Cliche broadcasts benefits of Dubai

ROYAL ASCOT: The meeting's centrepiece, the Gold Cup, goes to a horse wintered in the Gulf who is too hot for the favourite
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The Independent Online
Phase one of the Godolphin experiment has been completed with proof positive that horses wintered in Dubai are a potent force in British racing. Yesterday the team's Classic Cliche captured the Gold Cup and Sheikh Mohammed launched phase two.

Dubai's crown prince is seeking to establish his homeland as a racing centre of global importance and he revealed that approaches have been made from fellow owners to send their animals to the Emirate for tuning over the cold months. There is no greater sandwich board for the health properties of the Gulf than Classic Cliche, who has now won the Dante Stakes over 10 furlongs, the St Leger and the most coveted marathon in Flat racing.

Yesterday, the colt was asked to topple the goliath of the staying ranks, Double Trigger, and it was not a question that taxed him too greatly. From the safety of the grandstands there were plenty willing to speculate that Jason Weaver on Double Trigger had gone too slowly in front, allowing Classic Cliche to conserve his finishing kick in the warm bosom of the main pack. Certainly the odds-on favourite had little with which to retaliate in the furious run to the line.

Michael Kinane, on the other hand, was the focus of much praise, though even the jockey himself admitted his partner made it simple for the man at the controls. "We went to sleep nicely early on and when we challenged my fellow just hung a bit to the centre of the course," he said. "But he won very comfortably. He was the classiest horse in the race."

Sheikh Mohammed was pleased his colt had shown such versatility. "Good- class horses like him stay," he said. "We have proved a point and now we will go back in distance." The circled race for Classic Cliche is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and there is a slight chance that the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes will be a pit stop along the way.

The Gold Cup rather ruined the British strike-rate of Sylvain Guillot, the rider of third-placed Nononito, who had gone into the race with a perfect two-race record. The gentlemen of Britain stereotypically do not look too kindly on their French counterparts (perhaps because their women folk have the opposite emotion) and Britain's jockeys are unlikely to reverse the trend. Following Olivier Peslier's cool performance the previous afternoon, Guillot too suggested he had kept his nerves in the fridge overnight with victory on Tulipa in a non-vintage Ribblesdale Stakes. The 25-year-old's only previous foray to these shores had been to steer Dernier Empereur to success in the Champion Stakes two years ago. A three- day suspension for his use of the whip did not appear to have ruined Guillot's day.

Tulipa's victory had ignited a Maktoum benefit. Four races went to the family, while the Norfolk Stakes was collected by Tipsy Creek, the property of Abdullah Ali, an associate of the brothers. Mr Ali, we were told, works in construction and owns something that was unknown in the Emirates just three decades ago, a string of car washes. The remaining event also went to a son of the desert, Mohammed Alqatami's Samraan surviving the scrimmaging of the King George V Handicap.

The identity of the world's most powerful owners has not been lost on Ben Hanbury. While the trainer's Tipsy Creek circled in the paddock there was no doubt where the best turned-out award should go. The horse didn't look bad either.

Hanbury was his usual neat self, dotted with more badges than Baden-Powell and sporting a yellow carnation to match his socks. Even as the Newmarket trainer led his sweating beast back into the winners' enclosure the ensemble was undisturbed.

Hanbury had placed a morning advertisement in one of the trade papers, outlining his many skills, and here was the greatest commercial of them all. He did not waste the opportunity. There were very few bearded men from the east who did not feel his palm in their hand.