Singspiel, trained in Newmarket by Michael Stoute, came home first yesterday in the Dubai World Cup, the richest event in racing history with a first prize of pounds 1.4m, to take his career earnings to more than pounds 3.3 m, a record for a horse trained in Europe.
The sport's hazards for horse and rider were demonstrated both in Dubai and at Aintree, however, where the opening day of the Grand National meeting left one horse dead, another seriously injured, and three jockeys in hospital for X-rays on suspected broken bones.
In Dubai, the tiny Gulf emirate which stages the World Cup, two horses fell on the turn for home. Bijou D'Inde, trained in Yorkshire and a winner at Royal Ascot last year, was unharmed, but Hokuta Vega, a mare who had travelled from Japan for yesterday's race, broke her near-fore fetlock and was humanely destroyed.
Michael Kinane, one of the world's most successful jockeys, was riding Luso in the race. "It was pretty close down the back," he said. "The Japanese was short of room and he tried to angle out. It was a gutsy effort but there was no margin for error and he paid a high price for getting it wrong." Neither riders were seriously hurt.
The first race of the week over the big fir fences of Aintree's Grand National course also endured its share of misfortune. A melee at the first obstacle left three riders, Carl Llewellyn, Jamie Evans and Robert Thornton, in need of treatment at Liverpool's Fazakerly Hospital. Llewellyn required X-rays on his left hand, Evans injured his left knee but was passed fit to ride Mugoni Beach in tomorrow's National, while Thornton sustained a suspected fracture to his left collarbone.
Their mounts were unharmed, but later in the race, Coonawarra, ridden by the former champion jockey Richard Dunwoody, broke a leg at the most famous fence on the course, Bechers Brook, and was destroyed.
Earlier, Dunwoody was aboard One Man, one of the most popular chasers in training, when the grey broke a blood vessel in the Martell Cup, but the injury should not cause any long-term damage.
Another runner in Coonawarra's race, The Frog Prince, was pulled up with a suspected fracture high on his near-fore leg. His life hangs in the balance, as the racecourse prepares to stage what is the most famous steeplechase in the world, and also one of the most controversial.
Demonstrations by animal rights activists are now an inevitable feature of National day, and played at least a part in the abandonment of the race four years ago after two false starts.
Dry weather and firm ground will not be welcome as runners start to fall tomorrow afternoon. The course at Liverpool might appreciate a little of the rain which caused the postponement of the Dubai World Cup from its original date last Saturday.
Against all the odds, Sheikh Mohammed persuaded the runners and riders to remain in Dubai for a further five days, and his persistence was richly rewarded since he is the owner of Singspiel. The bulk of the pounds 2.5m purse for yesterday's event, put up by the sheikh, will thus remain in his bank account.Reuse content