x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Horse racing: Universal soldiers on to victory

Redemption for Al Mansoori's charge at Newmarket after Royal Ascot disappointment in June.

Joe Fanning rides Universal to victory in the Princess Of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket.
Joe Fanning rides Universal to victory in the Princess Of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket.

Newmarket, England // UAE owners dominated the action on the opening day of three of the July Festival with Universal leading home Godolphin's Ahzeemah and Cavalryman in the Group 2 Princess Of Wales's Stakes yesterday.

Universal could not quite make an impact at Royal Ascot last month when only third in the Hardwicke Stakes but the four-year-old colt's sights were lowered slightly and he made no mistake in the Group 2 event over ten furlongs.

Owned by London-based UAE businessman Abdullah Al Mansoori, Universal led under Joe Fanning from as soon as the gates opened and he held off the persistent challenge of Ahzeemah by two and a half lengths.

All three horses ran with credit at the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse earlier this season. This was Universal's ninth run in 2013 for trainer Mark Johnston and, although the son of Dubawi is entered in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot at the end of the month the winner needs a break if he is going to contest the lucrative international targets in the autumn.

"I'd love to follow this horse around the world," said Bruce Raymond, Al Mansoori's racing manager.

"We will have to wait to see how he is. He has improved a lot throughout the season and this was probably the easiest win he has had and in the last two furlongs it was comfortable.

"He's entered in everything such as the American St Leger, the Japan Cup and the Melbourne Cup, but you can hardly run in that race as an afterthought."

The Group 2 July Stakes was won 12 months ago by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid's Alhebayeb and the blue and white silks of the Minister of Finance were carried to success once again by Anjaal in the six-furlong event.

A furlong out it looked for all the world that Mickael Barzalona had stolen the race aboard Godolphin's Figure Of Speech on the far side. Paul Hanagan crept into the race on the stands' side of the course and in three of the final four furlongs Anjaal clocked three sub 11-second furlongs to edge clear by a neck.

"He took a while to get going but once he got going I was always confident that I would win and he is something to look forward to," Hanagan said.

"He was more relaxed today and he will probably get further and has a great temperament. He really stuck his neck out and you couldn't ask for more."

It was a day to remember for the Al Maktoum family as after Maputo had won the 10-furlong handicap in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed, Hanagan was in the winners' enclosure once again when Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid's Qawaasem took the six-furlong maiden stakes for fillies.

Rizeena and Fire Blaze represent the ruling family of Dubai in today's Group 2 Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes for juvenile fillies over six furlongs.

Rizeena thrashed American speedball Sweet Emma Rose in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot last month and lines up as the overwhelming favourite.

Owned by Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, the mount of James Doyle takes her chance alongside Godolphin's Fire Blaze in the eight-runner field.

Clive Brittain danced in the Royal Ascot winners' enclosure after Rizeena's win, and the 78-year-old trainer was looking forward to a repeat performance.

"Her work has been good," he said. "James came in to ride her work at the beginning of the week and he was very happy with her. She certainly would be right up the best fillies I've had. I think she's special and I hope all goes well."