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Gun Pit proves his merit with Dubai second


Gun Pit had a point to prove in tonight’s G1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (2000m, dirt) at Meydan Racecourse and prove it he did. Caspar Fownes’ charge shrugged off any doubts about his ability to mix it on the international scene with a fine second that will likely be enough to secure a starting berth in the world’s richest race, the G1 Dubai World Cup (2000m, dirt) on 26 March.

“I’m very pleased with that, he’s come here on the big stage and he’s performed really well,” said Fownes after Gun Pit had passed the post four and a half lengths second behind the surprise front-running winner, Special Fighter.

“Every leader has won impressively on the dirt here tonight, it’s just been a huge leader’s bias so for us to just sit behind the speed and run like that is pleasing,” said the trainer. “I’m sure they’ll invite us for the World Cup now, so we’ll look forward to that.”

Gun Pit broke fast from gate one under jockey Joao Moreira who, after securing a prominent position on the fence, eased back and tailgated the front-running winner.

“It was a tactical race tonight,” said Fownes. “We had to jump him and put him on the speed and then the guy came back on our lap, slackened the speed up, and Gun Pit was raising his head up a little bit. Joao had the instruction to go out hard and then put the brakes on and the horse didn’t really enjoy that. But he chilled out during the run and he still got a bit of pressure from the horse to his outside on the corner, and then he was good the last part, I was very happy with that.”

When Special Fighter kicked for home down the Meydan straight Gun Pit was the only horse in a position to chase, and the Dubawi gelding fought on to put two and three quarter lengths on the rest of the 12-runner field. The winner stopped the clock in a track record 2m 03.09s.

“I thought at the 400 (metres) he had a shot and then the last part, with the way the track’s been running, the winner just cleared away from us. It’s his first time on that surface and first time at 2000 metres on dirt, so all in all it’s a very pleasing effort,” said Fownes.

“We knew what the track was like tonight, so from gate one we could have led but I just decided no, this is a learning race for him so put him in behind – leader’s back – which is what Joao did. The kick-back here is unreal, it’s very powerful and it gets right in their nostrils and mouth and they’re just struggling. Leader’s back – you’re going to get kick-back but it’s not as bad as three back the fence.”

Fownes is now looking forward to a Dubai World Cup run for his dirt track specialist and he feels there is more to come.

“It’s a good result for us and now we’ll look forward to the big night. I think I can improve him another couple of lengths in three weeks, so fingers crossed. The World Cup’s the last race of the night so we’ll see how the track is riding and then decide how we play it. ”

And the handler admitted to relief in light of the five-year-old’s previous overseas excursion, a last place finish in December’s G1 Champions Cup (1800m, dirt) in Japan.

“It’s a relief to see him do that,” said Fownes. “Japan was a disaster – it was a waste of a race because nothing worked out for us there and we learned nothing from it. I’d love to go to Japan and give him two or three runs on it because I think he’ll adapt to it once he knows what it’s about.

“The main thing is we’re on the world stage now and if we run in the first four or five on the big night at the end of the month it’s a big cheque for the owners.”

This was Gun Pit’s second attempt at 2000m – the gelding finished 10th in last season’s HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (turf) – and Fownes was satisfied that Gun Pit saw out the distance well. 

“Distance wasn’t a problem – Joao’s looked after him the last 150 metres once he’s got second secured.”

Faulkner claimed third as the two pre-race big guns, Mubtaahij and Keen Ice, finished fourth and seventh, respectively.

Gun Pit, with Joao Moreira on board, finishes second behind Special Fighter in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (2000m, dirt) at Meydan.
Photo 1:
Gun Pit, with Joao Moreira on board, finishes second behind Special Fighter in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (2000m, dirt) at Meydan.


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