Never in the field of equine conflict has so much hinged on so little. With the distribution of $10 million at stake three noses passed the post in almost perfect unison here last night – and it was barely by their nostrils that the camera favoured Gloria De Campeao over Lizard's Desire and Allybar.
These horses might almost have been nominated in the architect's plans for Meydan so harmoniously did their origins conform with the intentions of the man behind both the Dubai World Cup and its staggering new venue.
The winner, trained in France by Pascal Bary, was bred, owned and ridden by Brazilians and has also been to Chicago and Singapore since last racing on home soil. The second had come from South Africa while the third was upholding local honour through Mahmoud al-Zarooni and Ahmed Ajtebi, newly appointed as second trainer and jockey to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin stable.
It was not just the prize money that was unprecedented. Seldom can any jockey have betrayed his emotions as vividly as Kevin Shea, whose late surge on Lizard's Desire prompted a congratulatory gesture from Ajtebi. Shea instantly began whooping and punching the air only to discover that Tiago Pereira had remained lurking behind Ajtebi's mount on the rail. When the verdict was called, Shea swiped the air in fury.
It was due reward for an expert front-running ride from a jockey who owes his international experience to the fidelity of this horse's connections. By slowing them down in front, Pereira ensured that Twice Over ran too free, first getting himself into traffic and then stuck out wide,
Al-Zarooni won the Godolphin Mile with his first official runner in his own
right, Calming Influence, and William Buick provided sensational vindication for John Gosden's decision to fast-track him as stable jockey by winning the Sheema Classic on Dar Re Mi – only his fourth ride for his new boss.
Buick, 21, coolly manoeuvred across from a wide draw before the first bend and timed his challenge in the straight to hold Japanese filly Buena Vista by three-quarters of a length. "He rode her beautifully," Gosden said. "He got a nice position from the gate, and sat chilly at the head of the lane – it's a long straight here and you don't want to be in too much of a hurry."
Gosden played his own part, bringing this filly into withering heat after an awkward British winter. "This is right up there with winning the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, or the Derby," he admitted. "We'll look at all the smart races, the Coronation Cups and King Georges."
After Calming Influence's win Ajtebi and al-Zarooni returned to an enthusiastic reception from their compatriots. Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, said: "To have Mahmoud winning with his first runner is huge. Sheikh Mohammed has put his trust in him and to start with a winner at Meydan is very special."
But Godolphin's most feasible Kentucky Derby prospect, Mendip, lost his unbeaten record to Musir in the UAE Derby. The winner was produced from last place by Christophe Soumillon – and rather too casually for the liking of Willie Supple who was forced to snatch up and made his displeasure known afterwards.
So it looks as though the Kentucky Derby is one ambition that must remain beyond Sheikh Mohammed for another year. But anyone who can build a place like this in 24 months, and be rewarded with commensurate drama is not going to worry if winning one horserace happens to take a little longer.
Domestic action: Penitent has bookmakers feeling sorry
After a Cheltenham Festival that most decidedly swung the way of the bookmakers, first blood of the new Flat turf season went to punters as Penitent landed a monster gamble to take the William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster yesterday. And the William Haggas-trained four-year-old, who was 8-1 a week ago and started 3-1 favourite, won as a perceived "good thing" should. Always going well, he eased past Prime Exhibit (12-1) going to the final furlong and stretched clear to score by two- and-a-half lengths.
"The race worked out perfectly," said jockey Johnny Murtagh. "He's very straightforward, he's improving and he enjoyed the easy ground." Fifteen minutes later, the Cheveley Park Stud colourbearer's Newmarket stablemate and galloping companion South Easter took a Listed contest at Kempton.
It was a good day, too, for the Yorkshire-based trainer Richard Fahey, for whom Prime Exhibit's bold show was preceded by victories for Irish Heartbeat, another well-backed favourite, and the two-year-old Chiswick Bey, and followed by Red Jade. Stable jockey Paul Hanagan rode all three winners and made it a four-timer on Inxile for Dandy Nicholls.
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