December 3, 2023

Danyah gets up in $139.40 Al Quoz Sprint shocker

Danyah (center) collars The Astrologist (left) and Al Suhail in the Al Quoz Sprint (Photo by Dubai Racing Club)

Shadwell’s homebred Danyah was overlooked at 68-1 in Saturday’s $1.5 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1), a reflection of the competition, his recent flop, and the cutback in trip that smacked of a Dubai World Cup night stab. But the Carnival veteran proved to be a $139.40 surprise package, staying on in the final yards to collar Australian shipper The Astrologist and Godolphin’s well-fancied Al Suhail.

Even Danyah’s connections were realistic about the chances of a six-year-old who hadn’t raced at about six furlongs since his juvenile days, back in England in 2019.

“He had been running over seven furlongs and a mile,” trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri said, “and we had an invite for the Godolphin Mile (G2), but we thought we would try him over six in the Al Quoz. We felt he had enough speed to run well and maybe finish in the placings but to win is a very nice surprise. Great credit to Shadwell for how they planned it and it is a special day for us all.”

“I’d be lying if I said we were confident beforehand,” jockey Dane O’Neill said. “We thought possibly prize money, and that would be great as he has a good cruising speed. It was worth a chance but the low draw in gate 5 was a concern. It was funny they stayed away from the stands’ side and I got a great draft into the race behind the second horse, and he finished very strongly like a horse that gets further.”

Danyah had useful form at about seven furlongs on turf, most notably a second to Highfield Princess in the 2021 Buckingham Palace, a handicap at Royal Ascot. Off for more than 14 months and resurfacing with Mheiri during the current UAE season, the Invincible Spirit gelding alternated strong efforts with disappointments. He was second to Prince Eiji in the Dubai Creek Mile on dirt and captured the listed Business Bay Challenge S. back at seven on turf. But in those same conditions in the Ras al Khor on Super Saturday, Danyah was a no-show eighth behind Al Suhail.

As the Al Quoz unfolded, Al Suhail looked likelier to confirm that form. Miqyaas went forward, but plowed more of a middle path rather than congregating toward the stands’ side as turf sprinters have been doing all Carnival. Hong Kong’s Sight Success, the joint 5-2 favorite with Al Suhail, steered to the outside to chase. The Astrologist attended on the inside flank, while Danyah was camped in his wake.

The dash was wide open as contenders fanned out, including last year’s runner-up Happy Romance on the far wing. The Astrologist took over from the tiring Miqyaas. Danyah was also striding into contention, near Al Suhail, who was cruising into the mix and soon asserted.

But Al Suhail couldn’t clinch the deal. The Astrologist came back to regain the advantage, and Danyah found one final surge to head him in 1:08.61. Al Suhail went from presumptive winner to third in a blanket finish. Sight Success churned on in fourth, edging fellow Hong Konger Duke Wai.

Happy Romance faded late to sixth. Three-year-old Al Dasim, long prominent in the market before going off at 7-2, couldn’t make his presence felt in seventh. Next came San Donato, Ladies Church, Thunder of Niagara, Flaming Rib, Raaed, Pogo, American shipper Cazadero, and the tailed-off Miqyaas. Logo Hunter was scratched.

Danyah’s new career high improved his scorecard to 17-6-3-3. His only previous Group attempt on turf was a trailing sixth in the 2021 Park (G2) at Doncaster. While that was clearly not a true bill, it took a bit of creativity to see him toppling an international sprint cast.

The Astrologist will now head for England, where he will join trainer Marco Botti to prepare for Royal Ascot.

“We’re super proud of the horse,” assistant trainer Dom Sutton said. “He’s such a tough and honest horse and we always knew, if we got him here in as good an order as we could, he was going to be right in the finish. He gave his all; obviously it’s a little bit gut-wrenching to go down by such a small margin but overall, we couldn’t be more proud of him.

“He’s such a marvel, running two weeks ago in the Newmarket H. (G1) (finishing a close sixth at Flemington), coming through a 14-hour flight and performing like that. We are looking forward to getting that Group 1 with him in the near future.”

Al Suhail’s trainer, Charlie Appleby, is also hatching a Royal Ascot plot.

“We are delighted; obviously we know that it was just his second start back in sprinting,” said Appleby, who had been planning to stick to seven furlongs before dropping him down in trip here.

“I think a race like the Platinum Jubilee (G1) at Ascot will suit him, the stiff six there. He travels extremely well. I thought for a moment the way he traveled we might just have a chance at pinching it, but full credit to Sheikha Hissa and the Shadwell team.” 

Ryan Moore, who rode Sight Success, observed that the race didn’t shape up helpfully for him.

“He’s a very brave horse; he gave his best,” Moore said. “I felt the horse that led did not bring me far enough into the race ,and we were kind of left falling aboard and exposed a long way back. He was tough at the finish. He’s a tough horse.”