Thursday’s Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 was billed as a brilliant renewal–topping a seven-race card with three G2s, one G3 and two Listed affairs–and the headliner did not disappoint. Won in inspired fashion by Nasir Askar’s Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained Military Law in a perfectly executed stalk-and-pounce trip, the 1600m test set the stage for what could be an exciting season for middle-distance dirt racing in the region.
Piloted by Antonio Fresu, the son of Dubawi broke alertly and settled well on the rail behind favourite Capezzano, who set strong fractions under Mickael Barzalona. Waiting patiently for that rival to show any signs of resignation, the bay 6-year-old pounced on the opportunity when it presented itself at the top of the lane, asserted and then held off late-closing Dubai Creek Mile (Listed) winner Thegreatcollection, as well as Burj Nahaar (G3) winner Salute the Soldier to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:36.42. The same margin separated second and third, with Capezzano capsizing into seventh of 11 starters.
An invitee to the subsequently cancelled 2020 Dubai World Cup (G1), Military Law won for the fifth time in 11 starts and landed his second stakes after The Entisar (Listed) 13 months ago. Bred in England, he is a half-brother to the dam of G1 winner French King and was in the care of John Gosden until mid-2019, winning half his first six starts for breeder Qatar Racing. He was sold to Askar at Tattersalls July 2019 for $144,641.
“He has been training really well in the morning and I got a very good feeling in the last couple of gallops,” Fresu said. “Today he travelled really well, probably because he is fresh, so he travelled very well into the race and when I asked him to go, he really picked up well. Now we need to see after this. He has an entry into Saudi and otherwise the option is going to be (the Al) Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and (Round) 3 and then Dubai World Cup.”
Al Mheiri added: “Everyone was worried about this distance because he likes to come from behind, but I told (Antonio) that if he jumps good and he stays behind the leader, no need to worry, because he will finish good and he will not give other horses a chance to go ahead because he has a good turn of foot. This year he is a better horse. I have worked him every week and I have seen how he has improved. I asked the jockey ‘how do you feel,’ and the jockey said he is better than last year. I think he is a World Cup horse.”
Press Release: Tamarkuz Media