Meydan, Turf, 1800m
29 January 2015

Winner of the 2014 G1 Jebel Hatta Stakes and runner-up to top-rated Just a Way (Heart's Cry) in last year's G1 Dubai Duty Free Stakes, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's Vercingetorix (Silvano) suggested he'll be a major force in the newly renamed G1 Dubai Turf with a first-up victory in Thursday's G2 Al Rashidiya Stakes at Meydan.

Vercingetorix made a big impression at last year's Dubai World Cup Carnival, winning the G1 Jebel Hatta Stakes on Super Saturday before missing only to Just A Way when second in the G1 Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night, and the South African champion indicated he is likely as good as ever with an eye-catching first-up win in yesterday's G2 Al Rashidiya at Meydan.

Finding an ideal position tracking the pace in fourth early and just off the heels and to the inside of his chief rival, Godolphin's True Story (Manduro), Vercingetorix bided his time under jockey Christophe Soumillon as his stablemate Sanshaawes (Ashaawes) set the tempo. Sliding outside of True Story as the field turned for home, Vercingetorix responded to near invisible urging from Soumillon, gliding to the lead and scoring geared-down by two lengths. True Story stayed on for second after traveling wide throughout and Mr Pommeroy (Linngari) , who rode the rail throughout and sat one slot ahead of Vercingetorix early, was third.

The victory brought up a feature-race double on the card for jockey Christophe Soumillon. "He is in great shape this year," said Soumillon. "He was a really good horse last year but he felt better tonight. He is exciting."

Trainer Mike de Kock said his charge is likely to follow the same path as last year to the World Cup card. "I think he's a bigger and a stronger horse than he was last year, and I certainly think we have to aim him at the G1 Dubai Duty Free with the G1 Jebel Hatta in between, the same sort of preparation as last year," de Kock said.

A R1.4 million (about US$121,000) Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale purchase by Mike de Kock, Vercingetorix sailed unbeaten through his early tests in South Africa, a four-race run that culminated in the G1 Daily News 2000 of 2013. Set on the long quarantine journey to Dubai thereafter, Vercingetorix resurfaced with a turf handicap score at Meydan last February before annexing the Jebel Hatta. He was 6 1/4 lengths in the wake of Just A Way in the Dubai Duty Free, but boosted his merits nonetheless with Grade/Group 1 winners like Dank (Dansili), Hunter's Light (Dubawi), The Fugue (Dansili) and Trade Storm (Trade Fair) trailing him in. Vercingetorix finished third behind the home-team pair of Designs On Rome (Holy Roman Emperor) and Military Attack (Oratorio) in the G1 QEII Cup at Sha Tin in April, with subsequent G1 Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia (Symboli Kris S) one slot behind him in fourth.

Initial plans to press onto Singapore's international card in May were scrapped thereafter, and Vercingetorix was making his first start in nine months yesterday.

"After Hong Kong we were still thinking of Singapore, but he didn't come out of the Hong Kong race well and that's when we really had to back off him and start again," de Kock explained. "He's fairly fragile, so he's not a horse that's going to take that many runs."

Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News