Racing: McEvoy storms to desert glory

Roses In May justifies favouritism in world's richest event while Godolphin celebrate Blues And Royals upset

Roses In May, the horse, and roses in May, the dream, both bloomed in the desert yesterday. The first was no real surprise; Americans win the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race, as often as not and Dale Romans' charge Roses In May was the only genuinely top-class performer in last night's field, started favourite, and won by a comfortable three lengths.

Roses In May, the horse, and roses in May, the dream, both bloomed in the desert yesterday. The first was no real surprise; Americans win the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race, as often as not and Dale Romans' charge Roses In May was the only genuinely top-class performer in last night's field, started favourite, and won by a comfortable three lengths.

But the second provided a genuine element of the unexpected. The Godolphin team came to the meeting with one hot Kentucky Derby prospect and left with a completely different one. Shamardal, last year's champion European two-year-old, flopped in spectacular style in the UAE Derby, but even as he trailed in a sorry ninth of the 12 runners under Frankie Dettori, his unconsidered stablemate Blues And Royals, with Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle, powered away by 12 lengths, a victory as dramatic and unexpected as the defeat of his comrade-in-arms.

It has long been the ambition of Sheikh Mohammed, the man who has developed Dubai as a racing nation and his own Godolphin operation as a global force, to beat the Stateside invaders in their own backyard by taking their premier prize, and it will now fall to the supersub to carry the royal-blue silks at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. And, in what is considered a wide-open Run For The Roses, he is now 10-1 fourth favourite.

Despite his starting price of 33-1 yesterday, there was no semblance of a fluke about the colt's stunning success. Sham-ardal, the 11-8 favourite, broke smartly from the stalls, was harried in the front rank by Gypsy Johnny and Durban Thunder and raced overkeenly in the early stages.

But as his effort dissipated in a matter of strides, Blues And Royals' began, to mighty effect. McEvoy seized the initiative on the turn for home by nipping through a narrow opening between the rails and his rivals, and the further up the long straight he went, the further he drew clear. The American-trained Marenostrum, a top-level winner in his native Brazil, beat the Dubai-based Parole Board for the minor place, but it was in effect a one-horse race.

"He'd just been going quietly about his business at home," said McEvoy, "but he travelled throughout the race and showed a great attitude. There was only half a gap to go through on the home turn but he was going that well he just went through."

Blues And Royals' sole previous win came in a York maiden, but the transfer to a dirt surface, the application of a visor and the step up to nine furlongs clearly suited him. "We hoped he might get a place here tonight," said a bemused Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, "but he had been training well and I'm sure he'll give a good account in Kentucky."

So does the American rider Pat Valenzuela, in Marenostrum's saddle. "I thought mine ran a great race," he said, "but all I saw of the winner was dust. He must be some horse." The US-bred Blues And Royals, a son of Honour And Glory, will be the sixth bearer of the royal-blue silks to take part in the Kentucky Derby; the best to date has been China Visit, sixth five years ago.

If plans for Blues And Royals have now perforce been revised, those for Shamardal, who has been struck from the betting for both the Kentucky Derby and his other top- level engagement, the 2,000 Guineas, are in disarray. "He ran too fresh, too fast," said Dettori. "To have carried on at that speed he would have needed to be a motorbike."

In the night's $6 million dirt showpiece Roses In May, the 11-8 favourite, became the fifth American-trained winner in 10 runnings. The big, black five-year-old, ridden by John Velazquez, started to pile on the pressure from the front in the 10-furlong contest fully half a mile out and led home a clean sweep; his compatriots Dynever and Choctaw Nation finished second and third, with Britain's Jack Sullivan a creditable fourth.

Cosmopolitan honours were evenly spread through the card. There was one triumph for Britain as the Andrew Balding-trained Phoenix Reach added the Sheema Classic to his Canadian International and Hong Kong Cup by beating Godolphin's Razkalla and another British-trained runner, Collier Hill. Martin Dwyer, last at half-way, gave the 5-1 winner a coolride in the 12-furlong turf event. "I took a chance and dropped across from a wide draw," he said. "But I was following the horses I wanted to be following. I was lucky with the gaps, but when I asked him, he took off."

South Africa took the Mile with Grand Emporium, and there was a first at the fixture for Australia through Elvstroem in the Dubai Duty Free. America's Saratoga County won the Sprint.

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