With Kentucky Oaks (G1) nominee Rayya dominating Thursday’s $250,000 UAE Oaks (G3) in front-running fashion, the Meydan feature may have more of a bearing on the first Friday in May at Churchill Downs this year.
Plans for the Kentucky-bred daughter of Tiz Wonderful are pending, however, until after her next start, the March 31 UAE Derby (G2) versus the boys on World Cup night.
Trained by American Doug Watson, a protégé of Kiaran McLaughlin, Rayya made a big splash when romping in her career debut at Meydan December 7. She was just nipped by Godolphin’s Winter Lightning in a thrilling prep for the UAE 1000 Guineas, the Guineas Trial on January 18, but was convincingly beaten by the same rival in the Guineas itself on February 8.
Winter Lightning, a half-sister to 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) bucking bronc Thunder Snow, was widely expected to defeat Rayya for the third time in a row in the Oaks. Her full sister, Ihtimal, had turned the Guineas/Oaks double back in 2014, and all signs pointed to Winter Lightning following in her footsteps.
But Rayya was back to her best, Winter Lightning did not perform up to her level, and the result was surprisingly one-sided.
Under stable rider Pat Dobbs, Rayya capitalized on her tactical speed on the rail to take the lead entering the clubhouse turn and held sway thereafter. She spurted clear turning for home, opened up by 3 3/4 lengths at the wire, and finished about 1 3/16 miles on the fast track in 1:59.66.
Rayya earned 50 points toward the Kentucky Oaks, putting her second on the leaderboard to Monomoy Girl (54 points). Godolphin settled for the minor awards. Expressiy, who chased Rayya throughout, received 20 points for her runner-up effort. Winter Lightning was a dull third, just edging Sa’Ada in a photo, and they notched 10 and 5 points respectively. The second through fourth are not Oaks nominated.
Purchased by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid al Nuaimi for $190,000
as a two-year-old in training at OBS last April, Rayya has bankrolled $244,506
from her 4-2-2-0 line. The chestnut was bred by Mineola Farm II, James W.
Hirschmann, and Silent Grove Farms in the Bluegrass State. Her half-brother,
Curlin Road, captured last summer’s Cougar II H. (G3) at Del Mar, and their dam,
Spread, is out of a full sister to 1994 Breeders’ Cup
Classic (G1) hero Concern.
For more race details, check out the Brisnet.com coverage of all the Thursday action in Dubai.
Photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins