Frankel's Spirit Dancer Pounces In Neom Turf Cup

Spirit Dancer and Oisin Orr | Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia

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Saturday marked the fifth edition of the blockbuster G1 Saudi Cup, with Senor Buscador (Mineshaft) racing into the history books as another American-trained winner of the $20-million race at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Connections of horses worldwide benefitted from the $33.5 million in purses on offer throughout the card, with Europe claiming a trio of wins, and Japan two victories on a night that is rapidly becoming one of the can't-miss events of the year in international racing.

Sir Alex Ferguson, best known for his Manchester United exploits in another sporting sphere, declared the victory of SPIRIT DANCER (GB) (g, 7, Frankel {GB}–Queen's Dream {Ger}, by Oasis Dream {GB}) in November's G2 Bahrain International Trophy “my best day in racing”, but already that triumph has some stiff competition. In Saturday's $2-million G2 Howden Neom Turf Cup, Ferguson, Ged Mason and Peter Done's determined gelding put his rivals to the sword with a dramatic kick to win by a length in the 2100-metre contest for trainer Richard Fahey.

Japan's Killer Ability (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) was a half-length ahead of the rallying Calif (Ger) (Areion {Ger}) at the line, with Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), who had stayed nearer the pace set by Jack Darcy (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}) a neck back in fourth.

When the gates flew, Spirit Dancer was a touch keyed up, tossing his head and was forced to sit three off the fence in midfield as Jack Darcy cut out the running while feeling the heat from Luxembourg, who was ridden forward from the widest alley. Relaxing into a nice rhythm on the backstretch, Spirit Dancer was able to edge a bit closer to the inside, but still had at least six horses to pass on the far turn. Ryan Moore asked Luxembourg to tackle the leader 400 metres from the wire, while Spirit Dancer swung toward the centre of the lane for his bid. He soon gobbled up ground, blew past Luxembourg inside the final furlong and withstood the closing rushes of Killer Ability to his inside and Calif to claim his third group race in good style.

“It's fantastic, after Bahrain you come here and look at the field, the performance from Oisin [Orr] and the horse and Richard, it's unbelievable,” said Ferguson. “Richard made the point he hasn't had a lot of racing, and I think we see the evidence today. Oisin said this morning horse the is improving all the time. I took a gamble a few years ago with a stud in Hemel Hampstead and the results have been very good.

“That puts his win in Bahrain in perspective. Richard gave us confidence but it is one of these things, you are never too confident.”

Mason added, “It's like a dream, I have to pinch myself. For Richard to produce him and win as easy as he did, he was like a steam engine. Sir Alex had a dream this morning and dreamt he'd win.”

“It's absolutely amazing,” said Done. “Super, super trainer. All credit to him and Oisin with a terrific ride. We bought into him as a 2-year-old. If Sir Alex asks do you want a share, what do you say? We turned down a big offer after Bahrain and we all turned it down and what a great decision.”

A three-race winning streak last summer culminated in York's G3 Strensall S. in August for the Ferguson and Niall McLoughlin-bred gelding, and two starts later he won the G2 Bahrain International Trophy in November. Spirit Dancer was fourth in the G1 Jebel Hatta to Measured Time (GB) (Frankel {GB}) warming up for this on Jan. 26.

“We'll send him back to Dubai, said Fahey of future plans. “We'll see how he is in the morning but it's hard not to go back to Dubai. I'll be shocked if he doesn't line up in something on World Cup night.

“Always in my mind I wanted to stretch out to a mile and a half [2400m] but I don't want to make any decisions tonight. Any horse that goes on the international scene, becomes a people's horse, and he's got a huge fan base–the lad that has a share in him has something to do with that!

“As trainers we don't really understand what it means to people and to see the enjoyment gives me huge pride. He gets his head down and gallops to the line.”

Pedigree Notes

The unbeaten champion Frankel is already the recipient of two sire titles in the UK & Ireland, and the 16-year-old's progeny are never far from the limelight. Spirit Dancer is one of 136 stakes winners (93 group) on an international scale for the bay, and one of seven stakes winners out of Oasis Dream mares. The best of that septet is G1 Prix de la Foret heroine Kelina (Ire).

The third foal and one of four winners for his unraced dam Queen's Dream, Spirit Dancer's latest half-sibling is a 2-year-old by Masar (Ire). Second dam Quetena (Ger) (Acatenango {Ger}) was a better producer than runner, as she placed in a listed race in Italy before foaling a quartet of stakes winners. Three of them were group class or better–Italian Group 1 winner and sire Querari (Ger) (Oasis Dream {GB}), fellow sire and G3 Bavarian Classic victor Quasillo (Ger) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), and the stakes-producing Quidura (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) all won at least one race at the group or graded level. The last-named mare triumphed in the GII Ballston Spa S. and GII Canadian S., and GIII Valley View S. and was placed an additional three times at the highest table in the U.S.

Saturday, King Abdulaziz (Riyadh), Saudi Arabia
HOWDEN NEOM TURF CUP-G2, $2,000,000, King Abdulaziz, 2-24, NH4yo/up, SH3yo/up, 2100mT, 2:07.10, gd.
1–SPIRIT DANCER (GB), 125, g, 7, Frankel (GB)
                1st Dam: Queen's Dream (Ger), by Oasis Dream (GB)
                2nd Dam: Quetena (Ger), by Acatenango (Ger)
                3rd Dam: Quebrada (Ire), by Devil's Bag
O-Done/Ferguson/Mason; B-Sir Alex Ferguson & Niall
McLoughlin (GB); T-Richard Fahey; J-Oisin Orr; $1,200,000.
Lifetime Record: GSW-Eng & Bhr, 25-8-6-2, $2,131,263. Werk
   Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*. Click for the
   eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree or the
   free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Killer Ability (Jpn), 125, h, 5, Deep Impact (Jpn)–Killer Graces,
by Congaree. O-U Carrot Farm; B-Northern Racing (Jpn);
T-Takashi Saito; J-Cristian Demuro; $400,000.
3–Calif (Ger), 125, g, 5, Areion (Ger)–Cherry Danon (Ire), by
Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire). (€95,000 RNA Ylg '20 BBASEP;
€400,000 HRA '23 ARQSEP ). O-Victorious; B-Gestut
Brummerhof; T-Fawzi Nass; J-Adrie de Vries; $200,000.
Margins: 1, HF, NK.
Also Ran: Luxembourg (Ire), Jack Darcy (Ire), Grocer Jack (Ger), Alooqaal (Ire), Astro King (Ire), Studley (Jpn), Starcat (GB), Hearts Concerto (Jpn), Bolthole (Ire), The Foxes (Ire).
Click for the JCSA chart (R7) and video.

 

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