Opal Tiara shines at Meydan
Opal Tiara opened up avenues for a return to the top table after capturing the biggest success of her career with victory in the Balanchine at Meydan on Thursday.
Opal Tiara (r) could run in the Dubai Turf
Racing beyond a mile for the first time in her career, the Mick Channon-trained four-year-old took the step up in trip in her stride to claim top honours in the Group Two contest.
Having finished second on her first start at the track behind Very Special last month, the daughter of Thousand Words comprehensively turned the tables on her Godolphin rival when forging into the lead late on in the nine-furlong event, before holding Via Firenze by a neck.
Mick Channon junior, assistant trainer to his father, said of the 15/2 winner: "We are delighted. She improved throughout the second half of last season and she has gone and done that nicely.
"She had a pull at the weights with the favourite (Very Special) and it all went to plan and the race was set up perfectly for our horse. She is a home-bred so it is a dream come true for all connected.
"She probably did need the run last time and she didn't respond the way she did today. We didn't know if she would get the extra furlong and I know the French horse rattled home, but she had it in the bag.
"Something like the Falmouth screams out for her in the summer. It is great to have a good older filly in the yard and she will go to Dubai World Cup night now for the Dubai Turf, I imagine."
Champion jockey Jim Crowley described Ertijaal as the best sprinter he has sat on after the odds-on favourite claimed an impressive success in the Meydan Sprint.
After blitzing his rivals over five furlongs last time out, the former William Haggas-trained gelding added another course and distance success to his name when taking the Group Three dash by two and three-quarter lengths in a record time of 55.90 seconds.
Crowley said of the Ali Al Rayhi-trained 4/7 winner: "He is an aeroplane. I've had some nice sprinters to ride, but he certainly tops the list.
"He gets quite fractious in the stalls and that would be the only chink in his armour really. The others took us along and you can pretty much ride him where he is happy.
"He has got a huge stride for a sprinter. He feels like he is doing one stride to everybody else's two. His last run was really strong and he seems to be improving.
"It would have to be a hell of an aeroplane to get him off the bridle early on and that's what gives you hope of him getting the six, as he just travels nicely and is not keen or pulls hard – he just enjoys his racing."
Colm O'Donoghue made it two wins from three rides aboard Championship (11/4) with an authoritative victory in the Zabeel Mile.
Entering the race on the back of a victory over seven furlongs the Ahmed bin Harmash-trained six-year-old recorded successive victories at Group Two level when running out a two-and-three-quarter-length winner of the mile event.
O'Donoghue said: "It was a good performance. He was very relaxed and moved great. It was a very good training performance by Ahmed.
"It was possibly my fault in the Listed race over 1800 metres. It was his first time and maybe I should have been a shade faster on him as he was fresh in my hands.
"It's possibly going to be the target (Dubai Turf), but Ahmed will decide. We will take it step by step, but he has kept improving."
French raider Zarak, a son of the great racemare Zarkava, could also be Dubai Turf-bound after making his first Meydan visit a winning one in the Dubai Millennium Stakes for Alain de Royer-Dupre and Christophe Soumillon.