Hit The Bid remains bang on course for his high-profile Group-race campaign in Dubai after a narrow defeat on his second outing of the year at Meydan.
Darren Bunyan’s five-year-old sprinter got the better of old rival Faatinah in the EGA Billets Trophy, and appeared set to prevail, but then could not quite run down 16-1 shot Mazzini and was beaten a neck into second.
On a card which saw both Group Two races go the way of Godolphin, including a clean sweep of the first four places as Saeed bin Suroor’s Dream Castle took the Al Rashidiya, Curragh trainer Bunyan was far from disheartened with Hit The Bid’s performance.
He still plans to take in a Group Two back at Meydan on February 14 en route to another shot at the Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night, in which Hit The Bid finished 12th last year.
“It just wasn’t to be his night,” Bunyan said of Thursday’s near miss.
“But he’s run a blinder, and I’m very happy with him – as happy as you can be, finishing second.
“He needed his run the first time – which I knew he would – and he’s run a hell of a race.
“A couple of little things made the difference at the finish, and he’s only been beaten a neck. The Group Two on February 14 is a definite next.”
Bunyan was encouraged that Hit The Bid improved past Faatinah, two and a half lengths too good for him at level weights at the start of this month but one and a half behind in the rematch – albeit conceding 3lb.
“There’s a little bit more to come from our lad,” he added.
“He (jockey Chris Hayes) thought he had it, but lost just a little bit of momentum at the wrong time.
“He’s still turned the form round with Faatinah, and he’s come out of it very well.
Revitalised Dream Castle posted the second win of his unbeaten campaign, having been gelded after failing to get closer than third in four attempts last year.
The five-year-old son of Frankel, a 7-4 favourite under Christophe Soumillon, put stablemates Leshlaa and Racing History in the shade – by three lengths and a nose respectively, with Charlie Appleby’s Blair House a place further back in the same colours.
Bin Suroor said: “The horse is going really well – I like the way he is finishing his races.
“He showed a good turn of foot, and was even more relaxed tonight (than last time) – so it’s looking good for the future.
“I’m also happy with the second and third. That is good form.”
Bin Suroor, Soumillon and Esthidaaf found one prove half a length too good for them in the Al Bastakiya Trial, won on the dirt by 5-1 shot Manguzi for UAE trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
Ex-Argentinian champion Saltarin Dubai led all the way in the EGA Jebel Ali Trophy to score for the second time in 12 attempts over this course, by one and a quarter lengths, for Satish Seemar.
Back on the turf, D’bai struck on his first start of the second successive year, providing Charlie Appleby and Godolphin with their fourth winner in the last five runnings of the Al Fahidi Fort.
After the five-year-old’s one-and-three-quarter-length win under James Doyle – from stablemate Mythical Magic, with two more Godolphin charges third and fifth – Appleby made no secret of the fact he sees it as ‘job done’ already for a gelding who thrives when fresh.
“His first run is generally his better run,” he said.
“We’ve dabbled with six furlongs, but seven is his ultimate trip – and those races are limited.
“So we didn’t want to use that first run up on one we didn’t need. We were confident coming in today that he was fit and ready.”
Appleby and Doyle wasted little time in following up, with Spotify hitting the right note in the following EGA Al Taweelah Trophy, which brought the card to a close.