Jack Hobbs put in a monster performance to win the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan on Saturday.
Sporting blinkers in the hope of sharpening his concentration, the Irish Derby winner of 2015 looked to be back to his best, cruising into contention turning for home, before powering clear for a two-length success over Aidan O’Brien’s talented filly Seventh Heaven. Postponed was sent-off favourite, but last year’s winner could only manage third. Highland Reel proved disappointing, trailing home last of the seven starters.
The winner had looked keen for much of the race, but when popped the question by William Buick, he had all the answers. “He's a classy horse,” said the Godolphin jock. “The blinkers probably have helped, John said earlier in the week he was in great shape and he was proven right. This night is horse racing's Olympics, it's very important, certainly when wearing the royal blue, so I'm very happy.”
A thoroughly satisfied winning trainer, John Gosden said: “When Godolphin bought into him they wanted to run him in this race and I said, 'as a five-year-old, not at four'. We had a quiet year last year, but his form at Ascot was rock solid (the Champion Stakes). He's a lovely horse. He's got semi-blinkers on, they're only little, but in the Champion Stakes he spent the whole time dreaming.”
Of the campaign ahead, Gosden said: “With a horse like this, after they've run here you need to freshen them up and I would like to look at the Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot and then the King George, which are ideal races for him.”
Highland Reel was only fourth in this race a year ago, but went on to have a terrific season. He’s sure to bounce back, and clearly thrives on his racing. O’Brien was thrilled with his filly, and she could prove a top-class performer over the summer. The Ballydoyle Chief said: “For the filly, it was also her first run back and I was delighted with her, it sets her up nicely for the coming months.”
Seamie Heffernan was also impressed, saying: “On her first run of the year she has run a cracker. She's a double Group One winner and I'm delighted with her.”
Of Postponed, Andrea Atzeni refused to be downbeat, saying: “The pace was a bit slow for my horse, which I was a little bit worried about in such a small field, and on that ground, he didn't find the gears that we all know he possesses.” Roger Varian’s six-year-old did have the benefit of a run earlier in the month, and I’d expect he’ll be a little disappointed that ‘match-fitness’ failed to work in his favour.
A barnstorming performance from the ‘King of the Dirt’, brought the curtain down on this year’s Dubai World Cup. Arrogate stormed from last to first, to win the feature event, and take his earnings to a staggering $17,084,600. It’s incredible to think that Baffert’s superstar only made his racecourse debut less than a year ago. He takes his winning streak to a magnificent seven, and it’s hard to imagine him getting beat any time soon.
An emotional winning trainer spoke of his stable hero, saying: “When he missed the break, I gave him no chance at all. I was so mad at myself, thinking I shouldn't have brought him - that's the greatest horse I've ever seen run, it's unbelievable, I can't believe he won. Mike did a great job, he didn't panic. When he turned for home I said, 'If he wins he's the greatest since Secretariat'.”
Clearly overwhelmed by it all, Baffert went on: “I can’t believe we won that race. On the turn for home from being last early on he used that tremendous long stride and he gobbled up the ground. I have to admit, I have my heart doctor here and for a few moments I was on red alert. If anyone in racing wasn't super impressed with that, well they must be seriously missing something. Sitting back there, Mike let the big kid gather himself and as soon as he saw them in front of him he picked up in an amazing way. I got very emotional as it was like a Hollywood-style finish.”
It’s likely that Arrogate will now be given a decent break, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic again the major target at the end of the season. For the likes of Jack Hobbs and Seventh Heaven, a shorter break has been earned, before the likelihood of further clashes during a thrilling summer of action in the UK.