Rafeej, Surfer and Cooptado Boast Dubai World Cup Carnival Hopes After Listed Wins

Photo: Erika Rasmussen (

AF Lahej Claims Purebred Arabian Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah

Three new Listed races threw up plenty of Dubai World Cup Carnival indicators at Meydan last night, with winners Rafeej, Surfer and Cooptado impressing on the new dirt track.

Silvestre De Sousa’s victory on seasonal debutant, Rafeej saw him win the 1200m Listed Garhoud Sprint, a race he also landed in 2013. It was the first time that a Listed race had been held outside of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, since the international race season was launched in 2004.

Meanwhile AF Lahej landed the first Group 2 race of the season, the Purebred Arabian Mazrat Al Ruwayah under Royston Ffrench for trainer, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

In the Thoroughbred divisions, the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned Rafeej, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi, chased the early leaders with Satish Seemar’s Conveyance setting the fractions.

He was headed by Nawwaar, another owned by Sheikh Hamdan with the same owner’s The Taj also in contention. Yet when De Sousa asked his mount for an effort 400m from home he responded well, and the pair led soon after.

They forged clear with Conveyance rallying to regain second.

“He is a good horse,” said De Sousa. “He had a setback last season so had been off a while but his work was good and we thought he would run well. He should be able to build on this.”

There was a distinct sense of déjà vu after the second of the upgraded contests, the 1600m Listed Dubai Creek Mile, with the Satish Seemar-trained Surfer repeating his victory of 12 months earlier in the equivalent race.

De Sousa tried to steal the race from the front on Ennobled Friend and, with 500m left to run, had all his rivals in trouble, bar Surfer.

Richard Mullen urged Surfer to chase De Sousa’s mount and the response, although not electric, was dogged and they led well inside the final 200m.

“He is a good horse and one we always had high hopes for, said Mullen. “He will have needed that run, over a trip perhaps short of his best, but always goes well fresh and won well enough in thee end.”

The trend was ended in the third upgraded race, however. Farrier lined up in the starting gate but was unable to repeat his win of last season in the 2000m Entisar, instead finishing third behind the Doug Watson pair of Cooptado and Storm Belt.

It was Argentine-bred Cooptado that made all the running under Adrie De Vries, seeing off a determined challenge from Farrier, who was hampered 100m from home and then having plenty left to see off Storm Belt.

“We knew we had two good chances coming into the race,” said a delighted Watson. “Adrie has given Cooptado a great ride from the front and the horse will improve from that.

“Storm Belt was giving him weight but did have the benefit of a previous run when he won here six weeks ago. He goes particularly well on these flat dirt tracks.”

The trainer completed a quick double with the smooth success of Faulkner and Pat Dobbs in the concluding 1200m handicap.

The only Purebred Arabian race on the card, the opening 1600m Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah, provided the perfect opportunity for AF Lafeh to win for the first time since March 2013.

Ridden by Royston Ffrench for his main employer, Ali Rashid Al Raihe, Ffrench stalked the early pace on the winner with Areem and Bigg N Rich both seemingly keen to lead.

At halfway this trio had the race between them with Areem the first to crack. AF Lafeh hit the front 300m out and ran on well.

“This horse really deserved a win as he has run some very good races in defeat,” said Ffrench. “He is so genuine and a great horse to have in the yard.”

Local debutant, Cry Joy started his local career on a high note, showing a determined attitude to win a 2000m maiden and open his account at the fourth attempt. Ahmed Ajtebi, riding his first winner of the UAE season, drove his mount, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, to the front 600m from home, only to be challenged immediately by Sooth Al Ssalam.

That rival led briefly at the 300m pole before Ajtebi’s mount battled back to lead again close home.

“I was pretty confident turning for home,” said Ajtebi. “Then the runner-up appeared and my fellow really had to battle hard.”