Racing: US riders clean up in Dubai dirt: McCarron writes his name in the sand by taking the International Jockeys' Challenge

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The Independent Online
THE VIEW that America possesses the best riders in the world was cemented when Chris McCarron won the International Jockeys' Challenge at Dubai's Nad Al Sheba racetrack yesterday. McCarron, who in conjunction with Mike Smith also took the team prize, emulated his countryman Gary Stevens, who won last year's inaugural championship.

While no jockey could be said to be omnipotent after just four races, there is little doubt that McCarron represents a country with no peers when it comes to racing on flat, dirt tracks. He came out best in a conflict of styles that brought together whip-whirling Australians, tight-sitting Yanks and pneumatic Europeans.

Like the Breeders' Cup series, yesterday's races on this surface proved too much for the Europeans. Pat Eddery finished last of the 10 riders, and he and his partner, Michael Kinane, also brought up the rear in the team department.

Titles and prestige are now just about all McCarron has to chase. His cut from the winning rides and the reputed pounds 50,000 appearance money for all the participants may have meant less to a man who has partnered horses amassing prize money of dollars 163m ( pounds 110m) than the gold and silver trophy topped by a hooded falcon he received for his troubles.

In fact, the Boston-born rider was happy to redirect much of the credit for his victory to Dhruba Selvaratnam, the trainer who helped him to two victories and two thirds. 'Dhruba was hot tonight and he put me on three real live horses,' the American said. 'If I'm well mounted I've got a good chance to beat anybody. I'm very confident in myself, but I'm not cocky enough to say there is nobody any better.

'You can't get all of the world's champions here at any one time. There are so many outstanding riders, such as Kent Desormeaux, Eddie Delahoussaye and George Velasquez, and lots of others, including the Europeans.

'If the European riders have not had a lot of experience on the dirt we may have a little edge. But I don't think anyone was compromised that much by the different conditions. The key, as always, is being on the right horses at the right time.'

The men in power in Dubai hope that this is also the right sort of event to attract visitors to the United Arab Emirates. Those that come and attend a race meeting will see a rather different spectacle to anything Europe can provide.

Entry to the racecourse comes free to a crowd dressed largely in the long-flowing cotton robes of the nation. There were white ones, lilac ones, ones with the red and white checked headwear favoured by visiting Saudis, and for people of importance like Sheikh Mohammed, black garments.

Hamburgers and kiosks were nowhere to be seen, and in their place came refreshment in the shape of fruit and nuts served out of matting bags.

Almost 15,000 were present for yesterday's challenge, yet not a penny swapped hands in wagering. Islamic law bans betting and the closest visitors can come to a competitive interest at Nad Al Sheba is to fill in the pick six, which involves selecting all the winners on a card. Win this contest and a large chunk of cash or a vehicle could be coming your way.

But other bets are out of the question, which was more than a touch upsetting yesterday for those who fancied an each-way yankee on Chris McCarron.

International Jockey Challenge

1. C McCarron 36pts; 2. G Childs 29; 3. M Kinane 26; =4. Y Okabe 23; =4. R Hills 23; 6. J Murtagh 21; 7. M Plumb 19; 8. M Smith 17; 9. G Clarke 15; 10. Pat Eddery 11.

Team Challenge

1. US 53pts; 2. Australia 44; 3. United Arab Emirates 44; 4. Japan 42; 5. Europe 37. Australia finished second because G Childs rode a winner.

(Photograph omitted)