NEWMARKET. ENGLAND // Soft Falling Rain was so impressive in the Nayef Joel Stakes here on Friday that his return to the UAE for the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival is now in jeopardy.
The former South African champion blitzed a decent field off a furious pace to set up a crack at the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes next month.
Should he win at the highest level in Europe, race fans who delighted in his UAE 2,000 Guineas and Godolphin Mile victories at Meydan Racecourse are unlikely to see him again.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the horse’s owner, sponsored the eight-race card through his Shadwell breeding operation, where Soft Falling Rain is likely to retire to should he succeed at Ascot.
“If he becomes a Group 1 horse, he should stay in Newmarket,” the UAE’s Minister of Finance said.
“I think he is capable if he gets his ground. He is a good horse.”
Penitent, who was eighth behind Soft Falling Rain on World Cup night, set a furious pace before giving way to Glory Awaits, who was good enough to finish second in the English 2,000 Guineas in May.
The brutal pace continued but Paul Hanagan edged Soft Falling Rain into the lead with a quarter of a mile to go.
As Soft Falling Rain strode clear, he broke the will of his six rivals.
Montiridge, who looks a prime candidate to come to Dubai for the Carnival, was almost four lengths back in second, while Premio Loco, who was fourth in the 2011 Godolphin Mile, was five lengths farther behind.
Soft Falling Rain was all guts when winning at Meydan Racecourse in March but looked lifeless when losing his unbeaten sequence last month at Newbury.
Beaming in the winners’ enclosure, Mike de Kock was looking forward to Ascot on October 19.
“I was worried about him being too keen,” he said. “There is more to come from this horse. The thing in his favour is he is coming with fresh legs whereas a lot of them have had a hard season.”
De Kock had been equally proud of Igugu’s run in the Listed Rosemary Stakes half an hour earlier, but, as has often been the case in Europe this season, De Kock had to settle for second place.
Igugu had not run for 152 days but appeared unconcerned at her time away as she strode clear of her 10 rivals two furlongs from home.
Pat Cosgrave kept on at the five-year-old mare but approaching the winning post she was edged out by Zurigha, ridden by Ryan Moore and owned by Saeed Al Tayer, the chairman of the Dubai Racing Club. Igugu is already slated to return to Dubai for the Carnival, but could have the opportunity to try to gain revenge on her conqueror, who looks set for a UAE campaign, possibly starting in the Cape Verdi in January.
“There are few nice races for her in Dubai at the Carnival,” said Richard Hannon, the assistant trainer.
“Ryan seemed to think that she would like it there and Mr Al Tayer is from Dubai, so it makes sense.”