May 20, 2022

Ispolini dominates Nad al Sheba Trophy after tragic loss of Brundtland

Ispolini and jockey Mickael Barzalona win the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) at Meydan on February 28, 2019 (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

The last Thursday card of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival witnessed three more winners for Godolphin, but the tragic loss of the team’s promising young stayer, Brundtland.

The odds-on favorite in the Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3), Brundtland was poised to challenge front-running Red Galileo, only to break down entering the far turn. His injury looked serious as he pulled up on the live video, and sadly the worst fears were confirmed.

“Unfortunately, Brundtland broke down after sustaining a leg injury and had to be put down by the vets,” trainer Charlie Appleby said on godolphin.com.

“It is a big loss for the whole team, as we felt that he was an exciting horse for the future.”

Brundtland won his first four starts, including game scores in the Prix Niel (G2) and Prix Chaudenay (G2), before an unlucky fourth in the Prix Royal-Oak (G1). As a son of Dubawi, the four-year-old promised so much more with maturity.

So it was somehow fitting that the other four-year-old by Dubawi, Ispolini, stepped into the void by posting a new career high. Also trained by Appleby, the gelding was reserved near the back of the compact field as Red Galileo showed the way. Ispolini appeared to be breezing turning for home, still in hand for jockey Mickael Barzalona in upper stretch, when he blew past Red Galileo. Opening up by a stakes-record 10 1/2 lengths, he finished about 1 3/4 miles on the good turf in 2:55.96.

Red Galileo was in turn 11 1/2 lengths clear of fellow Saeed bin Suroor pupil Bin Battuta, who barely salvaged the Godolphin trifecta from the rallying Suspicious Mind. Next came Zamam and the distanced Pinzolo. According to the Racing TV blog on dubairacingclub.com, Pinzolo was also euthanized in an injury-marred renewal.

Ispolini was coming off a course-and-distance handicap score. Now two-for-two at the trip, he’s run himself into the March 30 Dubai Gold Cup (G2) on World Cup night, a change from his original plan of heading to Sydney.

“He ran well last time and he showed a good turn of foot,” Barzalona said. “Today I had instructions to make him settle well in the first part of the race and then to see how it goes. He did it very well and he has been very impressive today. I could wait for ages, but he was going so much better than the others. I had to take him out and let him just relax and he enjoyed it. Last time he showed he could travel strongly and today the plan was just to make him relax, but he has got some speed as well. I think (the two metric miles of the Dubai Gold Cup) is possible.”

“I always knew that stepping up in trip was going to open new doors for him,” Appleby said, “and he showed that in his last start, his first one over this trip. We thought he was going the right way going into this evening. He was a horse we felt was going to be very competitive.”

Bred by Newsells Park Stud in Great Britain, Ispolini was a 1.2 million guineas ($1,606,878) Tattersalls October yearling. The bay is out of Grade 2 winner Giants Play, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and co-highweight Playful Act, from the family of Nathaniel.

On the Warpath gave Appleby a double in an ensuing turf handicap. Appreciating the cutback to about seven furlongs, the son of Declaration of War spurted late to overtake stablemate Mubtasim by a length. On the Warpath, who was getting six pounds from last-out winner Mubtasim, clocked 1:23.52.

“The drop in trip has really suited him because he has just been struggling to stay over 1600 meters in these competitive Carnival races,” winning rider William Buick said.

On the Warpath was second to Baroot on January 10 and third to Escalator January 31. Both of his prior wins, for original trainer Sir Mark Prescott, had come over seven furlongs at Southwell in late 2017.

Godolphin racked up a triple on the night thanks to the bin Suroor-trained Mountain Hunter in the nightcap. Following up on a handicap victory going farther February 14, the Lonhro homebred successfully reverted to about 1 1/4 miles to earn himself a class hike.

Mountain Hunter broke from post 13, but jockey Christophe Soumillon got him into a good stalking spot right behind the speed. That placement was key since early leader Zorion was in leisurely mood, and had plenty left down the lane. Despite being stuck on his left lead, Mountain Hunter quickened well in the final strides to outkick Appleby’s Zorion and stablemate Desert Fire in the Godolphin trifecta. He was also spotting them weight as he ripped a final 100 meters in :6.11, according to Trakus, to complete the course in 2:03.75.

Trainer Simon Crisford, who had yet to saddle a Carnival winner, notched a double beginning with Sporting Chance in the Meydan Classic for three-year-olds. Third to Golden Jaguar in the January 31 Trial, the Kodiac colt turned the tables with a smoother passage.

Golden Jaguar, on the other hand, paid the price not only for steering wide but for failing to settle early. The hitherto unbeaten son of Animal Kingdom got away with a slow start and wide turn in the about seven-furlong Trial, and almost did so here over the extra panel. Golden Jaguar made a similar bold move into the stretch, and collared Sporting Chance. But whether through tiring or idling, he let Sporting Chance fight back to beat him by a neck in 1:38.31.

Patrick Cosgrave urges Sporting Chance to victory in the Meydan Classic on February 28, 2019, at Meydan (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

“When he was beaten by Golden Jaguar I was stuck on the inside at a crucial time and the first pair were able to get first run on me, so I was pretty hopeful of finishing closer to him today,” winning rider Pat Cosgrave said.

“He then ran pretty well on the dirt in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) (fourth to Estihdaaf wheeling back February 7) and the trainer was confident the 1600 meters was ideal for him and credit to the horse, because we were headed, but he fought back very bravely to get his head back in front.”

“I am really delighted for the horse and I think he put up a great performance,” Crisford said. “He battled strongly and is such an honest horse who had a good two-year-old campaign and proved that class again today.

“At this stage, there are no plans for the horse. It was all about today and he delivered. We will get him back to England and decide on the summer. It feels fantastic (to win a first Dubai World Cup Carnival race). We love the Carnival. It’s hard to win a race anywhere, but especially difficult at the Carnival. Dubai is my second home, so this is a great feeling to have.”

African Ride gave Crisford the same feeling the very next race, a dirt handicap over the same trip as the Godolphin Mile (G2) on World Cup night. Pouncing from just off the pace for Soumillon, the son of Candy Ride rolled by 3 1/2 lengths from Bochart in 1:39.44.

The Wertheimer et Frere-bred, acquired for €460,000 ($543,536) at the 2017 Arqana Arc Sale after Group 3 placings to Al Wukair and Inns of Court, was improving from his first two Carnival starts. The five-year-old was a non-threatening fifth behind North America in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2), and a remote third to Capezzano in a January 31 handicap.

“He has not been the easiest to train, but Simon and his team have been very patient with him,” Soumillon said. “The aim was some big races at Meydan and he ran in Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1. We hope we can get into the Godolphin Mile after this victory.”

South Korea’s Dolkong likewise hit new heights in his third start at Meydan, sweeping from off the pace for a resounding victory in the Curlin H. at the World Cup distance. Trained by Simon Foster and ridden by Olivier Doleuze, the Kentucky-bred son of Afleet Alex saved ground much of the way, peeled out for the stretch drive, and stretched 9 1/2 lengths clear.

Etijaah, the 2017 Curlin winner, was best of the rest by four lengths. Pace-chasing Galvanize, who picked up the baton from the tiring Earnshaw, settled for third. Earnshaw faded to fifth in a rare dirt foray, and defending champion Saltarin Dubai was sixth.

Dolkong, who covered about 1 1/4 miles in 2:05.37, is expected to come right back for the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on Super Saturday March 9.

“We thought they would go quick, but perhaps not as fast as they did,” Foster said. “Olivier is a class jockey and has given him a great ride. The horse is starting to mature and improving with age because he has not had that many races. We will have to look at Round 3 on Super Saturday for him, now.”

“I am very happy for the connections,” Doleuze said. “I am lucky to ride this horse. Since his last run, I have been working on him and he looked like he really improved. Today he showed what I was expecting him to show.

“It is difficult to judge (during training) because the track is very deep in the morning, so sometimes you feel the horse looks good, but then they have to do (perform) in the race. I was very pleased with his last work and I would have been very disappointed if he didn’t run a good race tonight. He is a bit cold (out of the gates), but I was in a good position.

“I had (favorite Saltarin Dubai) outside me and when I arrived at the last part of the turn, I was able to pull him out. He needs a bit of space, this horse. When I was able to show him the light he really ran out of there He has already had a fantastic Carnival. He won a very good race today and everyone is happy. Everything from here is a bonus.”

Dolkong had won five straight at Seoul, but was no match for Japan’s London Town when second in last September’s Korea Cup. He was fourth to Triple Nine on December 9 before embarking for Dubai, where he was sixth to North America in Round 1 and a closing third to Saltarin Dubai in a January 24 handicap.