There was a big shock in store for those punters who took the long odds-on about the in-form Mahbooba landing the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes at Meydan on Friday January 20, the Mike De Kock-trained filly being tagged close home by Dubai debutante First City in what was a sensationally close affair, writes Elliot Slater.

Time might well prove that in losing to the former David Simcock-trained six-year-old Mahbooba was anything but disgraced, but that won’t help fill the empty pockets of those who followed horse racing tips and rushed in to support the perceived ‘good thing’ based on her previous outing at the track a fortnight earlier when fairly bolting up by four-and-a-half-lengths from Lahjood in the Al Rashadiya Trial.

De Kock has always held Mahbooba in high regard and for much of the mile contest on Friday she appeared to have all bases covered, striding confidently to the lead a furlong-and-half from home and looking to have most of her rivals in trouble. A glance behind however saw First City ( a well backed 10/1 among racing betting tips), racing for the first time for Dubai-based handler Ali Rashid Al Raihe, finishing  with  some purpose under a power-packed Royston Ffrench ride, and as the line approached it was clear there would be little between the pair.

Pulling four-and-a-half-lengths clear of the rest, the result went to the closest of photos which eventually revealed that Ffrench’s mount had just edged out the Christophe Soumillon-ridden favourite by a flared nostril. A fine third to Sir Henry Cecil’s Timepiece in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket’s July meeting last summer, First City has clearly settled in well to her new surroundings and could come back to Meydan for Super Saturday and later, (together with Mahbooba), for one of the hugely valuable races on Dubai World Cup night, March 31.

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