Godolphin won three of the eight Thoroughbred races on the nine-race card, including the signature $10 million World Cup with Monterroso.
But Godolphin also suffered two of the day's three horse breakdowns. Two of the breakdowns appeared to be fatal, although Dubai racing officials would not officially confirm that.
The World Cup program also turned up a potential Kentucky Derby contender. And while it was tough on horses based in Hong Kong and the United States, none of whom ran to their notices, horses who had run in Hong Kong did well, adding luster to the SAR's annual December turf races.
All three breakdowns came in two attempts to run the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup, a 2-mile grass race that was added to the World Cup program this year.
As the race went off the first time, Godolphin runner Fox Hunt fell badly at mid-stretch, in front of the grandstand. While the rest of the field raced on, Fox Hunt lay on the course, immobilized with his injuries. Since he was in the path of a second run down the stretch, the race was red-flagged.
Dubai Racing Club officials, after consulting owners and trainers, rescheduled the race for the end of the night's program. In the restart, first Grand Vent, another Godolphin horse, and then Bronze Cannon, owned by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, were pulled up.
Bronze Cannon appeared to have suffered a fatal injury. Grand Vent was walked onto a horse ambulance after initial treatment. DRC did not reveal the conditions of any horses.
None of the three jockeys involved in the incidents was seriously injured.
The breakdowns marred what otherwise would have been a grand day for Sheik Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, inventor of the World Cup and developer of the grand Meydan Race Course where it now is run.
The night was capped with Godolphin's sixth World Cup win as Monterosso carried the day for the home team. With Mickael Barzalona up for trainer Mahmoud al Zarooni, the 5-year-old, British-bred son of Dubawi took charge in deep stretch to get home 3 lengths better than another Godolphin starter, Capponi. Planteur finished third.
While winning the world's richest race is almost routine for the blue colors of Godolphin, it was the first World Cup win for both jockey and trainer. Monterosso finished third in the World Cup last year behind two Japanese horses.
Barzalona said he was happy to get Monterosso into position at mid-stretch. "After that," he said, "I couldn't believe it when no one was coming after me. This is a dream. I have no words to describe what I feel right now."
Disappointments in the race included the two American starters. Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Game On Dude beat only one of his 13 rivals under female jockey Chantal Sutherland. Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta finished ninth. Irish-based So You Think ran his losing streak to four by finishing fourth and the Japanese starters showed little with last year's World Cup runner up, Transcend, finishing last.
Both Sutherland and Royal Delta's rider, Jose Lezcano, said the all-weather Tapeta track proved difficult for their mounts, lending credence to the suggestion that a prep race over the course is a good idea.
"She gave me a good run at the end," Lezcano said of Royal Delta. "But this surface is a little different. It's a little sticky." Sutherland said Game On Dude also struggled. "This track is very tiring," she said.
Godolphin got the program off to a flying start as African Story strode out nicely to win the $1 million Godolphin Mile. Both jockey Frankie Dettori and trainer Saeed bin Suroor had touted the 5-year-old Pivotal gelding as their best hope on the day and he did not disappoint, winning by 4 lengths over Vicount Nelson Red Jazz was third as the 1,600 meters went in 1:37.5.
Fox Hound went down in the next race.
The $2 million UAE Derby went to Daddy Long Legs, an American-bred son of Scat Daddy, whose only previous bad race in four starts came in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall at Churchill Downs. Daddy Long Legs rallied to win Saturday's race by 1 1/4 lengths over a French-trained 3-year-old, Yang Tse Kiang. Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Wrote finished third.
Winning rider Coln O'Donoghue said, "It's a great training effort by Aidan (O'Brien) to win this in his first run of the season against horses who were already primed and at their best. Hopefully he can keep improving from this. I think he can."
O'Brien, who also trains Wrote, said he now is looking toward a return to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby with Daddy Long Legs.
"This is his first run here and if he has any chances then it has to be at the Kentucky Derby. He is such a beautiful horse. He has simply gone on improving with each race. Last year at the Breeder's Cup he was all at sea. But this time he has shown how capable he is. We were thinking to come here with the view to going to the Kentucky Derby if they ran well. Ryan's horse (Wrote) ran well but got a little tired."
Ortensia stepped up for the Australian contingent with a victory in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint, a 5-furlong (1,000 meter) dash down the turf chute. The 6-year-old Testa Rosa mare waited, then advanced down the middle of the course to score a 1 1/4-lengths victory over Sole Power. Joy and Fun, a Hong Kong-based runner, finished third -- one of the few good showings by what was thought to be a strong, nine-horse contingent from the SAR. Ortensiz finished in 57.98 seconds with Craig Williams riding.
Krypton Factor, under Kieran Fallon, accounted for the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, a race that once was thought to be a target for Australian super mare Black Caviar. Krypton Factor took advantage of a strong pace duel between last year's winner, Singapore-based Rocket Man, and U.S. runner Giant Ryan. Laying off the early pace, the 4-year-old British-bred horse came to challenge Rocket Man at mid-stretch and went on by him to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Rocket Man battled on gamely to finish second with Hong Kong's Lucky Nine again settling for show money. One of the strongest American chances on the day, The Factor, was no factor, finishing well behind the leaders. Krypton Factor got the 1,200 meters, about 6 furlongs, in 1:10.79.
"He was always going well for me tonight," said winning rider Kieren Fallon, "and I thought I had them covered a good way out. He's the kind of horse that thrives on racing and I'd love to ride him at Royal Ascot."
Cityscape won the $5 million Dubai Duty Free with surprising ease over a field ranked among the night's toughest. With James Doyle up, the Juddmonte Farms homebred ran away from the competition in the stretch, winning by 4 1/4 lengths. Mutahadee finished second and City Style, another from the Godolphin barn, took third. Cityscape, a 6-year-old, ran the 1,800 meters, or about 1 1/8 miles, on the turf course in 1:48.6. Three of Hong Kong's top horses, Xtension, Ambitious Dragon and California Memory, finished fifth, seventh and 12th, respectively.
"Early on when I settled in and got my position, I thought it would take some catching," Doyle said. "When we turned into the straight, I couldn't believe the turn of foot he had. He kept finding more. It's amazing."
Ambitious Dragon's rider, Douglas Whyte, said his mount was "very stirred up in the paddock beforehand, which is not like him. He was in an ok position but he didn't find anything. You didn't see the real Ambitious Dragon tonight."
Cirrus des Aigles hung on in the final yards to win the $5 million Sheema Classic at 2,410 meters, or about 1 1/2 miles, on the turf course. Jockey Olivier Peslier coaxed just enough stamina from the 6-year-old, French-bred gelding to hold off Breeders' Cup Turf winner St Nicholas Abbey by a neck. Jackkalberry narrowly beat Treasure Beach for third. Cirrus des Aigles covered the distance in 2:31.3.
Cirrus des Aigles won the Champion Stakes at Ascot last fall and trainer Corine Barande Barbe said the feeling of winning in Dubai is similar. "And the horse seems to like big race courses," she added. Olivier let him go as the horse knows about racing and it is a big deal to win this race."
In the restart of the Dubai Gold Cup, although Godolphin lost another horse to injury in Grand Vent, it also won the race as Opinion Poll finished ahead of Joshua Tree by 3/4 length. It was a short head farther back to Zanzamar in third. Opinion Poll, a 6-year-old son of Halling, ran the 3,200 meters in 3:23.7 with Dettori scoring his second win of the night.
"It's been a great night for the team and I'm pleased it's gone so well for us," Dettori said. "I was very happy to win this race and it all went according to plan. I think we'll target the Ascot Gold Cup in June."
In the first race of the day, the $250,000 Dubai Kahayla Classic for purebred Arabians, TM Fred Texas took charge on the outside at mid-stretch and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. The 5-year-old Texas-bred was the Arabian Horse of the Year in the United States but stepping up in class against a field dominated by horses bred in Europe. He now has 11 wins from 15 starts.
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