Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan Recap

The enormously valuable Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan on Saturday was notable for two extraordinary occurrences – five of the eight races were won by Japan (including a dead-heat), and every favorite was beaten amid a tide of longshot victories.

The big event, the $12 million G1 Dubai World Cup Horse Racing, was won by US challenger Country Grammer for trainer Bob Baffert, as odds-on shot Life Is Good failed to see out the ten furlongs on his first start at the distance.

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Country Grammer conquers the World

Most people expected the Dubai World Cup, one of the most valuable races in the world and the centrepiece of the five G1s run at Meydan on Saturday afternoon, to be won by an American horse. And so it came to pass – although it wasn’t the one everyone had in mind.

The expectation was that odds-on favorite Life Is Good would confirm himself one of the best horses in the world, but he patently failed to stay the distance on his first start at ten furlongs and was run down inside the final furlong by 15-2 chance Country Grammer, who provided trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Frankie Dettori with their fourth wins in the Dubai World Cup. The time was a tick under 2:05.

His compatriot Hot Rod Charlie, who looked out of it at the top of the stretch, rallied gamely on the rail to be second, beaten a length and three-quarters but still a half-length ahead of Japanese runner Chuwa Wizard, who deprived Life Is Good of the bronze medal on the line.

“The race panned out exactly as I thought until the half-mile pole, when I felt Life Is Good was getting away from me,” said Dettori. “I thought I’d try something different, so I got him on the right leg and went to the outside for fresh air and filled his lungs. A furlong out, I knew we had it.”

As the field moved into the stretch it looked as though it was Life Is Good who had the race in his pocket after another bravura display of front-running, for he was clear as he turned for home, but the petrol ran out for all to see at the furlong pole and he was soon running on the spot as the posse closed in. A drop back to nine furlongs is on the agenda now.

The last of the four US horses home was Midnight Bourbon, who followed Life Is Good before flattening out a furlong from home and fading into fifth place.

Country Grammer, who runs for owner Amr Zedan in the same silks as disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, was winning his second top-level contest after his victory in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup in May. This success took his earnings past $10 million.

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Dubai Sheema Classic

Shahryar shows the way

On an afternoon thoroughly dominated by Japan, whose horses claimed five of the eight races, it was Shahryar who ran off with their biggest prize when battling gamely to win the Dubai Sheema Classic.

The four-year-old had won last year’s G1 Japanese Derby and put himself firmly on the international stage with this success under jockey Cristian Demuro, after being given the perfect lead-out by his compatriot Authority, who towed the field along at a moderate gallop and still held the call in mid-stretch.

They were stacking up behind him, though, and it was 13-2 third-choice Shahryar who found the telling change of gear, driving on to seal the deal before the favourite Yibir – not given a particularly imaginative ride by William Buick off a slowish pace – came from the back with his usual late thrust, only to come up a neck short. Authority had enough in the tank to hold on to third place, half a length away.

“It is amazing to win a race like this, and amazing also to win on a Japanese horse,” said Demuro, whose willing partner covered the mile and a half in 2:26 and four-fifths. “They are showing they are the best in the world.”

The long-term objective for Shahryar, a son of the mighty Deep Impact, is likely to be the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, a race Japan has never won despite many attempts, not least with Deep Impact himself (third) in 2006.

“We were very confident before the race,” said trainer Hideaki Fujiwara. “It’s been a great night for Japan, I’m so proud of our horses.”

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Japanese Derby winner Shahryar takes the Dubai Sheema Classic #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horses #Horse #Sports #FYP

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Dubai Turf

Too close to call in Turf

The British contingent had just one victory to cheer all day, and even that was only a half-victory as last year’s winner Lord North shared the spoils in a dead-heat for the Dubai Turf with the inevitable Japanese contender Panthalassa, technology being unable to separate them after a long wait for the stewards’ verdict.

For all but the last few yards it looked as though the front-running Panthalassa was set to give trainer Yoshito Yahagi his third win of the day. He slipped the field a quarter of a mile out and kept up the gallop all the way to the line, but so did Lord North and fellow Japanese runner Vin De Garde, who closed down the leader in the last 50 yards before the trio flashed past the post together, stopping the clock in 1:45 and four-fifths.

After a few moments it became clear that Vin De Garde had finished third, beaten a nose, but it took a lot longer for the announcement to come that the camera couldn’t split 100-30 second-favourite Lord North – ridden by Frankie Dettori – and 8-1 chance Panthalassa, ridden by Yutaka Yoshida.

“I’ve never known a wait like that for a photo-finish,” said the flamboyant Yahagi. For Lord North’s trainer John Gosden, it was a relief simply to have Lord North back to his best.

“I’m thrilled with our boy,” he said. “He’s been off for a year with a very nasty throat infection and we’ve managed to get him back just in time.”

There could well be a rematch between the dead-heaters in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, a race Lord North won in 2020.

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Lord North returns from a layoff stronger than ever to defend his Dubai Turf title #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horses #Horse #Sports #FYP

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Dubai Golden Shaheen

Switzerland the Golden boy

Away from the ‘big three’ races, the card was characterised by longshot winners, with 20-1 shot Switzerland springing a surprise in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, making his breakthrough at the top level and becoming the only locally-trained winner of the day.

The eight-year-old, the oldest in the field, sat in midfield under Tadhg O’Shea as US raider Drain The Clock set swift fractions, but the leader was done with a furlong to run and Switzerland cruised past him, keeping on well to win by a length and three-quarters, stopping the clock in 1:11 and change. Japanese speedball Red Le Zele and the US-trained favourite Dr Schivel closed fast and late but could never get to grips with the winner, half a length separating them at the line with Red Le Zele runner-up for the second year running.

“It’s a fantastic result,” said trainer Bhupat Seemar, in his first year with a licence. “We knew there’d be plenty of pace so we wanted to pick up the pieces. We’ll look to bring him back next year and you never know, even at eight there could be more improvement in him.”

Al Quoz Sprint

Case closes it out in style

Five nations were represented in the winner’s circle during the afternoon and Ireland got on the board thanks to A Case Of You in the Al Quoz Sprint, the second G1 score of the four-year-old’s career following his win in last year’s Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

That victory came in deep mud, but A Case Of You showed his versatility in that respect when skimming over the good ground at Meydan, going to the lead under Ronan Whelan with a quarter of a mile to run and turning back every challenger. At the line the 14-1 chance was a length and a quarter clear of Happy Romance, with odds-on favourite Man Of Promise a neck back in third. The time was a brisk 1:08 and four-fifths.

“He’s a very, very good horse,” said trainer Adrian McGuinness. “We might get some credit now. People said it was a weak Abbaye he won, but one thing is for sure, it wasn’t a weak race today. His long-term target is another crack at the Breeders’ Cup.”

UAE Derby

Crown rules okay

A contender for the Kentucky Derby emerged from an unlikely source when the Japanese-trained Crown Pride collected the 100 Road to the Kentucky Derby points on offer to the winner of the UAE Derby, booking his place in the gate at Churchill Downs if connections plan to travel. The victory was trainer Koichi Shintani’s first at stakes level.

The local hope Summer Is Tomorrow set quick fractions and, as his rivals fell away behind him, notably the US-trained joint-favourite Pinehurst, who stopped to a walk in the stretch, it looked as though he’d done enough to hold on.

However, Damian Lane had kept something in reserve aboard 12-1 shot Crown Pride, who rallied to the lead inside the last sixteenth and won going away by two and three-quarter lengths from the weary Summer Is Tomorrow, stopping the clock in 1:59 and four-fifths. Island Falcon was a never-nearer third, a length and a quarter further back. The other US raider, Gilded Age, was 13th of the 16 runners.

“It took a while to get him going, get him in a rhythm, but I was confident a long way out,” said Lane, a leading jockey in Australia having his first ride at the World Cup.

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Crown Pride upsets Pinehurts in the UAE Derby and earns 100 points for the KY Derby #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horses #Horse #Sports #FYP

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Godolphin Mile

Bathrat springs a shock

The day started with the biggest shock of all, as 66-1 outsider Bathrat Leon began the wave of Japanese domination with a gate-to-wire victory in the Godolphin Mile.

The four-year-old had finished no closer than ninth on his five previous starts, but every horse has his day and this was Bathrat Leon’s. He quickened clear on the run to the quarter-pole and never looked likely to be caught, barrelling in by a length and a quarter from local hope Desert Wisdom, who in turn had three and a quarter lengths to spare over second-favourite Storm Damage. The 6-4 favourite Al Nefud was last of 16; the clock showed a tick over 1:36.

“The plan was to go forward and just go quick. Everything worked out and the horse kept going,” said jockey Ryusei Sakai. “This was my dream and dreams come true.”

It was yet another success on the global stage for trainer Yoshito Yahagi, whose double at last year’s Breeders’ Cup with Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine will live long in the memory.

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Bathrat Leon goes gate to wire to win the 2022 Godolphin Mile #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horses #Horse #Sports #FYP

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Dubai Gold Cup

Foolish stays the course

Yoshito Yahagi struck again 35 minutes later when Stay Foolish, a winner at the Saudi Cup last month, added to his overseas earnings when coming late to land the marathon Dubai Gold Cup.

Until Stay Foolish unleashed his finishing kick, it looked for all the world as if the odds-on favourite Manobo would extend his unbeaten record to six and give Godolphin a welcome win on their showpiece occasion.

However, Stay Foolish swept past him to win by half a length, stopping the clock in 3:19 and three-fifths, and Godolphin would go winless through the afternoon. The longshot Al Madhar stayed on for third while never rating a real threat, beaten another two lengths.

“I thought we were done,” said jockey Christophe Lemaire. “Stay Foolish doesn’t have a big turn of foot, but when the Godolphin horse struggled close to the finish my horse got a lot of confidence and moved forward again.”

Yahagi now has an eye on a trip to Britain for the G1 Gold Cup over two and a half miles at Royal Ascot in June, which could well mean a rematch with Manobo.

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