Red Desire captures third leg of Al Maktoum Challenge; gains World Cup option
Red Desire wins the Al Maktoum Challenge RIII (G2)
(c) Andrew Watkins / Dubai Racing Club
Japan's Red Desire turned in a surprise, come-from-behind win Thursday, March 4, at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai as she topped the 14-strong field in the final strides of Round Three of the Al Maktoum Challenge, the main trial for the Dubai World Cup. It was a decisive win in a classy field that included Cavalryman, Vodka and Lizard's Desire.
French rider Olivier Peslier gave the Mikio Matsunaga-trained 4-year-old filly a picture-perfect ride from start to finish, allowing Red Desire to relax one off the rear after a smooth break. Because of the outside No .13 draw, Peslier said, "I knew it would be hard to get a good position but knew she would relax in the back," a strategy that worked like a charm.
It was a gutsy finish nonetheless, with Red Desire seemingly almost out of the running as the horses turned for home in the G2 event. Vodka, under Christophe Lemaire, had maintained a neat fifth position for most of the race, in easy striking distance of front-running Gloria De Campeao, winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge first round. At the turn for home, Red Desire remained one off the back, but floated up easily on the outside to catch and pass the 6-year-old Gloria De Campeao and win by 1/4 length. Gloria De Campeao, ridden by Tiago Pereira, was followed by 3/4 length by Mr Brock, with Kevin Shea up, in third place.
Red Desire clocked 2 minutes 2.62 seconds over the 2,000 meters on the synthetic all-weather Tapeta track.
Matsunaga, a former Japan Racing Association jockey turned trainer now based at the Western Japan training center of Ritto, admitted his surprise and expressed his respect for his filly. "My gosh, I hadn't thought she would win. The pace was slow, but she didn't let it shake her and handled it very well."
(c) Neville Hopwood / Dubai Racing Club
"We knew she had ability but didn't expect too much at this stage," Matsunaga continued. "We'll have to think about what to do next. It's a great day and a great honor."
With the win, Matsunaga now has the option of taking Red Desire to either the 12-furlong Sheema Classic as planned or world's richest race, the $10-million Dubai World Cup (G1), also to be run at the new Meydan course. His decision has not been officially announced, but indications are he will stick to his original plans and run Red Desire in the G1 Sheema Classic over turf.
Olivier Peslier, who has ridden extensively in Japan, was quoted as saying he felt the filly could take on either race successfully. "Stamina was never an issue as she stays further than this," Peslier said of Thursday's race, the same distance as the World Cup. "She worked well the other day when I rode her and picked up very nicely. Hopefully, it is the World Cup next," Peslier said.
Vodka, the Japanese horse actually considered far more likely to win the Third Round, placed eighth. Her trainer, the 45-year-old Katsuhiko Sumii, accepted his mare's loss with characteristic coolness. "It was her first race back after a spell and the pace was slow. She wasn't really able to get into her rhythm. I don't believe there was any problem with her condition. And in that sense, the outcome couldn't really be helped." Vodka is set to run next in the March 27 Dubai World Cup.
The Manhattan Cafe-sired Red Desire out of the Caerleon mare Great Sunrise, was bred by Shadai Farm on the north Japan island of Hokkaido. She is owned by Tokyo Horse Racing and is now 4 for 8, including her Dubai win.
Following second-place finishes in the first two legs of Japan's 3-year-old classics for fillies, the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) and Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), Red Desire won the top-level Shuka Sho all-filly classic, also over 2,000 meters, at Kyoto Racecourse on Oct. 18. In last year's Japan Cup Nov. 29 at Tokyo, Red Desire finished third in a top-three sweep of the race by Japan horses behind winner Vodka and runnerup Oken Bruce Lee.
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