Royston Ffrench, the stable rider at Al Raihe's Grandstand Stables, said his mare had impressed him.
"First City was very willing and she won it well," he said. "Mahbooba is a good mare who seems to be going well so it was good to get the decision."
Ffrench is second in the UAE jockey standings with 23 wins. Tadhg O'Shea leads with 26 victories.