The highlight of a treble for trainer Charlie Appleby, all sired by Dubawi, Poetic Charm was last seen finishing 11th as the 5-2 favorite in the Valley View (G3) at Keeneland. The homebred undermined herself that day by pulling fiercely, so the key to her success here was jockey James Doyle’s settling her early.
Poetic Charm was anchored near the rear, covered up on the rail, until the stretch. Doyle was sitting on the proverbial powder keg as he just needed room to ignite the spark. No sooner had Godolphin confrere Asoof taken command than the gap appeared. Poetic Charm exploded past Asoof, who was herself quickening.
Sprinting four lengths clear, Poetic Charm clocked the metric mile in 1:36.64, a tick faster (while carrying more weight) than Desert Fire in the nightcap. Trakus revealed that her penultimate 200-meter split was :10.94.
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who had won three straight runnings of the Cape Verdi and five of the last eight, had to settle for Asoof’s rounding out the all-blue exacta. Furia Cruzada rallied strongly to take third at a trip that’s short for her, signaling she’s rounding into form.
“We were a bit concerned about what we were going to do,” Appleby said on godolphin.com. “We were going to try and drop her in just behind the pace, but James (Doyle) was worried that if something came round the outside, it would light her up.
“He has given Poetic Charm a peach of a ride – he has buried her and got her switched off – and I was always confident turning in.
“She was always traveling supremely well and we know that she has a finishing kick, but she put the race to bed nicely.”
“I was a bit short of room for a moment,” Doyle recapped, “but once the gap opened, I knew I had the horse underneath me and she picked up in style. She has a lot of speed, this filly, and could win over seven (furlongs), but the extra furlong and nine furlongs in the Balanchine ([G2] on February 14) should not be a problem.”
Poetic Charm was scoring her first Group victory. Runner-up to Wind Chimes in last summer’s Prix de Lieurey (G3) at Deauville, she went on to capture the Prix de la Cochere at ParisLongchamp before taking a step backward at Keeneland.
Appleby noted that Poetic Charm has progressed entering this four-year-old campaign.
“Mentally, she has done well out in Dubai. Kirsty Milczarek rides her out at home and has done a great job.
“Poetic Charm is just training a lot better this winter compared to last year – she is a stronger individual and more mature.”
That fits the general pattern for progeny of Dubawi. Hence Poetic Charm wasn’t as forward as her famous half-brother by Galileo, Teofilo, the unbeaten European champion two-year-old colt of 2006. Their dam, the Irish stakes-winning Danehill mare Speirbhean, also produced Group 3 winner Bean Feasa (a full sister to Poetic Charm).
Appleby and Doyle earlier visited the winner’s circle with Ispolini. The Dubawi gelding was making his second start of the Carnival, after a second to Bin Battuta on opening night, and prospered on the step up to about 1 3/4 miles.
Once more Doyle had to cajole a keen traveler into relaxing early. Ispolini looked like a coiled spring much of the way yet extended on cue to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths. Hard-trying Suspicious Mind, Danish-bred but Swedish-based, finished a clear second. Bin Suroor’s Red Galileo, winner of this handicap during the 2017 Carnival, was a one-paced third as the 132-pound highweight.
Ispolini, carrying five fewer at 127 pounds, has run himself into the February 28 Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3).
“Ispolini takes a bit of a grip,” Doyle said. “He took a bit of settling and I was a tad further back than I wanted to be just to make sure I got cover to help him relax. He still pulled, but he is learning and is relatively lightly-raced. I was quite relieved when we got into the straight and I could let go of him. He was very professional in the finish.”
A 1.2 million-guineas yearling at Tattersalls October, Ispolini is out of Grade 2 winner Giants Play, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and Group 1-winning co-highweight Playful Act. Sold for a record $10.5 million as a broodmare at Keeneland November in 2007, Playful Act is a three-quarter sister to Nathaniel (sire of Enable) and Great Heavens.
Ispolini was on the classic trail last spring, just missing in the Sandown Classic Trial (G3) but only fourth in the Chester Vase (G3) and Prix du Lys (G3). He was sidelined for the rest of the season, gelded in the fall, and now on the upswing.
Appleby’s third winner, First Nation, is a more exposed type, but took the about 1 1/4-mile turf handicap in good fashion. Also ridden by a Doyle – in this case Brett – the five-year-old Dubawi gelding rolled past front-running stablemate Nordic Lights by 4 1/2 lengths.
The Ken McPeek-trained Harlan Strong stalked early and tired late to wind up sixth. Appleby’s better fancied Celestial Spheres, the mount of James Doyle, never factored as the last of 10.
“I think First Nation is still a handicap horse,” Appleby said, “but he is a nice horse, who is fun to have around, and hopefully we can find a bit more improvement when we step back up in trip again.”
Given his pedigree as a half-brother to Godolphin’s 2009 St Leger (G1) winner Mastery, the homebred may be capable of better over further. First Nation is also a half-brother to Italian champion Kirklees, all produced by the prolific Moyesii. The Diesis mare is continuing her influence into the second generation, as the granddam of Mukhadram and Italo-German highweight Magic Artist.
Bin Suroor answered the Appleby salvo by dominating the nightcap. Lightly raced Desert Fire got up by a neck over stablemate Race Day, with the unlucky Bedouin’s Story rounding out the bin Suroor trifecta.
Under Chris Hayes, Desert Fire took 1:36.84 to negotiate the metric mile, just off Poetic Charm’s time of 1:36.64 in the Cape Verdi. He was toting less weight, 119 pounds compared to Poetic Charm’s 126.
Bedouin’s Story, who flubbed the break, gained steam down the stretch. Unfortunately, when trying to spear between Desert Fire and Race Day, the seam closed, and he had to snatch up. Bedouin’s Story salvaged third from Appleby’s Key Victory, who fared best of the 132-pound co-highweights in fourth.
Desert Fire, a four-year-old son of Cape Cross and Chilean Horse of the Year Crystal House, was the least experienced in the field. He’d won two of his three previous starts, a Hamilton maiden by six lengths and a Leicester novice by 12, both going longer. The class hike and cutback here made him work, but he’s obviously got potential.
“He showed his class over this trip tonight,” bin Suroor said. “The jockey kept him nice and handy, which helped him, and he finished the race well.
“He is a horse we have always liked and we think a lot of him for the future.
“Desert Fire and Race Day always work nicely in the mornings, just like Bedouin’s Story who was unlucky tonight. I think a mile and a quarter will be better for Bedouin’s Story.”
The two dirt handicaps on the program may have a bearing on World Cup night events.
Ex-Godolphin runner Capezzano put himself into the Godolphin Mile (G2) frame by overcoming a wide trip in a course-and-distance handicap. Trainer Sandeep Jadhav decided to add a hood after Capezzano’s long-way last in the December 20 Dubai Creek Mile, and the Bernardini gelding responded to the equipment change.
Stalking a three-way pace battle while parked well outside, Capezzano had work to do as early leader Galvanize opened up into the stretch. But he stayed on relentlessly down the lane to overhaul Galvanize, who then lost second to late-running Thegreatcollection, a fellow Doug Watson trainee.
Capezzano drove 2 1/4 lengths clear, with Royston Ffrench aboard, in a final time of 1:38.06. According to Trakus, he covered 12 meters (about 39 feet) more than Thegreatcollection and 15 (about 49 feet) more than Galvanize.
Secret Ambition, spotting Capezzano 10 pounds as the 132-pound highweight, missed the start and churned his way into fourth.
“We put a hood on him tonight because he is a very nervous type,” Ffrench said. “That has definitely helped after he disappointed us a bit on his only previous outing this season.
“For me, personally, it is great to have another Carnival winner, because as everyone knows I had a very bad injury last year and was out of the saddle for a long time. These are the moments that make it worthwhile.”
Capezzano showed early promise for Appleby. Third to Thunder Snow and Bee Jersey in the 2017 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3), he filled the same spot behind Cosmo Charlie in the Al Bastakiya. He lost his way thereafter, changed to Sultan Ali’s silks, and switched yards last Carnival. The Kentucky-bred, out of an Unbridled’s Song half-sister to Speightstown and Irap, appears to be finding himself again.
Kentucky-bred Honorable Treasure, McPeek’s first runner of the Carnival, delivered a fine runner-up performance in the opener. He could not catch Sweden’s Group 3 hero I Kirk, who sped to the early lead and drew off, but Honorable Treasure closed stoutly in the about six-furlong dash. Covering almost 33 feet more than the winner, according to Trakus, Honorable Treasure reduced the margin to 3 1/4 lengths.
I Kirk deserves credit for firing off the six-month layoff, and for making light of his 132-pound impost. Trained by Susanne Berneklint and ridden by Carlos Lopez, he clocked 1:12.96 to extend his winning streak to four.
“That was just brilliant and he did that very nicely indeed,” Lopez said. “It is a massive result for Swedish racing, as he was also foaled in Sweden and he is an exciting horse going forward through the Carnival.”
By Eishin Dunkirk (a son of Mr. Prospector and Forest Flower), I Kirk was produced by the Johannesburg mare I Could. I Kirk reeled off a hat trick at Jagersro last season, with notable bookends in the Lanwades Stud Sprint and Zawawi Cup (G3) in his latest July 15. Now he’s emerged as a candidate for the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1).