Golden Goal dug deep through the stretch Jan. 14 at Meydan Racecourse to win the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 Presented by Nakheel (G2) over Secret Ambition in a rematch of the 2021 Godolphin Mile (G2) as the Dubai World Cup Carnival opened its eight-week run.
The race was the first in a series of three leading to the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1). The Challenge was conceived as a local progression throughout the World Cup Carnival but during the past two years it also has become a pipeline to the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) in February as well as the Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G2) on World Cup night.
Golden Goal, an 8-year-old gelding by Dark Angel, got the rail early in Round 1 and held the advantage, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. In last year's Godolphin Mile, it was Secret Ambition on the lead and winning by six lengths over Golden Goal.
Trained by Doug Watson for owner Dale Brennan, Golden Goal did not race after the Godolphin Mile until he returned with a fourth-place showing in the Dubai Creek Mile Presented by the Longines Master Collection on the Meydan track Dec. 16.
"The Creek Mile was a good start," said winning rider Sam Hitchcott. "He just got a little tired at the end. He's progressing."
The key to the victory, he said, was "a lovely position on the rail. I just managed to hold my position."
Watson, perennial leading trainer in the UAE, has gone through—for him—a slow period early this season. Hitchcott said the win was important for that reason and heading into the bigger events to come.
"It's very hard to bring the same stock every year and compete at the highest level," he said.
In a race filled with accomplished older horses, it would be Kafoo, a 4-year-old Curlin colt out of champion mare Blind Luck, delivering an effort suggesting bigger things on the horizon. Making just his third career start, Kafoo put in a bold late run to finish third, albeit 3 1/4 lengths farther back but obviously looking for more distance.
The evening's second group 2 event, the Cape Verdi Presented by Club Vista Mare (G2) for fillies and mares on the turf, produced a mild upset as Pevensey Bay rallied from the back of the 10-horse field to run by the leaders in the final 100 meters, winning by three-quarters of a length over Ascot Brass. Wedding Dance was third—the 2022 race's best showing for Godolphin, which has dominated the race for more than a decade.
Pevensey Bay, trained by Hiroo Shimizu, was making her UAE debut off a second-place finish in a listed race at Deauville Dec. 20.
"She started a little slow," said winning rider Olivier Peslier. "But in France, we don't start quick. So I didn't panic ... Very good acceleration."
Peslier hopes to return to Dubai to ride Pevensey Bay in the Balanchine Stakes (G2) Feb. 4.
Godolphin struck in the first turf race of the Carnival as Dubai Future, under Patrick Cosgrove, split rivals at the top of the stretch and quickly drew off to a commanding victory in the Dubai Racing Club Classic Presented by the View at the Palm. Star Safari made it 1-2 for Godolphin with Recordman third.
Dubai Future, a 6-year-old Dubawi gelding, finished fifth in the 2021 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) won by Mishriff. He finished third on the all-weather surface at Kempton Park in England in his comeback in November, then reported eighth in the Bahrain International Trophy (G3) at Sakhir.
"A good start for him," Cosgrove said. "I hope he can go on from here. I can't see why he wouldn't be good enough."
One race later, it was Godolphin again as William Buick gave Sovereign Prince a perfect trip to win a conditions race named the Jumeirah Classic Trial for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on the grass. Sovereign Prince saved ground behind the speed, found a nice opening on the rail, and scooted through to the lead. Sed Maarib, an American Pharoah gelding, put in a late outside run to finish second, just a head back.
Sovereign Prince, another Dubawi gelding out of the Bernardini mare Gamilati, was having his first start since scoring his first victory Sept. 26 at Epsom.
"He's a consistent little horse," said winning trainer Charlie Appleby. "The race worked out perfectly. The leader peeled off the rail and give William a space. It was a race-winning move, probably."