First Classs on track to emulate Kahayla Classic legends

With many front-running types in the field, it is likely that the 2,000-metre contest will be run at a fast pace from the word go

by

Leslie Wilson Jr

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First Classs (left) will be hoping to take the first step towards emulating the great ambassadors for the sport. — File
First Classs (left) will be hoping to take the first step towards emulating the great ambassadors for the sport. — File

Published: Fri 24 Mar 2023, 5:36 PM

This appears to be one of the most open renewals of a race that was introduced to the Dubai World Cup card in a bid to give Purebred Arabian owners the chance to see their horses shine on the big stage.

Having gained Group 1 status back in 1999 when staged at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, it has rapidly grown in stature to become one of the premier races for the breed.


It is a proven fact that it takes a very special horse to win the Kahayla going by some of the Arabian legends that have triumphed in Dubai including three-time winners Unchained Melody (Alanudd 1997-1999) and Madjani (2005-2007).

First Classs, who won this contest 12 months ago by running down Kerless Del Roc, will be hoping to take the first step towards emulating these great ambassadors for the sport, by making it two from two,


With many front-running types in the field, it is likely that the 2,000-metre contest will be run at a fast pace from the word go.

This should benefit First Classs and his jockey Maxim Guyon having drawn the favourable first gate. The likely fast early pace will suit French handler Jean De Mieulle’s six-year-old as he should be able to get a good early position soon after the break.

First Classs won a Group 1 on turf at Abu Dhabi in December and then delivered a good effort in Doha last month which should put him spot on for a repeat success in the Dubai World Cup’s opening race.

Four other runners appear to have similar chances among them Rb Rich Lyke Me, Jugurtha De Monlau, Hayyan, and Mujeeb.

The Fawzi Nass-trained Rb Rich Lyke Me deserves the most respect among the quartet, given his form so far this year. However, he will have to show plenty of gate speed if he were to be among the leaders as stall 14 is not the most ideal.

However, First Classs remains the one they will all be aiming at. The winner of seven of his 22 starts, including the $2.3 million Group 1 Jewel Crown in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago.

Previously trained by Arabian specialist Alban de Mieulle, he is now in the care of his nephew, Jean.

“We picked out stall seven which is good for us as I was afraid of an outside draw,” said the French trainer. “Two of our good rivals are drawn nine (Jugurtha De Monleau) and 14 (RB Rych Like Me).

“Our horse is in super shape. He needs a strong pace so he can use his turn of foot and this looks like the case.

“They could go crazy upfront because there are some good horses on the outside and I think they could push on a bit. He is seven years old and still strong mentally so let’s hope he can run well and go close,” he added.

RB Rich Lyke Me, a handsome grey did not have the best of outings last year in the Kahayla, where he bumped the rail at an early stage of the race and which proved to be quite unsettling for both horse and rider, Adrie De Vries.

This time around the Dutch great is sure to ride him with more caution from the outside draw and will not have to worry about repeating his heroics with the fiberglass rails at Meydan.

“He’s a good strong sort of horse like most Arabians are,” said De Vries. “But they can be a bit temperamental. You have to handle them with care and read their mind.

“I know this fella pretty well and while he can be quirky as well he has a good racing mind and knows what he has to do in a race.

“He’s in good form so we have got to be hopeful although this looks a tougher race than it was last year,” he added.

Among the other, locally trained hopes is Group 2 winner AF Alajaj, who represents leading owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. He will have the service oftentimes UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea and trainer Ernst Oertel, who won the Kahayla in 2019 with AF Maher.

“He’s got to stretch out a bit further than normal,” said O’Shea who has mastered the art of riding Arab horses in the UAE.

“He won quite well over seven furlongs the Group 2 at Abu Dhabi and he’s drawn gate three which is a positive.

He’s a strong traveller in his races and they’ll go fast as we know, so I’m looking forward to it,” added the Irishman who also famously won the race in 2000 with the legendary Mizzna.

Also in the race are Group 1 winners Jugurtha De Monlau, winner of Round 3 of the G1 Maktoum Challenge over course and distance last time out, and Mujeeb, winner of the AED 2.5 million President’s Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Race 1

Dubai Kahayla Classic

Dirt: 2,000 metres

Purse $1,000,000

KT PICKS

First Classs

Last year’s winner should be suited by the likely fast early pace which will allow him to get a good early position. He won a Group 1 on turf at Abu Dhabi in December and had a good spin in Doha to sharpen him for this.

Dark Horse

Deriyan

Won this in 2021, and appears to reserve his best efforts for Meydan. Drawn in stall one would benefit and it looks like the tactics will be to try and make it a pillar-to-post victory under Brazilian jockey Bernardo Pinheiro.


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