Watson's Isolate keeps Saudi Cup dream alive with Meydan masterclass

Watson’s stable star wins Al Maktoum Mile as Measure Time is Godolphin’s Al Rashidiya hero at 'Festive Friday' meeting

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Isolate wins the Al Maktoum Mile at Meydan's 'Festive Friday' meeting. -  Photo by Dubai Racing Club
Isolate wins the Al Maktoum Mile at Meydan's 'Festive Friday' meeting. - Photo by Dubai Racing Club

Published: Sat 23 Dec 2023, 1:13 AM

Meydan specialist Isolate kept the Saudi Cup dream alive for his owners when dominating a classy field to win the Group 2 Al Maktoum Mile in imperious style at the ‘Festive Friday’ pre-Christmas meeting.

Eclipse Award-winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who has flown from Florida specifically to take the ride aboard Isolate, was a picture of composure aboard the five-year-old who never put a foot wrong as he crossed the line 3 ½ lengths clear of his stable companion Golden Goal to complete a memorable one-two for eight-time UAE champion trainer Doug Watson.

Isoltate’s owners, RRR Racing, are as ambitious as they come and have nominated the horse for the $20 million Saudi Cup at Riyadh in February 2024. However, Isolate will have to negotiate an extra one furlong in his quest the win the world richest horse race.

Commenting on Isolate’s performance, his first start since he won the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night in March, Gaffalione painted a rosy picture of the winner who was posting his second win in four starts for Watson.

Godolphin's Measured Time wins the Al Rashidiya under William Buick. - Photo by Dubai Racing Club
Godolphin's Measured Time wins the Al Rashidiya under William Buick. - Photo by Dubai Racing Club

“He took control early and dominated them all,” said the American. “He put up a big performance today. He looks a lot stronger and more focused this year, He’s going to be a serious horse,”

Commenting on the Saudi Cup and the step up in distance, the jockey said: “I have a ton of confidence in this horse. The way he ran today I don’t think stretching him out will be too much of a difficult task.”

Watson, who admitted to feeling the pressure in the run-up to Friday’s race, said: “He’s not a big workhorse. He doesn’t do anything quick. So we brought him over to Meydan four times to work and we thought we had him ready. But there’s always that question in the back of your mind.

“Coming off that long layoff (262 days), that big win on Dubai World Cup night and starting our season here, it was pretty nerve-wracking all day. But he did it very nicely.”

The connections of Czech-trained Ponntas at the prize presentation ceremony with winning rider Antonio Fresu. - Photo by Dubai Racing Club
The connections of Czech-trained Ponntas at the prize presentation ceremony with winning rider Antonio Fresu. - Photo by Dubai Racing Club

Watson said the decision to go to Saudi would be entirely up to R Racing, who sampled big-race success at the 2022 Dubai World Cup meeting when Switzerland landed the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen.

“Tyler definitely thought he’d get an extra eighth of a mile (200m),” said Watson. “He’s pretty classy. Whether he can get that extra eighth we’ll have to see. (But) so pleased for him. He should improve for the run fitness-wise.

The ‘Festive Friday’ card was stacked with quality contests with the turf feature of the evening being the Group 2 Al Rashidiya which was won convincingly by the progressive Measured Time.

Ridden by British champion jockey William Buick in the famous blue Godolphin silks, the half-brother to 2022 UAE Derby hero Rebel’s Romance, has now won four of his five starts and looks like a very nice horse for the future.

Rb Rich Lyke Me winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 under Adrie de Vries. - Photo by Dubai Racing Club
Rb Rich Lyke Me winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 under Adrie de Vries. - Photo by Dubai Racing Club

Buick commented: “Measured Time is a good horse, full of promise. He is growing up all the time and today was a new test for him, having never been to Meydan before. This was another tick in the box and his ability is there for all to see.

“He has a lot of speed, although I think he will stay. He has a huge stride like his brother Rebel’s Romance and you never feel like the race is going fast enough for him – he has a great cruising speed.”

Meanwhile, another historic chapter was written at Meydan when Ponntos became the first Czech-trained winner in Dubai when speeding home in the five-furlong Ertijaal Dubai Dash Listed Stakes.

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Bred in Ireland Ponntos was sold as a weanling for €2,200 at Goffs Ireland, then £6,800 a year later at Tattersalls. He is trained by Miroslav Nieslanik whose wife, Eva, owns the five-year-old who has done a lot of his racing in France.

Earlier in the evening, Rb Rich Lyke Me successfully defended his title in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 under big-race Dutch rider Adrie de Vries. He is owned and trained by Bahrain’s Fawzi Nass.


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