imbongi south africa

(Photo : Hong Kong Jockey Club / Summerhill Stud)

$250,000 ZABEEL MILE (GR2)
5 MARCH 2010

The highlight of tonight’s final Meydan race meeting before the Dubai World Cup on 27 March 2010 is undoubtedly the $250,000 Zabeel Mile on turf.

South African trainer Mike de Kock is aiming for a hattrick in the Group 2 contest, having taken victory with Kapil in 2007 and Archipenko in 2009, and tonight spearheads the South African challenge with the Warrior, Imbongi, and Hunting Tower.

Ed Marnane reports from Dubai that the Summerhill-bred Imbongi, sporting the silks of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum is to be piloted by Christophe Soumillon who will be seeking compensation for a narrow defeat to Bankable in the Al Fahidi Fort over the same course and distance last month.

Hunting Tower looks out of sorts on the evidence of his four starts this year, so is hard to fancy.

Useful Snaafy, who is getting 1kg from Imbongi, rates a lively contender, now that his connections have switched him to turf. Snaafy stepped back to 1600m after a dull effort in Round Two of the Maktoum Challenge over 1900m on Tapeta although he put up a smart performance when landing a valuable mile handicap in his Meydan debut last month, running out a convincing winner from Yasoodd and 10 others.

Fourth-placed Calming Influence gave the form a boost when running out a facile winner in his next appearance.

It’s by no means a two-horse race though. Last year’s third-placed Kalahari Gold, trained by in-form Doug Watson, is worth considering at longer odds. The five-year-old, who will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, has been knocking on the door all season and is capable of a big run in ideal conditions.

Godolphin’s Rio De La Plata, a Group 1-winning juvenile who was runner-up in the 2008 French 2,000 Guineas, has a plum draw in stall one and if fully wound up in his comeback, can’t be overlooked. He has had his problems, but a close second behind progressive Confront in a Group 3 race at Newmarket in October suggests the five-year-old retains much of his ability. He’ll be well suited to the prevailing fast ground, while 1600m is probably his optimum distance.

Catch all the action at 20:45 (SA Time) on Tellytrack DSTV Channel 232.

What they have to say :

Mike de Kock, trainer of Hunting Tower and Imbongi
“Both are fit and well. Hunting Tower always runs a solid race but has ground to find with Snaafy. Imbongi has run two very good races so far and deserves a change of luck. He should go close.”

Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Rio De La Plata
“He was a very good juvenile when winning in Group 1 company and then ran very well in the French Guineas. He had problems at the end of that year but returned at the end of last season. He is ready for a run and pleasing us at home but he will come on from the outing.”

Richard Hills, jockey of Snaafy
“He impressed most people with his course and distance victory and we are looking at the Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night with him so this is an obvious race for him. He will run well.”

Doug Watson, trainer of Echoes Rock and Kalahari Gold
“Echoes Rock is a new horse to us this season and we are learning as we go with him. Kalahari Gold is a horse we have always liked and ran a great race in this last year. We expect a similar bold showing.”

 Jim Crowley, jockey of Without A Prayer
“He ran very well first time and his best turf form would make him competitive in what looks a good race.”

Fawzi Nass, trainer of Purple Sage
“We were delighted with her first run and we were left in front last time. That probably did not suit her so she should fare better but this is a better contest.”

Luca Cumani, trainer of Summit Surge
“This is his third start for us and first on turf. He won at Nad Al Sheba on grass last year and was a Group winner in Ireland also. Hopefully the change of surface is very much in or favour and he should run well.”

Alan Munro, jockey of  Ocean’s Minstrel
“He has been highly tried since arriving in Dubai and his last run was probably his best. The return to turf will suit but it isa tough race.”

Dhruba Selvaratnam, trainer of Yasoodd
“The conditions will suit as he is a real turf horse and the mile is ideal but he has a very tough task to reverse form with Snaafy. He is fit and well though and should run a nice race.”

Ryan Moore, jockey of Dunelight
“He is a nice horse but has a bit to find with a few of these.”


1 RIO DE LA PLATA (USA) 5 57.0 130 L Dettori S bin Suroor
2 ECHOES ROCK (GER) 7 57.0 122 P Dobbs Doug Watson
3 DUNELIGHT (IRE) 7 57.0 122 R Moore Clive Cox
4 SNAAFY (USA) 6 57.0 131 R Hills Musabah Al Muhairi
5 OCEAN’S MINSTREL (GB) 4 57.0 115 A Munro John Ryan
6 HUNTING TOWER (SAF) 8 57.0 118 K Shea Mike de Kock
7 YASOODD (GB) 7 57.0 114 W Buick Dhruba Selvaratnam
8 KALAHARI GOLD (IRE) 5 57.0 118 T O’Shea Doug Watson
9 SUMMIT SURGE (IRE) 6 58.0 124 K Fallon Luca Cumani
10 IMBONGI (SAF) 6 58.0 130 C Soumillon Mike de Kock
11 WITHOUT A PRAYER (IRE) 5 57.0 128 J Crowley Ralph Beckett
12 PURPLE SAGE (IRE) 4 55.0 118 O Peslier Fawzi Nass
13 WORLD RULER (GB) 8 57.0 105 Res Doug Watson