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Dettori masterminds UAE Oaks upset aboard Khawlah
Under a pitch-perfect ride by master tactician Frankie Dettori, Godolphin's KHAWLAH (Cape Cross [Ire]) struck the front while prohibitive favorite Mahbooba (Galileo [Ire]) was still awaiting room, and the Saeed bin Suroor filly proved more than capable of springing the upset in Thursday's $250,000 U.A.E. Oaks (UAE-G3). Staying on powerfully for the length of the stretch, Khawlah fended off the prolonged challenge of Mahbooba by 1 1/4 lengths in a stakes-record 1:58 2/5 for about 1 3/16 miles on Meydan's Tapeta.
But neither is in line for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) -- Khawlah is bound for Europe, and the Australian-bred Mahbooba is a four-year-old by Northern Hemisphere reckoning. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club.)
Khawlah had not raced since October 1, when she finished third to Havant (Halling) in the Oh So Sharp S. (Eng-G3) at Newmarket. As an Irish-bred three-year-old, she was receiving 10 pounds from the older Mahbooba, who was coming off a scintillating score in the February 3 U.A.E. One Thousand Guineas. That superb effort, combined with trainer Mike de Kock's lofty opinion of her, ensured that Mahbooba would be backed as if defeat were out of the question. But Khawlah took a different view of the matter.
As Godolphin's second-stringer Abtasaamah (Distorted Humor) set up shop as the pacemaker, Dettori positioned Khawlah in a stalking second. Mahbooba, who was tugging at Christophe Soumillion in the opening strides, was reserved in midpack to get her to settle. While the heavy favorite did at last relax, she had conceded a fair amount of ground in the process, and Soumillon was in no hurry to launch a bid.
Dettori, on the other hand, sent Khawlah after her stablemate turning for home, in what turned out to be the winning move. By that time, Soumillon was trying to thread his way through along the inside. Mahbooba found her way soon enough, angled out, and chased Khawlah, but it was too little, too late. Khawlah was going too well to be caught, however mightily her rival tried.
"Everything went to plan and she did that very nicely," Dettori said. "It was a good performance and it would be nice to think she could be competitive in some good races in Europe."
"That has been a good evening," said bin Suroor, who saddled three winners on the card. "Khawlah is a filly we really like and will hopefully go to York for the Musidora S. ([Eng-G3] on May 11). The horses have been running well throughout the Carnival and hopefully we can continue in similar form."
In a measure of their utter dominance, the top two were a long way clear of the rest of the strung-out field. Electric Waves (Exceed and Excel) crossed the wire 8 1/4 lengths back in third, and Abtasaamah faded to last of the septet.
Khawlah's brilliant synthetic debut advanced her mark to 4-2-1-1 while boosting her bankroll to $166,175. Runner-up in a Salisbury maiden at first asking last September, she returned 15 days later to capture a Newmarket maiden, and came back in another 14 days for the Oh So Sharp, her third race in a month. With connections nominating the Musidora as her next objective, Khawlah could propel herself into the June 3 Oaks (Eng-G1) at Epsom.
Bred by Darley, Khawlah is the first foal from the winning Villarrica (Selkirk). Her second dam is English stakes heroine Melikah (Ire) (Lammtarra), who is herself a half-sister to European Horse of the Year and dual classic winner Sea the Stars (Cape Cross [Ire]); dual classic-winning European champion and international sire Galileo (Ire) (Sadler's Wells); multiple Group 1-winning Italian highweight Black Sam Bellamy (Sadler's Wells); Irish highweight Urban Ocean (Bering [GB]); classic-placed Group 3 victress All Too Beautiful (Ire) (Sadler's Wells); and Grade 1-winning millionaire My Typhoon (Ire) (Giant's Causeway). Khawlah's third dam is thus French highweight Urban Sea (Miswaki), queen of the 1993 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1). This is also the family of Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) hero King's Best (Kingmambo) and Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (Fr-G1) victor Anabaa Blue (Anabaa), both successful sires.