Cigar too hot for his Soul mate

RACING: A dazzling performance in Dubai wins the world's richest race, but today the attention turns to the jumps at Aintree
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The Independent Online
RICHARD EDMONDSON

It was difficult to find the losers. Cigar's win in the Dubai World Cup yesterday was a performance that grated with only the malevolent few. America's great horse kept his reputation intact, the crowd saw the stunning animal they had been promised and, perhaps most of all, Sheikh Mohammed was granted a result which will give his nation maximum exposure around the world.

They had never seen Cigar in Dubai, but those that thronged to Nad Al Sheba in their dish-dashes on a breezy evening under ribbons of cloud had heard the stories. From the moment he stepped into the parade ring the big horse was applauded, the ripple coming each time he passed in front of the stands.

Cigar himself looked steeled for the occasion. He stared into the crowd with the sort of look you do not return in wharfside taverns. Two attendants held the reins at his bulging neck, hoping perhaps that the horse would not twitch and remove them from terra firma. Behind him, the beige-stained tail reached almost to the floor.

Cigar was accompanied to the start by his old pony friend, Snowball, and looked as though he was wading through a drift as the stalls opened. The horse slipped and veered, a moment which his jockey, Jerry Bailey, considered cost him two places into the first turn.

L'Carriere and the Japanese horse, Lively Mount, blazed away at the front, but at the beginning of the straight Cigar had recovered himself while still evidently as full of life as a beer can dropped from a shelf. He hit the front and characteristically cocked his head as if listening to a whisperer before the most serious challenge ever to his 14-race long winning streak emerged.

Burt Bacharach's Soul Of The Matter loomed alongside in a manner which suggested that Cigar would now have to show if courage was as much a part of his armoury as sheer ability. He answered gloriously. "It was the most he had ever been challenged in the stretch," Bill Mott, Cigar's trainer, said. "We've often wondered what would happen if a horse would run up and look him in the eye. Tonight we found out.

"He showed the courage it takes to be a true champion. That was sheer grit."

Bailey reported that Cigar had been down to the stub end for the first time in his dirt career. "I was a bit worried about the move he [Soul Of The Matter] made, but when he didn't go by me I knew I could have gone round another time and he wouldn't have beaten me," he said. "I don't think it was his best performance but I do believe it was his best effort."

The result was of little reassurance to those who believe British horses lose in North America's Breeders' Cup series because of the travelling rather than because of inferiority. L'Carriere finished third for the United States, who filled the frame at an American-style track that is routinely dominated by American riders (in the International Jockeys' Challenge) and now by American horses.

Geoff Wragg's Pentire was Europe's best in fourth, while the home side's quartet was led home by Tamayaz in fifth. This did not have Sheikh Mohammed blubbering into his handkerchief, however.

The Dubai World Cup has been staged with much fanfare and even more expense to the Maktoums, but may not have been significantly damaging to a family which is said to benefit by more than $20m a day while the oil keeps flowing. The racing extravaganza may have been the equivalent cost of having the neighbours round for a cheese and wine evening.

Cigar has now earned $7.6m dollars for Paulson but he may acquire much more for the rulers of Dubai. He may have helped establish the Emirates with the global respectability this race was designed to attract.

NAD AL SHEBA

3.00 GMT: (1m 2f Dubai World Cup)

1. CIGAR J Bailey

2. Soul Of The Matter G Stevens

3. L'Carriere J Chavez

Also: Pentire (4th). 11 ran. 1/2, 8. (The winner is trained by W Mott in the United States). British Tote Dividends: win pounds 1.60; places pounds 1.10, pounds 3.80, 4.60. Dual Forecast: pounds 15.70. Trio: pounds 9.90.

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