The mystique of Meydan was unfurled in all its splendour on a glorious evening of exhilarating horsemanship that culminated in a perfect climax during the 15th running of the $10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup race.
Even connoisseurs of the sport would not have imagined in their wildest dreams that the newly laid Tapeta surface at the $2 billion horse racing complex would produce a photo finish.
The hour-long ceremony that reflected the Arabian traditions with the latest technology creating almost a surreal atmosphere had lulled the spectators into a trance as they soaked in the magnificence of Meydan. Even the spectacular fireworks display would not have ignited the electrifying atmosphere as the 14 raiders that turned on the horse power in the world's richest horse race.
"It was a great result. There were a lot of horses in contention. It was great to see how the horses handled the surface," said the man who invented the carpet track Michael Dickinson after Gloria de Campeao nosed ahead to be declared the winner over Lizard's Desire and Allybar.
The six-year-old from the Brazilian connections Estrela Energia Stables did all the running after starting from barrier number five in the 2000 metre Group One race run for the first time on the all-weather surface and was comfortably ahead in the home stretch. But Frankie Dettori upped the ante aboard Mastery along with Godolphin stable mate Ahmed Ajtebi riding Allybar with South African-trained Lizard's Desire sneaking through the middle. But the never say die Gloria de Campeao, runner-up to Well Armed in last year's Dubai World Cup, spurred on by Brazilian jockey Tiago Pereira produced a magnificent final spurt to win the prize in his third attempt.
Brazilian-based owner Stefan Friborg gave all credit to the horse for his fighting spirit. "The horse will claim the race because he is actually doing the job. And he has the bigger heart than all of us together," said Friborg who yelled with delight and was immediately mobbed by family and friends after the victory.
"He is a fighter. He is never giving up. He will fight to the very bitter end. He is a fantastic horse," a beaming Friborg said of the Brazilian-bred whose name means 'Glorious Champion' in Portuguese. "It will take a couple of days to smell the flowers and then we will start the preparations for Singapore," he said of their future plans.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Lizard's Desire jockey Kevin Shea who beat Allybar ridden by Emirati jockey Ahmed Ajtebi by a short head for second. American champion Gio Ponti, the favourite, finished fourth one and quarter lengths behind.
"I was not lucky with my draw. He did not take the gap. It happened last time in the [Al] Maktoum Challenge. I go inside the rail and get beat by one length – finished fourth. Tonight, bad draw. I find the gap, but he's the kind of horse that is a little bit soft. If he takes the gap, I win by lengths," said Ajtebi who had the consolation of winning the Godolphin Mile on Calming Influence earlier.
It may have been Gloria de Campeao's night but two UAE trainers Mahmoud Al Zarooni and Ali Rashid Al Raihe were elated after saddling their first winners in the Dubai World Cup. Al Zarooni made a winning debut on Calming Influence to celebrate his appointment as second trainer of Godolphin.
Local galloper Al Shemali trained by Al Raihe for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, upset a classy field in the $5m Dubai Duty Free turf race.
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