DUBAI // Another year appears to have taken nothing away from last season's UAE 1,000 Guineas winner, Mahbooba, who powered to commanding victory in the Al Rashidiya Trial on the opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival.
The filly has returned to the UAE after a winning run in the United Kingdom and finishing sixth in Canada's EP Taylor Stakes. But her globetrotting has not affected her and the Mike de Kock-trained galloper looks to be a real danger in the Group 2 Al Rashidiya next month.
Ridden by Christophe Soumillon, Mahbooba effortlessly put four-and-a-quarter lengths between her and Godolphin's runner up, Lajooj, to claim the night's US$125,000 (Dh459,000) feature.
Her owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa, who enjoys a hugely successful racing partnership with de Kock, said he was looking forward to seeing her in action in the future.
"It is very good to get a win early on," said Sheikh Mohammed. "She did that very well and we are very pleased with her, as to her next race, I will leave it to the trainer."
De Kock may have taken the big one, but Godolphin won almost everything else.
Godolphin's Saeed bin Suroor claimed the opening two races when Sarrsar under Mickael Barzalona and Honour System for Frankie Dettori brought home the goods. Bin Suroor said he was happy to claim the opening Carnival race of 2012.
"It's always good to get off the mark early on and so this was a great start," he said. "The horses have won well and seem to be in good form, so we look forward to the rest of the season."
City Style, a horse trained by Godolphin's second handler, Mahmood Al Zarooni, but owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, claimed the fifth race, a 1,600m handicap and Zarooni followed up with a third Godolphin victory in the final race for Time Prisoner under Dettori.
Dettori, back in the saddle after time off between the European and UAE seasons, was pleased but slightly breathless after showing the initiative in the slowly-run second race, a 12,200m Tapeta handicap.
"I'm pretty unfit but that will come back soon," he said. "It's a great way to start the season with two wins."
Dettori, who was also second in the opening race, had taken control after no jockey was willing to take on the running. Steering Honour System to the front, the jockey commanded the field, getting first run at the finish and displaying the sharp racing brain that has won him many plaudits.
"It was a bit of a gamble to be honest," he said. "But it paid off."
Al Zarooni said there was more to come from Godolphin.
"It's great that the horses are in good form and winning early," he said.
"We are taking the opportunity to give them a run in the handicaps and we will focus on the big races later."
In a momentary deviation from the usual script, British trainer, David Nicholls, saddled his first Carnival winner in 10 years of trying when new acquisition, Addictive Dream, claimed a half-length victory in the 1,000m turf sprint.
"I have been coming here since it was the old Nad Al Sheba," said Nicholls.
"If you persevere long enough you succeed in the end."
Nicholls, a successful trainer of sprinters in the UK, also claimed a second with accomplished runner, Regal Parade in the 1,400m turf handicap.
"We have come out here with decent horses in the past and then upgraded them as the standard has improved but until tonight it just hasn't happened for us.
"It's great that the [Addictive Dream's] owners invested in a talented horse to bring to Dubai and it's a brilliant way to start the season.
"As everybody can see, it's not easy winning even a handicap at the Carnival - you do need a special horse that can travel here and get the job done."
Nicholls said he thought the distance might be a little bit sharp for his charge.
"I was worried it might be a little short for him, but I was hopeful," he said.
"We have been coming here a long time and it's great to finally get a result, we have a decent string here this year so we'll see how the rest of the season goes."