JalilJalil (Andrew Watkins)Maybe all he needed was a change in surface. Godolphin’s Jalil (Storm Cat), who was knocked down to Sheikh Mohammed representative John Ferguson for $9.7 million at the 2005 Keeneland September Sale, is looking more and more like a star in the making as he took his third straight start on conventional dirt in smart fashion. Jalil, sent off the second choice in yesterday’s Gr3 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, part of Nad al Sheba’s Super Thursday in Dubai, tracked a few lengths off while four wide, then ranged up to join the favorite Lucky Find (SAF) (Rich Man’s Gold) at the 300 meter mark before extending clear under the urging of jockey Frankie Dettori. Jalil’s win puts him on track for the March 29 Gr1 Dubai World Cup, where he’ll likely meet U.S. Horse of the Year Curlin (Smart Strike).

The victory also capped a huge night for Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed, who was on hand to watch two of the stable’s other stars, Diabolical (Artax) and Elusive Warning (Elusive Quality), win the Gr3 Mahab Al Shimaal and Gr3 Burj Nahaar, respectively.

With a price tag just a John Ferguson sneeze away from eight figures, all eyes were on Jalil when he made his debut as a two-year-old at Newmarket in October of 2006. He ran sixth that day, beaten three lengths, and wasn’t seen again until the following May, when he came up a half-length short when second in a maiden at the same course.

Jalil broke his maiden in his third career start, a 10-furlong Ripon event in June, but he was out another four months before returning to be beaten just a head in a Lingfield handicap in October, his first start on a synthetic track. Shipped to Dubai for the winter, Jalil turned a corner in the mild climes of the country, and especially over Nad al Sheba’s dirt track.

He made quick work of two handicaps on the main track, winning by daylight February 8 and February 21, and with yesterday’s strong effort he spiced up what looked to be a one-horse affair in the Dubai World Cup. “He’s learning to be a really good horse, and clearly loves the sand, and the further he goes, the better he is,” said Godolphin Racing Manager Simon Crisford. “We gave him a chance, as he needed time last year, and it’s paid huge dividends now. He’ll go straight to the Dubai World Cup, and we’ll see Curlin there. He needs to improve again, but he hasn’t stopped yet.”

Winning rider Frankie Dettori echoed those sentiments. “He’s taken to the dirt really well, and keeps improving and maturing,” said the Italian. “He’s got to raise the bar again, but he’s done nothing wrong so far, and fits into the Dubai World Cup field without any problems.”

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News