The world's richest race has not, in recent years at least, been the world's most charismatic contest. But last night the Dubai World Cup again produced a winner worthy of a glittering global occasion. Animal Kingdom, the hero of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, produced a thoroughly authoritative display as he sailed down the Meydan straight with his ears pricked to take the £3.68 million first prize by two lengths.
The injury-plagued chestnut five-year-old has been nursed back to his best with the utmost patience and skill by his trainer, Maryland-based Graham Motion. Aged three, the horse suffered a knee fracture and, last year, a pelvic problem which ruled him out of the Dubai showpiece.
But Motion always kept the faith in his charge's innate talent. And though Animal Kingdom may not have had the absolute brilliance of a Cigar or a Dubai Millennium, he is certainly a horse of their magnetic stripe. As fellow US challenger Royal Delta set steady early fractions, Animal Kingdom's rider, Joel Rosario, was able to gain ground from a tricky wide draw without stress. Down the back stretch he had only the mare in front and by the home straight was in control.
"I couldn't believe it when he turned for home," said Motion, "he was going so easily. He's just an extraordinary animal."
The runner-up spot went to the admirable Red Cadeaux from Ed Dunlop's yard, with Planteur, another Newmarket runner, third in a photo. Animal Kingdom, owned by American and Australian interests, will continue his world tour in Britain, with the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot on his agenda.
He was an eighth World Cup winner for the US in 18 runnings. Among the more recent converts to the international stage in Dubai are the Maktoum family's traditional arch-rivals from Co Tipperary, the Coolmore alliance and trainer Aidan O'Brien. And of the five Ballydoyle runners two won, St Nicholas Abbey in the Sheema Classic and Lines Of Battle in the UAE Derby.
The admirable St Nicholas Abbey showed he is still, at six, one of the planet's best mile-and-a-half horses on turf. Yesterday's £1.8m prize was his fifth top-level success and fine compensation for his narrow defeat by Cirrus des Aigles 12 months earlier. This time, O'Brien's son Joseph kept his mount close to the pace before heading for home early in the straight and readily holding the Japanese star Gentildonna. "I always thought he was better coming late," said O'Brien, "but the lads seem to have worked him out much better than me. He's more mature now, so maybe he's easier to ride handy."
Lines Of Battle, with Ryan Moore up, overcame a farcically slow early pace on Meydan's artificial surface and is now bound for the Kentucky Derby, a race yet to be conquered by a European runner and increasingly on the Coolmore wish-list.
At home, the rearranged Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster proved well worth the wait, particularly for horses based in Malton, which provided the first four home. In a pulsating finish Levitate, from the yard of John Quinn, snatched the spoils by a short-head from Going Global (Brian Ellison), with last year's winner, Brae Hill, a nose third, three-parts of a length in front of his Richard Fahey stablemate Justonefortheroad.
Had it not been for the snow that caused the postponement of the mile handicap for a week, Levitate would not even have run yesterday. He missed the cut among the original entry, but after the race was reopened he sneaked into the field by one, off a bottom weight further reduced – and vitally, as it turned out – by rider Darren Egan's 3lb apprentice allowance.
In an odd demonstration of medical variance, the Irish champion jockey, Davy Russell, has been ruled out of the Grand National meeting by the British Horseracing Authority's doctors after suffering a collapsed lung in a fall during the Cheltenham Festival. But the Irish Turf Club's specialists are happy for him to ride – he will be in action at Fairyhouse today – so he will be at Thurles and Navan instead of Aintree.