Classic Trials Full of Surprises at the Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials Weekend


The Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials Weekend which opened Newbury Racecourse’s 2024 Flat campaign on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 April attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd and brought exciting racing with one close finish after another and several impressive performances by horses with big futures.

There were surprises in both the Classic Trials which featured on day two of the meeting. Italian runners are rare in the United Kingdom though after an unbeaten two-year-old career in her native Italy, Folgaria was allowed to take her chance in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes Group 3 for three-year-old fillies over seven furlongs. This acknowledged trial for the forthcoming One Thousand Guineas in a fortnight’s time at Newmarket had only six runners but all were good winners and there was a blanket finish.

Winning Newmarket trainer Marco Botti’s wife Lucie represented the stable at Newbury as she does in her husband’s satellite yard in Dubai. Hollie Doyle was riding Folgaria for the first time and it was her strength in the saddle that forced the filly home.

Hollie’s husband Tom Marquand had won the opening race of the day, the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes aboard Hamish, and there was a further family connection as Hamish was bred by trainer William Haggas’s father and ran in his red and white colours.

“But I don’t train him,” confessed Haggas. My wife Maureen has an obsession with Hamish. She eats, sleeps and thinks about him all the time – and rides him.  She’s the trainer.”

The finish was a replica of the result of last year’s St Simon Stakes when Hamish just held the Shadwell-bred Al Qareem who finished only a neck behind in second.

“We could have done with the ground being a bit softer,” said Haggas happy to give his wife and his eight-year-old gelding all the credit. The victory was the fifth in a row for Hamish.  His last defeat was in a photo at Newbury.

The colts’ trial, the Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes, was won by another gelding, Esquire, trained in the North by David O’Meara. Esquire’s victory has no consequence on the Guineas because as a gelding he is ineligible for all the Classics. But as trainer O’Meara said “There are always good races for good horses.”

Esquire was the first clear cut winner of the day though O’Meara had not been sure that he would stay the seven furlong trip. He did so in style from a host of pursuers whose own Classic chances probably disappeared.

The future is bright though for Economics, winner of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes for three-year-old colts and fillies over a mile.  He is a serious Derby contender if he comes through his next trial, the Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes at York.

Even more striking, in the manner of his wide margin victory, was Godolphin’s first winner of the meeting, Hidden Law, in the Darley Maiden Stakes over a mile and three furlongs for three-year-olds.

“Sheikh Mohammed will decide whether he takes the Classic Trial route,” said Godolphin’s retained jockey William Buick. “But I would say there’s a lot more to come and he’s bred to stay at least this trip. This was only his second run and he was unlucky to just get beat on his debut.”

The opening day of the meeting also saw success for the Dubai Royal Family with Teraabb ridden to victory in a tight finish by Jamie Spencer in the familiar yellow and black colours of H.H Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in the GBP 32,500 Dubai Duty Free Full of Surprises Handicap, a seven furlong contest for three-year olds.

“I’d have been an unlucky loser,” said Spencer. “He is bred to get further than this seven furlongs and I’m sure he’ll improve over a longer trip.”

Racegoers on both days of this popular fixture were able to sample Arabic Hospitality in the Dubai Duty Free Marquee where there were also opportunities to win fabulous prizes including free entry into the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise and Millenium Millionaire prize draws adding to the excitement of the occasion.

Dubai Duty Free’s Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin said, “The Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials Weekend never fails to produce quality racing which help elevate our brand on the international stage.  We look forward to following the progress of many of the bright prospects we have seen on the track this weekend as the season unfolds.”

The Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials, Day 2, Saturday 20th April, 2024, at Newbury Racecourse, UK.
Photograph by Sam Stephenson, 07880 703135,


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