Antonio Fresu has history in the second
round of the Al Maktoum Challenge. The Chilean bred mare Furia Cruzada just
held on to cause an upset in the 2017 renewal, this win was the highlight of
Fresu’s time with former boss Erwan Charpy. The Italian rider is currently
enjoying a stellar season in the UAE and his new link-up with Musabbeh Al
Mheiri has been bearing fruit.
“It has been a great season so far and hopefully it will be
my best one yet in Dubai. Things were going very well with Erwan but once I got
the offer from Musabbeh I really couldn’t say no. He told me that he would be
training more than 60 horses, up from 25 the season before. It’s a very
powerful yard and it’s been a big step in my career.”
Fresu currently sits on 23 winners for the
season, two behind the reigning champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea. It remains to be
seen if Mussabeh Al Mheiri has enough firepower to sustain Fresu’s title
“I hope so, we have a few nice horses who haven’t run yet
and the horses all seem to be in good form. It won’t be easy but we’ll be
trying our best.”
Most of Dubai’s top riders will ply their
trade back in England or Ireland during the summer months, but Fresu’s Italian
roots have taken him home in recent years.
“Last summer I rode 60 winners in Italy including two G3s.
I had a verbal agreement to ride for Diego Romeo’s racing operation Scuderia
Incolinx and that went very well.”
Fresu did make the odd foray over to
England last summer. He partnered Darren Bunyan’s Hit The Bid in the G3 Dubai
International Airport World Trophy Stakes at Newbury in September.
“I rode work on Hit the Bid when he was out at the Dubai Carnival in 2018 but his owners were keen to have Oisin Murphy ride him at the races. Darren called me and told me that he had the horse in great shape and wanted me to ride him at Newbury because I knew him well. He is a tricky horse and ran well in third place but probably isn’t the same horse as he once was.”
Law runs in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2
on Thursday. This gelding won the Entisar Stakes in December, beating Dubai
World Cup runner up Gronkowski in the process. It was an amazing performance
for a horse with such inexperience on the dirt surface but he didn’t always
sparkle in his homework.
“To be honest, he didn’t impress me very much at the
beginning as he was very lazy and I felt he probably wasn’t a group horse. Then
we started working him and he proved to be better than everything we worked him
against. He never took a blow after pulling up at the end of his work and not
many horses can do that.”
The good looking son of Dubawi disappointed
on his Meydan debut when 6th in a 1 mile conditions event. But that
effort wasn’t totally without promise.
“I told Nasir Askar (owner) he would run well first time up
but I was sure that he wasn’t a miler. He slipped when jumping from the stalls,
got behind and suffered a lot of kick back. I wasn’t pushing him at all but
when I pulled him out, he changed leads and flew home. I was very impressed by
the way he picked up.”
The bookmakers made him a 50/1 chance for
the Entisar Stakes two weeks later and those odds were probably warranted on
the basis of all known top class dirt form (or lack thereof).
“I wanted to go for the Entisar. It looked like a strong
race on paper but I was sure my horse had improved. He felt like a different
horse in the race and what he did was special.”
The 5yo stalked the pace from stall one,
travelled best before swooping past the teak-tough Saltarin Dubai and the high
class Gronkowski. Fresu and Al Mheiri have a genuine group horse on his hands
but Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 was never really under consideration.
“He had two runs in three weeks, the break will have done him good. He is now a very fresh horse at home and looks to have improved again. I will try to ride a similar waiting race; he is drawn in stall one again and the pace in the race is likely to be very strong.”
of Night lines up in the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas. The
3yo isn’t everyone’s cup of tea due to his run style, but nobody can argue with
his recent form. Interestingly, this horse was the stable’s second string when
me was a close second on his UAE bow back on December 5th.
“I wasn’t sure who to choose in that race to be honest, I
guess I felt that Dark of Night wasn’t a good horse. He ran bad the first time
I did ride him but I made the mistake of rushing him. He is exactly the same as
Mark Of Approval (a horse Fresu won on earlier in the season), just slow,
that’s him. He jumps well and then just loses ground. No amount of work at the
stalls can fix it. We were hoping that the longer distance in the Al Bastikiya
trial would allow him to lay up with the early pace but no; he couldn’t.”
This gelding by Dark Angel will pick up a
good race sooner rather than later but he does need the leaders to go fast in
order bring his abundant stamina into play.
“The pace will be very strong. Fore Left is very sharp from
the gates and he will go forward, Al Modayar is another drawn wide that will be
up there along with Laser Show. The faster the pace the better chance we have
of picking up the pieces.”
When asked if there was any horse in the
stable that have caught his eye in the mornings, Antonio was generous to put
“Montakhab is a horse that I used to
like a lot. We ran him over longer trips but I always felt he was a miler.
Tadhg O’Shea rode him last time and he was of the same opinion. He should have
strong claims at Jebel Ali on Friday.”
“Casey Jones is very nice horse. He will
need the race on Friday in terms of fitness but should show his true colors on
his next run.”
“Team Decision ran on the turf at Meydan
in January but he is a proper dirt horse and I can’t wait to see what he can do
on that surface.”