The best horse in the world, Invasor, produced a performance worthy of his billing as he launched his 2007 campaign with a remarkable win in Florida on Saturday night, overcoming top weight and difficult passage to take a nine-furlong Grade One dirt contest at Gulfstream Park.
Sheikh Hamdan's five-year-old came off the final turn full of running but boxed in. His jockey, Fernando Jara, had to check; his mount clipped heels, propped and lost momentum, still trapped on the rails. A gap appeared, the 2-5 favourite shot through, went after the leaders, caught them with half a furlong to run and accelerated away.
"I was worried when Fernando came up the inside because when you're that sort of favourite nobody wants to open the door for you," Kieran McLaughlin, his trainer, said. "It was scary, but he just showed what a superior horse he is. He finds a way to win every time."
It must have looked worse than it felt. "Being in tight wasn't a concern," said Jara. "I had a lot of horse to go on and a lot of horse at the end. He has a really big heart."
Invasor, who topped the World Thoroughbred Rankings after his Breeders' Cup triumph, has now won 10 from 11, the last five at top level. His only defeat came when fourth to year-younger Discreet Cat in last year's UAE Derby and he now heads for the Dubai World Cup, and a rematch with unbeaten Discreet Cat.
"It's going to be exciting," added McLaughlin. "He wants a mile and a quarter and will be at equal weights with Discreet Cat this year."
Nap: Bedlam Boy (Hexham 3.30)
NB: Mystic Man (Lingfield 2.40)