The clear-cut winner on World Cup Day, in dollars or dirhams, was the home team, Godolphin Racing. But the emotional victory belonged to Japan.
Godolphin, owned by Sheik Mohammed bin Rasheed al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and mastermind behind the World Cup, won three of the seven Thoroughbred races on the card and finished third in two others, including the Cup itself.
But the Japanese standard-bearers, by finishing first and second in the $10 million, Group 1 World Cup -- the world's richest race -- provided a bright spot for their beleaguered nation, which eagerly follows the races.
Singapore, South Africa and England accounted for the other four race victories as the United States sustained a rare wipeout. Horses who had run in Hong Kong did well throughout the card.
Transcend, an up-and-coming Japanese star, led the classy international field down the stretch in the World Cup. Only in the final yards, with a last, desperate effort, was jockey Mirco Demuro able to get his mount, Victoire Pisa, up to win by a half length.
Monterosso, from the Godolphin stable, finished third.
Sheik Mohammed, normally reserved even when his own horses win big races, was seen to give a fist-pump of approval at the Japanese success. And tears flowed freely among the Japanese contingent in the winner's circle.
"I just wanted to give a good ride to my horse for the Japanese people," Demuro said. "But to win makes this the most fantastic race of my life."
Trainer Katsuhiko Sumii added through an interpreter, "As you know, there was an earthquake and tsunami in Japan and people are very down. But thanks to Sheik Mohammed, we had three horses in the Dubai World Cup and all of them would give the Japanese hope. But to win is the greatest gift for the Japanese people."
The third Japanese entry, Buena Vista, appeared to be involved in some severe bumping and traffic problems midway down the backstretch and never worked her way back into contention. "The race played out terribly," said her rider, Ryan Moore.
Of the three United States starters, only Gio Ponti earned purse money, finishing fifth. Richard's Kid finished 12th and Fly Down got home 13th.
Tom Queally, who rode the well-fancied Twice Over to a ninth-place finish, added, "It was a messy race for everyone and I never got into it at any stage."
For Godolphin, third place in the Cup was a bonus after an already successful night.
Jockey Frankie Dettori got the home team off to a flying start with his trademark flying leap after winning the $1 million Godolphin Mile aboard Skysurfers by a half length over Mufarrh. Red Jazz finished third. "We knew he was coming into the race in good form," winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor said after Dettori's famous dismount. "He was traveling well turning for home. Mufarrah was very tough but I was always confident that he and Frankie would get there."
Godolphin came right back in the next race, the $2 million UAE Derby, as their Oaks-winning filly, Khawlah, added the Derby for an unusual double with a nose win over Irish-trained Master of Hounds. Mahbooba was third for the South African team. Suroor gave the ride on Khawlah to youngster Mickael Barzalona and he did the job with "Plan B." "It didn't go at all like I'd hoped," the rider said, "because she couldn't get any cover. But she got me out of trouble. She was very brave and finished really well. It's a dream to win here." Khawlah, by Cape Cross, is the first filly ever to win the UAE Derby. Now, said Suroor, "We will target the Epsom Oaks."
The final score for Godolpin came on the next-last race of the evening, the $5 million Sheema Classic as Rewilding roared down the middle of the course to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Redwood, with Calvados Blues third. Rewilding, a 4-year-old Tiger Hill colt, finished the 2,410 meters, or about 1 1/2 miles, in course-record time of 2:29.01. "It was just a fantastic feeling," said Dettori of his second win on the night. "He hit a flat spot at the top of the stretch but once we worked through the gears, he ran on well."
The horses who finished 1-2 in last December's Hong Kong Sprint both won on the World Cup card.
J J the Jet Plane, a South African runner who won in Hong Kong, had shown a dislike for the artificial surface at Meydan, returned to the grass and fought through traffic to win the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint narrowly over War Artist.
And the Hong Kong runner-up, Singapore-based Rocket Man, rocketed to victory in the $2 million Golden Shaheen over the all-weather course.
Presvis, based in England for trainer Luca Cumani, won the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, rallying from well back with an aggressive stretch move by jockey Ryan Moore. The 7-year-old Sakhee gelding was making his third run at the Duty Free after finishing second in 2009 and 11th last year. River Jetez, a South African-trained mare, finished second by 3/4 length and 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Wigmore Hall. "Ryan always rides him like that," said winning trainer Luca Cumani, "and he was absolutely fantastic with him tonight. He has to be ridden that way and it's always a question whether he gets the gaps or not."
Cumani said Presvis will head to Hong Kong and a date in the Q E II Cup next month. He won that race two years ago and finished fifth last year. Then, Cumani said, it will be on to the Singapore Cup.
Kentucky Derby preps
Pants On Fire pulled off a mild upset in Saturday's $1 million, Grade II Louisiana Derby at Fairgrounds. After attending the pace, the colt surged to the lead in the stretch, beating off challenges by the favorite, Mucho Macho Man, and then long-shot contender Nehro. At the wire, jockey Rosie Napravnik had Pants On Fire a neck in front of Nehro with Mucho Macho Man another half-length back in third. Elite Alex rallied from last of 12 to finish fourth with Machen fifth and Wilkinson sixth. Pants On Fire, a Kentucky-bred Jump Start colt out of the Cape Town mare Cabo de Noche, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.92. Pants On Fire won for only the second time in eight career starts. He was second, beaten a head in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in January but then finished sixth in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 19. "I said it all week, this horse is really blossoming," winning trainer Kelly Breen said. "You know, sometimes you see it and sometimes you don't. But we it. This horse, he was a little sick, got over it, shipped back and forth three times here. He's got frequent flyer miles, you know." Mucho Macho Man's trainer, Kathy Ritvo, said her horse lost a shoe coming out of the gate and ran the whole race without it.
Twice the Appeal staged a big upset Sunday at Sunland Park in New Mexico, out-finishing the favorite, Astrology, with a stronger final 16th to win the $800,000, Grade III Sunland Park Derby by 1 1/2 lengths. Ruler On Ice finished third. Twice the Appeal, a Kentucky-bred Successful Appeal colt out of the Cormorant mare Double Boarded, got the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.91 under Christian Santiago Reyes. Astrology, winner of the Iroquois Stakes and second in the Kentucky Jockey Club last year, was making his 3-year-old debut for trainer Steve Asmussen. Twice the Appeal was making just his second stakes start. He finished second in the Turf Paradise Derby last time out but was disqualified and placed fourth. Winning trainer Jeff Bonde said Twice the Appeal "is a late May foal. He became more of a professional when we started to run him in route races. We saw the potential in him and that's why we came here. My horse was in really great condition. He acted really sharp since shipping in last Thursday. He was on his toes. We felt he would get the trip. I wanted to make one big late run with him. Our intention is to go to the Kentucky Derby."
Animal Kingdom saved ground through both turns in Saturday's $500,000, Grade III Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, came out five wide into the stretch to gain racing room and ran on well to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Decisive Moment. The latter seized the lead for a brief moment at the head of the stretch, then held second easily over the ambitiously named Twinspired. Animal Kingdom, a Kentucky-bred Leroidesanimaux colt out of the German-bred mare Dalicia, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:52.32 with Alan Garcia up. Owned by Team Valor, Animal Kingdom was making his first stakes start and picked up his second win in four starts. "We knew there would be an honest pace," said winning trainer H. Graham Motion. "I just told Alan to ride his race. Asked about the prospect of moving on to the Kentucky Derby, he noted Animal Kingdom hasn't yet run on conventional dirt. But said the Derby is a consideration he and Team Valor owner Barry Irwin "will talk about. I don't think distance is a problem," he added. "Now he's got the earnings. We know he's an impressive animal."
Kentucky Oaks preps
Daisy Devine pressed the pace in Saturday's $500,000, Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks, moved to a comfortable lead at mid-stretch and held on to post a mild upset victory by a half length over St. John's River. Niji's Grand Girl was third and the favorite, Inglorious, finished an inglorious fourth. Daisy Devine, a Kentucky-bred Kafwain filly out of the Devil's Bag mare Devil's Dispute, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.25 for jockey James Graham.
It would be fair to say trainer Bob Baffert sent an A-teamer into the minor leagues for Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks. At least, that's what the results show. Facing five locally based fillies, Plum Pretty won by 25 lengths. Yes, 25. Paloma Mesa was best of the locals, finishing second by 5 3/4 lengths over Formal Plan. Plum Pretty, a Pennsylvania-bred Megaglia d'Oro filly out of the A.P. Indy mare Liszy, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.18. Martin Garcia was along for the ride.
Summer Soiree put on a slightly more modest spin around the oval in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, leading from the git-go and sprint away at the end to score by 10 3/4 lengths. Harlan's Ruby was second with Suave Voir Faire third. Summer Soiree, a Kentucky-bred War Front filly out of the Mazel Trick mare Mazel Tov, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.74 under Gabriel Saez.
In other weekend racing:
Mission Impazible pushed pacesetting Bird Run through the early furlongs of Saturday's $400,000, Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, took over when asked by jockey Garrett Gomez and got home first by 1 1/2 lengths over Apart. Giant Oak, whose connections opted for this spot rather than the $10 million Dubai World Cup, finished third. Fast Alex was fourth. Mission Impazible, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled's Song, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.02 under Garrett Gomez.
Smart Bid saved ground around both turns in Saturday's $350,000, Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Mr. Memorial Handicap, then surged through the stretch to win by a nose over Expansion. A head and a neck separated the next two -- Moryba and early leader Workin for Hops. Smart Bid, a 5-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred son of Smart Strike, ran "about" 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.97 with Edgar Prado up.
Mambo Galliano closed well from a pace-stalking position to win Saturday's 6-furlong, $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes by 3/4 length over Backtalk. Early Return finished third. Mambo Galliano, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Black Mambo gelding, was clocked in 1:09.24 under James Graham.
Upperline got the upper hand in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Bayou Handicap for distaffers on the grass, drawing clear at the end to win by 4 lengths. Category Seven was the best of the rest, a head in front of Forest Uproar. Upperline, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Maria's Mon filly, ran "about" 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.45 with Rosie Napravnik up.
Rahy's Attorney pressed the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Pan American Stakes, accelerated to the lead in the stretch run and was all out to win by 3/4 length over Musketier. Prince Will I Am also rallied strongly to finish third, beaten just another a half length. Rahy's Attorney, a 7-year-old, Ontario-bred Crown Attorney gelding, covered the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:25.85 with Emma-Jayne Wilson riding for trainer Ian Black.
All Due Respect shadowed pacesetting Golden Mystery into the stretch in Sunday's $60,000 Ocala Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares, took the lead and won by 1 1/2 lengths over late-running Sweet N Sour Ninja. Golden Mystery held third. All Due Respect, a 4-year-old Value Plus filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:36.01 with Javier Castellano up.
Worth Repeating took over the lead halfway through Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Tokyo City Cup, cleared and held on at the end of 1 1/2 miles to win by a half length over Honour the Deputy. Spurrier was third. Worth Repeating, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway horse, stopped the timer in 2:29.23. Martin Pedroza had the mount for trainer Richard Mandella.
R Betty Graybull rallied from last of five to win Saturday's $100,000 Ladies Handicap by 3/4 length over pacesetting Quiet Giant. Nine lengths farther back, State Treasure ambled home third. R Betty Graybull, a 5-year-old, New York-bred Holy Bull mare, ran 9 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:50.56.
Attitude E Racer pressed the pace early in Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby for state-breds, drew out to a comfortable lead and coasted home first, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Sapello Cantador. Cake and Candy finished third. Attitude E Racer, a gelded son of Desert God, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.53 with Carlos Madeira up.
Iplaytricks stumbled at the start of Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Oaks for state-breds, quickly recovered to take the lead and won as she pleased, finishing 4 3/4 lengths to the good of Ghostly Beach. Tennis Star was third. Iplaytricks, a daughter of Desert God, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.87, also for Madeira.
Twelve Twenty Two stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap for fillies and mares, went to the lead and quickly opened a big margin in the stretch and finished strongly to win by 5 1/2 lengths over American Story. Hayley's Hero, the early leader, finished second. With Julien Leparoux aboard, Twelve Twenty Two covered the mile on a fast track in 1:36.49. She is a 6-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Kafwain.
Shemoves moved right to the lead in Sunday's $120,000 La Coneja Stakes for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares, held the edge through the stretch and won by 2 lengths over Cali Baby. Tricky R finished third. Shemoves, a 6-year-old Ghostly Moves mare, got the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.67 with Ramsey Zimmerman in the irons.
Swift Warrior went swiftly to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Rushaway Stakes for 3-year-olds and led all the way home, winning by 2 lengths over Crimson China. The Ole Gen finished third. Swift Warrior, a Kentucky-bred First Samurai colt out of the Afleet mare Afleet Summer, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.73 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Sweet Gladys rallied five-wide into the stretch and got past the leaders to post a 20-1 upset in Saturday's $50,000 Queen Stakes, beating Hyperlink by 2 1/2 lengths. Happy Week finished third. Sweet Gladys, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred Awesome Again mare, completed the 6 furlongs in 1:10.84 with James Lopez up.
Ghost Is Clear came from near the back of the pack in Saturday's $50,000 Hansel Stakes for 3-year-old, challenged for the lead and outfinsihed Philippe to win by a neck Getaway Guy finished third. Ghost Is Clear, a Kentucky-bred Ghostzapper colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.78 for jockey Victor Lebron.
Eighttofasttocatch was just about that in Saturday's $50,000 Harrison Johnson Memorial, taking the lead about the 3/8ths pole and holding off all comers to win by 1/2 length. Marilyn's Guy was second and it was another 15 3/5 lengths back to No Advantage in third. Eighttofasttocatch, a 4-year-old, Maryland-bred Not For Love gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.64 with Sheldon Russell riding.
Cosmo Girl led all the way to a 2 3/4-lengths victory over Gleaming in Sunday's $75,000 Carousel Stakes. Denali Glitter was third. Cosmo Girl, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred City Zip filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:10.52 with Bryan McNeil in the irons.
Gran Lioness made all the going in Saturday's $75,000 Prima Donna Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, holding well at the end to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Garnet Crystals. Lady Giacomo finished third. Gran Lioness, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lion Heart out of the Rahy mare Gran Dama, got the 6 furlongs on a fast strip in 1:11.01.
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