Dubai: Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby, who has so desperately wanted to claim one of the big prizes on Dubai World Cup night must have been absolutely gutted when Blue Point, the favourite to win the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (Group 1), was withdrawn at the start of the race.
However, heartache turned to joy for Appleby when James Doyle rode an absolute blinder aboard second-string Jungle Cat to outsprint a classy international field and claim victory at the death.
Jungle Cat, ridden by James Doyle and trained by Charlie Appleby, wins Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan. Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Fourth in the 1,200-metre turf contest in 2016 and 2017, Jungle Cat prevailed in a thrilling battle down the Meydan home straight to deny Peter Miller’s Stormy Liberal, the mount of richest earning American jockey Joel Rosario, by half-a-length.
Miller’s second runner, Conquest Tsunami, was one-and-a-half lengths back in third for Victor Espinoza, while Irish speedster, Washington DC took fourth.
Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, receives the winning owner’s trophy from Mirwais Azizi, Chairman of Azizi Group, after Jungle Cat clinched the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan. Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
“He is a real star this horse,” said winning jockey James Doyle. “Once he was out I had the sense he would deliver his best form. This has been a superb performance and we couldn’t have asked more from him. I just had this gut feeling that he would just go all the way. Honestly, I had a game plan and that’s exactly how the race went.”
Appleby, who was opening his Dubai World Cup meeting account, said: “This is the worldwide stage and the cue was to stay composed.
“What followed was by far his best performance and he truly and honestly deserved this result. I fancied him last year, but then the rain came.
Trainer Charlie Appleby receive his award from Mirwais Azizi. Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
“But now he has done well and I am very proud of him. I didn’t have any pressure but just simply glad that he could deliver on the big stage again. I think this is a great team effort.
“I think he is in the best form of his life. In the beginning the emotions were up and down. But at the halfway mark I saw he had a good rhythm and I could be at ease. I am absolutely thrilled for Godolphin and for the horse as well. He is definitely the best we’ve had in a long time in the pool.”
Commenting on his first win at the meeting, Appleby added: “For sure yeah, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t pressure it’s just lovely have one on the big night, nights all about international racing and worldwide racing, we’ve seen some great winners and I’m very proud happy to be part of it.”
Jockey James Doyle receive his award from Mirwais Azizi. Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
Stormy Liberal and Conquest Tsunami set strong fractions early in the race but Jungle Cat was always bowling along sweetly under a super-confident Doyle.
With 500m still to run Jungle Cat began to make smooth progress before Doyle asked him for his final effort inside the final furlong.
Appleby’s trainee, who seems to get better with age as most sprinters are known to do, absolutely flew home approaching the line to win in very impressive fashion in the end.
Jungle Cat is unbeaten in two starts this season at Meydan. He posted a narrow win ahead of South African-trained Janoobi in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort over 1,400m before stepping back in trip and absolutely dominating his rivals in the Listed Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint on Super Saturday.
Blue Point, a two-time Group 3 winner last season, was found to be bleeding from the nose at the starting gates and was taken out of the race.