Brave Tin Soldier: former Ballydoyle inmate struck for Mike de KockPICTURE: Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins
De Kock fires out Carnival warning
Report: UAE, Thursday
Nad Al Sheba: Winter Racing Challenge finals (all dirt)
THREE £50,000 handicaps, the finals of Dubai's Winter Racing Challenge series, providedthe quality at Thursday evening's meeting at Nad Al Sheba.
Sheikh Mohammed himself arrived before the third race to watch a host of Carnival contenders go through their paces at by far the best meeting of the UAE season to date.
However, it was another familiar name who celebrated success in the first of the finals, a 1m handicap on the sand which was won by the carnival's leading trainer Mike de Kock with former Ballydoyle inmate Brave Tin Soldier.
Having hit the front two furlongs out after tracking the early pace, the five-year-old was then always holding runner-up Military Power.
Winning jockey Kevin Shea, having his first ride of the UAE season, said: "Mike said he would go close and that conditions would suit so I was hopeful beforehand.
"Three furlongs out I was very confident and he has run on well once he hit the front."
De Kock added: "We left the horse here this summer to help him acclimatise and hopefully he can improve from this."
Champion trainer Doug Watson saddled four of the 14 runners in the 1m2f final and was rewarded with a memorable 1-2-3 with Lucky Ray making all under Daragh O'Donohoe, tracked almost every yard by stablemate Clasp. Dynamic Saint ran on from the rear to take third in a race the first two always dominated.
"Daragh has won three times from the front on this horse now this season and that was a perfect front-running effort," said Watson. "I actually thought Clasp was going to get him two furlongs out, and it is a great effort from both."
Watson then saddled local debutant Force Freeze to win the concluding 6f final with Fernando Jara never far off the pace on the four-year-old who has some decent form in his native USA.
Quickening well off a frantic pace, he was clear a furlong out and was always going to hang on.
"I have always liked this horse from his work at home and I knew he had a lot of speed," said Jara.
"He quickened well when I asked him and he could be a nice carnival prospect with some good sprint races to aim at."