Animal Kingdom crushed his rivals to win the Group 1$10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline at Meydan on March 30.
Now owned in partnership by Australia’s Arrowfield Stud and the Team Valor International racing partnership based in the United States, Animal Kingdom stunned even his owners with his remarkable victory by two lengths over late running Red Cadeaux in the world’s richest race at Meydan.
“That was shocking,” exclaimed Team Valor Chief Executive Officer Barry Irwin. “I thought he could win but I didn’t think he could win like that. He proved that not only is he a top horse, but that he is one of the top horses in the world.”
“It’s unbelievable,” said a beaming jockey, Joel Rosario, who waved his whip to cheers and applause as Animal Kingdom strode into the winner’s circle.
“I knew we had a chance. I’ve never been here before. This is my first time. I watched a lot of races. I had an idea where I needed to go from. I listened to my trainer and to my horse. He’s a very good horse. He did it. He’s very quick. It seemed like a long way home in the stretch.”
Rosario steered Animal Kingdom to loom outside two-time American champion filly Royal Delta, who had set fractions of :26.59, :50.02 and 1:13.63 under Mike Smith, before they swooped to the lead coming out of the far turn. In just a few steps, Animal Kingdom opened up several lengths and the race was over.
The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner collared the 12-strong field at the turn of the 2,000m race on Tapeta holding a late challenge from British raider Red Cadeaux to win with almost effortless ease.
Animal Kingdom crossed the finish line in 2:03.21 for the 2000 metres, earning US$6 million for his efforts.
Trained by English-born Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom now has a career record of five wins in 11 starts with earnings of $8,387,500.
The victory by the five-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux marked the first by an American-based and –trained runner in the Dubai World Cup since Meydan opened with an all-weather surface in 2010, replacing the dirt track at the old Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on which American runners frequently prevailed.
Red Cadeaux unleashed a strong rally from ninth after 1,600 metres to gain the runner-up prize.
“This horse never ceases to amaze me. To run second in the Dubai World Cup and get within two lengths of Animal Kingdom, I’ve got to be happy with that,” said jockey Gerald Mosse.
Planteur, recently acquired by Qatar’s Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, finished third, 4 3/4 lengths behind Red Cadeaux.
“He was third last year, third this year. I was happy enough with his run,” said jockey Ryan Moore.
The remaining order of finish was Side Glance, African Story, Meandre, Hunter’s Light, Treasure Beach, Kassiano, Royal Delta, Dullahan and Cappon.
Godolphin’s Hunter’s Light, the early favourite in the race off his victory in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III on March 9, raced in second early but could not keep up in the latter stages.
“He had every chance. He just wasn’t good enough at this level,” said jockey Silvestre de Sousa.
Dual Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta aiming to become the first female to win the Dubai World Cup lead for a major part of the race setting a fast pace.
But Animal Kingdom changed gears at the final turn to surge burst ahead of Side Glance and Hunter's Light before sprinting to the finish ahead of Red Cadeaux.
Irish raider Planteur with Ryan Moore finished strongly to come third.
“He was third last year, third this year. I was happy enough with his run,” he said.
Royal Delta “just didn’t seem to care for it,” Smith said of his mount’s performance on the track surface.
“My trip was good. She just didn’t seem to care for it. Every time she had to pick it up, she struggled. After four or five passed her, we were pretty much done – then we just got home safe,” said Mike Smith after Royal Delta faded from first to 10th.
Animal Kingdom’s win was the ninth in the Dubai World Cup by an American-based horse out of the 18 runnings and the first since the race switched to Meydan.
The earlier winners were Cigar, Silver Charm, Captain Steve, Pleasantly Perfect, Roses in May, Invasor, Curlin and Well Armed.
Animal Kingdom succeeded where Game on Dude last year and three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti in 2011 failed.
Dubai Sheema Classic
Irish raider St Nicholas Abbey upstaged Japanese star Gentildonna to win Race Eight the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (2,410m on turf), presented by Longines.
Shareta set the early pace in the penultimate race of the evening from St Nicholas Abbey and Gentildonna.
They exchanged the lead until St Nicholas Abbey surged ahead with 300 metres to go to give trainer Aidan O'Brien his second win.
Very Nice Name ran in third.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by his son Joseph, St Nicholas Abbey crossed the line two and a quarter lengths to the good of Japan’s three-year-old champion filly and Japan Cup winner of 2012 Gentildonna in the hands of Yutaka Take, stopping the clock in 2:27.7 seconds, another course record time.
Ridden more closely to the pace this year than last, when runner up to Cirrus des Aigles, St Nicholas Abbey was settled in second place behind Shareta (Christophe Lemaire), who broke the mare alertly from the inside post, and set an honest pace in front.
Gentildonna under Take tracked St Nicholas Abbey in third, from Royal Diamond, and the second Japanese contender, Trailblazer.
The race order remained largely unchanged until the turn into the home straight, when Lemaire asked Shareta for her effort, a move that was quickly covered by Joseph O’Brien on the winner.
Gentildonna challenged on the outside and it looked for a moment as if she might mount a serious challenge to St Nicholas Abbey, before it became clear that St Nicholas Abbey had too much in reserve, and ran on to score with a little in hand from Gentildonna.
Qatar’s runner Very Nice Name did best of the rest, running on for third under Olivier Peslier a length and a quarter further back, with the 2011 Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden (Jamie Spencer) who was last of all in the early part of the race making ground for fourth. Await The Dawn finished fifth, with the pace setting Shareta holding on for sixth.
Joseph O’Brien said afterwards, “ There didn’t seem to be much obvious pace and (part owner) Derrick Smith said maybe we should ride him a bit further forward this time. This horse is very tough, very special, he gives his best every day, relaxes and finds plenty. It turns out you can ride him any way you want.”
Yasunari Iwata on Gentildonna said of his horse “She ran very well today and was in good form. She travelled a little wide and that maybe cost me a bit, and that’s maybe why she couldn’t catch the winner.”
Amazing fireworks display
Dubai Duty Free
Silvestre De Sousa gave Godolphin its second win of the night spurring Sajjhaa to victory in Race Seven the Group One $5-million Dubai Duty Free. The six-year old gave trainer Saeed bin Suroor his second winner as he came from behind to win a thrilling race.
Godolphin's last win in the Dubai Duty Free came in 2000 with Rhythm Band. Dale Romans's Little Mike did the early running before South African raider The Apache stormed into the lead with 100 metres to go.
But Sajjhaa surged past The Apache to win convincingly.
Never worse than third as Gary Stevens enjoyed an uncontested lead on Little Mike, Silvestre De Sousa held his rails position on Sajjhaa and made his move past the leader at the same time as the Mike de Kock-trained pair Igugu and The Apache, 350 metres from the finish.
Igugu was the first to crack, and although The Apache stayed on stoutly, he had no answer to Sajjhaa, a second winner on the card for Godolphin, Saeed bin Suroor and De Sousa after their Dubai Gold Cup success with Cavalryman.
Sajjhaa came home a length a half clear, while The Apache had three-quarters of a length to spare over the late-finishing French-trained filly Giofra, with Trade Storm, another Carnival success story, edging out Igugu for fourth place.
The winner’s time of 1min 47.93sec broke her own record of 1min 48.58sec, set when she won the Group 2 Balanchine on her second start of the Carnival, since when she had stepped out of all-female company for the first time in Dubai in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta.
Silvestre, who took the lead in the Dubai World Cup Carnival jockeys’ championship with this win, said: “She’s a wonderful filly, full of heart, and it was a great performance. She’s just improved and improved since she came here.”
Discussing the race, he added: “I had a good position early on and she made her way through on the inside. She’s very tough and genuine, and I’m very pleased for her.”
Originally trained by the late Michael Jarvis, Sajjhaa was bred by the Darley stud operation of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, who was first into the parade ring to greet the six-year-old King’s Best mare.
Dubai Golden Shaheen
Reynaldothewizard won Race Six the Group 1 $2m Dubai Golden Shaheen, sponsored by Gulf News, the third leg of Global Sprint Challenge over 1,200m on the All Weather surface.
Richard Mullen spurred the Satish Seemar trained seven-year old bay gelding past Balmont Mast and defending champion Krypton Factor.
"I had the perfect trip. He was always travelLing well. He gave me everything in the straight. This is the best winner of my career. It’s unbelievable and I’m so happy for Satish and all his team, and Zabeel Racing, his owners. I’m overjoyed,” said Mullen.
Reynaldothewizard won by four lengths earlier in the month but he was made to fight much harder in the third leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
Having raced handily under his jockey Richard Mullen, the seven-year-old American-bred son of Speightstown held the late challenging Balmont Mast by a neck with Krypton Factor, last year’s winner, half a length further back.
The pace of the race was not quite as breakneck as usual. The time clocked was 1 minute 12.46 seconds so the steadier speed suited the on-pace Reynaldothewizard who Mullen committed to the lead with well over a furlong to go.
Mullen declared the result the “highlight of his career” and was profuse in his thanks and praise of trainer Satish Seemar and owners Zabeel Racing.
“Dubai has given me my best moments in racing but this tops the lot. I’m overjoyed. I do the easy work. I just sit on board and steer and I’m so happy to win a Group 1 on the biggest stage in racing," he said.
"I was always travelling well and he gave me everything in the stretch. It's unbelievable."
Jockey Johnny Murtagh and trainer Eddie Lynam were left ruing what might have been. One race after Sole Power ran a sound fourth in the Al Quoz from his high draw, outsider Balmont Mast got much closer to victory.
“I was tracking the winner and I thought I was going to catch him inside the furlong but to be fair to him, he kept finding. Great run from our horse, however. There is a big one in him yet,” Murtagh said.
Kieren Fallon felt his wide draw in gate 13 might have cost Krytpon Factor a repeat success in the race.
“We were beaten less than a length but it was still a very good run,” he said.
Godolphin’s race favourite Mental trailed in 10th and never got seriously involved in the race.
Al Quoz Sprint
Shea Shea blitzed to a record victory in Race Five the Group 1 $1m Al Quoz Sprint, sponsored by Emirates NBD clocking 51.41 second in the 1,000m turf dash with Christophe Soumillon eclipsing the previous record of 57.02.
It was the second triumph on the night for jockey Soumillon who won the Kahayla Classic aboard Al Mamun Monlau while trainer Mike De Kock tasted success earlier with Soft Falling Rain in the Godolphin Mile.
Joy And Fun finished second ahead of Eagle Regiment. It was a double for the South African pair after Soft Falling Rain won the Godolphin Mile.
“I’m not surprised to win a race like this after his last run because that race was as good as this one. I was confident. He likes to come late and catch them on the line and it worked out perfectly,” said Soumillon.
“He had the horse to go and fetch and it was just as we’d hoped. Coming here is not easy. The horses do better the longer they are here and horses like him a geared for these type of races. He will now go to Royal Ascot for the King’s Stand Stakes,” added trainer Mike de Kock.
The five-year-old, who has now won 10 of his 19 starts, scorched over the 1,000 metres on the straight turf track in 56.41 seconds, running the last 800 metres in 44.70.
Jockey Christophe Soumillion made full use of Shea Shea’s speed in keeping him well away from the inside rail and he looked to have the race under control from at least the final 400 metres although Joy And Fun proved hard to run down.
Jockey Tye Angland, who rode Joy And Fun, said the nine-year-old ran very well.
"He felt like the winner all the way. I could see Shea Shea coming and he was just too good.”
Shea Shea had three-quarters of a length from the Hong Kong veteran Joy And Fun who had won the race in 2010 and also finished third last year.
De Kock said that although Shea Shea was expected to win by most fans, "it is never easy winning a race like this.”
Soumillion said he was confident of winning for most of the way. “He likes to come last and catch them on the line and it worked out perfectly.”
Lines Of Battle trained by Aidan O'Brien wins the Race Four the Group 2 $2m UAE Derby (Thoroughbreds All Weather) over 2,000m, sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.
Ryan Moore spurred his mount in the home stretch to hold off Irish raider Elleval and home favourite Secret Number of Godolphin.
It was a second consecutive success in the UAE Derby for the Irish Champion Trainer O'Brien who won with Daddy Long Legs last year.
The trainer has plans to send the son of War Front to Kentucky, following in the footsteps of the O’Brien-trained 2012 UAE Derby winner Daddy Long Legs.
“We wanted the race to be a true test, but it wasn’t because of the slow pace, which made it a good win under the circumstances,” said O’Brien.
"We are very pleased with him and will now go to the Kentucky Derby.”
Ridden to victory by Ryan Moore, the big bay colt had an unusual trip.
After breaking well Lines of Battle threw his head going into the first turn, then settled into second.
The colt shared the lead with Law Enforcement down the backstretch, faded back to third in the turn, then took over at the 400-metre mark.
In the stretch Lines of Battle drifted wide but held off Elleval and a late run from Secret Number.
Ryan Moore explained his trip over the 1900 metres on Tapeta.
“It was a farce of a race,” he said. “They only cantered to half way. And my horse was only doing what he needed to. I think he was just the best horse in the race.”
Dubai Gold Cup
Silvestre De Sousa gave Godolphin its first win of the night as Cavalryman charged from behind to win the Group 3 US$1m Dubai Gold Cup, sponsored by Al Tayer Motors, over 3,200m on turf comfortably.
Saddler's Rock set the early pace in the longest race on the card before Imperial Monarch made his move at the halfway stage.
But Cavalryman trained by Saeed bin Suroor upstaged the entire field with a blistering turn of pace with 100 metres to go to stun his rivals and win easily. It was one-two finish for Godolphin with Ahzeemah taking second place followed by Verema.
“Everything went to plan for me. It was a bit slow to halfway and I was happy when the pace quickened. My horse travelled well and quickened up nicely. It’s a big night but the pressure will come later. At least the (Godolphin) horses are running well,” said a delighted Silvestre De Sousa after his spectacular win on Cavalryman.
“It was very tough as they crawled. My lad pulled up in front so I had to sit and suffer. That was a big run,” said Kieren Fallon who rode Godolphin stablemate Ahzeemah.
A slow early pace saw many of the 10-strong field pulling hard early and, as Irish raider Saddler’s Rock took control at the head of affairs, De Sousa sat Cavalryman off the pace before unleashing him down the home stretch.
His willing partner forged clear for a Godolphin one-two, with French filly Verema finishing a close-up third.
The Gold Cup was only transferred to Dubai World Cup night last year when won by another Godolphin trainer in Mahmood Al Zarooni, with Bin Suroor having won the previous three renewals since its inception in 2009.
The thrilled winning trainer said: “We had tried him over the two miles last year and he got the trip well when winning at Sandown so we were very happy with the horse. The reason I was confident tonight was that the horse has a very good turn of foot.”
De Sousa, in just his second season with Godolphin, said: “Everything went to plan for me – the pace was a bit slow to halfway and I was happier when it quickened. He travelled well throughout and quickened up well. It is a big night but the pressure will come later. At least the Godolphin horses are running well.”
Soft Falling Rain owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, surged ahead in the final 100 metres to win Group Two $1 million Godolphin Mile (1,600m Thoroughbreds All Weather) Race Two, sponsored by Etisalat.
Trained by Mike de Kock and ridden by Paul Hanagan, the three-year old bay colt who broke out from an unfavourable stall 13 burst past Haatheq who was hanging onto the rail.
Godolphin's Moonwalk In Paris came from behind to finish third.
Alpha did the early running before the winner's stablemate Haatheq stepped up a gear on the outside.
As game as the winner was, Haatheq looked likely to prevail when Royston Ffrench kicked for home with 400 metres remaining of the 1,600-metre journey.
The evergreen six-year-old, who ran fifth in this race last year, dashed into a clear lead that forced Soft Falling Rain to dig deep to overhaul.
"It was an incredible race and he ran his heart out," Ffrench said afterwards. "It was great for His Highness to finish first and second. Obviously I'd have liked to have been on the other end of it but I'm very pleased."
Having broken alertly, Soft Falling Rain was obliged to race wide as Red Jazz went to the front, but Capital Attraction soon advanced to take control at halfway.
At that stage Paul Hanagan aboard the winner had no choice but to launch his bid on the outer, forfeiting ground as he raced widest of all into the straight.
"They went so quick from the start that I had to go wider than I wanted all the way," Hanagan related.
"I wondered whether he could come forward when we reached the straight but this horse is so genuine."
Soft Falling Rain only eroded Haatheq's lead inch by inch but he had built an inexorable momentum even though Hanagan was riding him hard.
And while the two horses served up a compelling stretch duel there was marginally more purpose to Soft Falling Rain's stride.
It was a particularly noteworthy victory from the son of National Assembly, since he was the only three-year-old in the 16-runner field.
Soft Falling Rain is now unbeaten in six starts, the last three in Dubai after posting three on the bounce in South Africa for Mick de Kock's stable.
He landed the UAE 2,000 Guineas sponsored by Al Tayer Motors with great ease but had to battle hard this time.
"I haven't seen too many horses under pressure that far out and still find something at the finish," a delighted de Kock said. "It just shows how good a horse he is. Turning for home I would have been happy to be second but the horse dug in and fought all the way."
The 18th renewal of the Dubai World Cup got off to a thrilling start with French raider Al Mamun Monlau winning the $250,000 Dubai Kahayla Classic sponsored by Emaar after a photo finish.
The five-year old ridden by Christophe Soumillon was declared the winner of the 2000m race for Purebred Arabians on Tapeta from Versac Py who did the early running. Favourite TM Fred Texas with Olivier Peslier aboard came in third. The winner of the Kahayla Classic was clocked at 2:20.28.
Only a short head separated the Jean-François Bernard-trained winner from Versac PY, while last year’s winner TM Fred Texas finished a further 2 ¾ lengths back in third.
“I knew he was going well when they were coming round the bend,” said Jean-François Bernard.
“Christophe Soumillon was holding on to him, but he was pulling, trying to go to the front.”
Christophe Soumillon knows how to ride a winner at Meydan, but he still had to wait a few anxious moments before his victory was confirmed.
For Paul Hanagan, who must have thought that he had the race in his pocket after Versac PY took an easy lead in the final 400 metres, being runner-up was obviously a bit of a disappointment.
“He ran a great race and he did everything right and we just got nailed at the end,” he said.
“It was a perfect race for me. I followed Sheikh Hamdan's horse (Versac PY) and when he went clear I switched between horses and chased after him. My horse had a lot of ground to make up but in the end he was very genuine to catch the leader in the last stride,” said Christophe Soumillon.
Winning trainer Jean Francois Bernard said: “He is the best three-year-old in France and he liked it here from the day he arrived. He had a lot of gas left halfway round the turn (for home) and I thought he would finish well. Christophe (Soumillon) rode a great race and I am very happy.”
“He ran very well. He did everything right but just got nailed on the line. No excuses,” said Paul Hanagan after Versac Py came second
“It was a nice race. It was a good pace. He ran well but the other two just had a little too mich for him,” said Oliver Peslier after finishing third on TM Fred Texas.
African Story has emerged as the dark horse for the $10 million Dubai World Cup since Godolphin switched their retained jockey Mikael Barzalona after defending champion Monterosso was forced to pull out because of a lame foreleg.
Interestingly, the six-year old chestnut gelding who will break from stall 11 has won three of his last four races, all on the Tapeta of Meydan.
African Story took the Group Three Burj Nahaar sponsored by Emirates Sky Cargo by four lengths over a mile last year before capturing the Group Two Godolphin Mile sponsored by Etisalat on Dubai World Cup night in tremendous style.
This is his first race at beyond a mile.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said: “African Story won the Godolphin Mile last year and I think his best trip will be a mile and a quarter which is why he is running in the Dubai World Cup this year. Everything has gone smoothly with his preparation - he is in good form and condition and it is all systems go. He can run a good race.”
The stage is set for the 18th renewal of the Dubai World Cup with an air of expectation at Meydan as the crowd steadily builds up in all shades of colours to indulge in the sport of kings.
The late withdrawal of defending Dubai World Cup champion Monterosso has not dampened the spirit of horse racing fans who are eagerly awaiting the crowning of a new champion.
The curtain-raiser to the meeting will begin with the Group 1 $250,000 Dubai Kahayla Classic, sponsored by Emaar, the Purebred Arabian equivalent of the Dubai World Cup at 4.30pm.
Defending Dubai World Cup champion Monterosso out
Defending Dubai World Cup champion Monterosso has been ruled out with an injury just hours before the racing extravaganza is due to get underway at Meydan.
The Godolphin stallion is reported by the Emirates Racing Authority as being lame in his left fore, forcing her withdrawal from the world's richest race.
Jockey Mickael Barzalona, who had been hoping to make history aboard Monterosso as the first two-time winner of the $10 million Dubai World Cup, will now saddle another of Godolphin's entries, African Story.