x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Blue Bunting adds 1000 Guineas to Al Zarooni's growing profile

Mahmood al Zarooni's burgeoning reputation takes another huge leap forward as the Emirati trainer wins his first British Classic when Blue Bunting scored a surprise victory in the 1000 Guineas.

Frankie Dettori celebrates as Blue Bunting passes the winning post to win the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket yesterday.
Frankie Dettori celebrates as Blue Bunting passes the winning post to win the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket yesterday.

NEWMARKET, ENGLAND // Mahmood al Zarooni's burgeoning reputation took another huge leap forward yesterday as the Emirati trainer won his first British Classic when Blue Bunting scored a surprise victory in the 1000 Guineas.

Al Zarooni was only conferred trainer status last year when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, gave him a licence just days before the 34-year-old saddled Calming Influence to victory in the Godolphin Mile.

Blue Bunting, ridden by Frankie Dettori, collared Together and Maqaasid, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, in the final 25 yards of the mile-long (1,600m) contest.

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""He's not bad is he?", Sheikh Mohammed said of al Zarooni. "He is what we hoped. He's a local trainer for us and he's very good with the horses who he treats individually.

"I am very happy with the win. It was a pleasant surprise."

Al Zarooni has started the British season in some style having sent out Ocean War to win a Derby trial at Newmarket on Saturday.

On the back of his success with Buzzword in the German Derby last season and with Khawlah in the UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse on Dubai World Cup night in March, he is accumulating Classics at a rate of knots.

"I'm very happy to win my first Classic in England," al Zarooni said.

"It has a great taste to it. There is nothing like winning a Classic in England.

"All the best trainers and the best horses are here and it is a pleasure to be here.

"Winning on Dubai World Cup night has a different taste. I am always happy to win there because I am a local trainer and it is in my country, but this is something else."

On a gusty day on the Rowley Mile, Dettori buried his mount at the back of the field to shelter her from the wind.

He slowly graduated towards the stand-side rail and, once attached to it, he gave Blue Bunting a few quick taps with his whip and started to push for home.

Unlike Frankel, who won the 2000 Guineas the day before, Blue Bunting is not a fluid mover and Dettori looked as if he was in the heat of the battle from then on as he set about reeling in the duelling pair of Together and Maqaasid in the final 100 yards. Maqaasid gave way first but Together, who put in a career-best performance according to Aidan O'Brien, her trainer, was only worn down in the shadow of the winning post.

Dettori performed his customary flying dismount and, after embracing Sheikh Mohammed and his wife Princess Haya, he learnt that his beloved Arsenal had scored against Manchester United at Emirates Stadium.

"That felt great," Dettori said of his success. "The first three horses that I followed started racing before me so I had fresh legs at the end.

"As I came into the final two furlongs I thought I would make the first three.

"Then I saw they were on their hands and knees and I thought I'd get them.

"It was like having a penalty kick five minutes into extra time. The first thing that someone said to me when I pulled up was that Arsenal had scored during the race, so it was a double win for me."

Thoughts turn straight to Epsom on the first Friday in June where Blue Bunting now heads for the Oaks trying to emulate Kazzia, who won both races for Godolphin in 2002, although the Dubai-based organisation also have Khawlah heading to the race.

"We always thought she was a filly that needed a mile and a half and that she wanted soft ground," al Zarooni said. "She has shown us today that everything we thought about her was wrong.

"We were surprised by what she has done here and before the race would have settled for fourth of fifth. She goes for the Oaks now and will stay the trip."

sports@thenational.ae