American challenger Mystic Guide provided Godolphin with victory in the landmark 25th edition of the Dubai World Cup.
Mystic Guide recorded a third successive victory in the Meydan showpiece in the owners’ blue silks, and their ninth in all following Thunder Snow’s back-to-back triumphs in 2018 and 2019.
Mike Stidham’s four-year-old, ridden by Luis Saez and sent off the 6-4 favourite, arrived from off the pace entering the straight and quickly took charge to prevail by three and three-quarter lengths from Japan’s Chuwa Wizard, becoming a 12th American-trained winner.
Godolphin’s Magny Cours, trained in France by Andre Fabre, stayed on to be third under William Buick, another length and a quarter back.
The winner was Stidham’s first runner outside America – in one of the world’s most prestigious and valuable races.
He said: “I’m very proud, very proud of the horse – and so happy to be here, for Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed, on the 25th anniversary. To have a performance like that was the icing on the cake.
“I really felt like it was finally my turn to step up to the big time, and I really wanted it to happen – and it has.
“It’s 40 years of emotions right now!”
The race was delayed by several minutes as first Great Scot unseated Frankie Dettori exiting the paddock and ran loose – and then as the field was loading, Military Law broke through the front of the stalls.
Both horses had to be withdrawn, and Stidham admitted to concerns about how Mystic Guide would deal with the commotion around him.
“He was getting pretty angsty on the walk over – and then in the different holding areas, he was getting a little bit tough, giving us a hard time,” he said.
“I was concerned that when he got into the parade ring, it was going to even get a little worse – and it did.
“Then multiple loose horses, loading and unloading, he was starting to kick out. There were comments about him maybe running his race before the race – and I was concerned, I really was.
“But in the end, his class and ability came through.”
Mystic Guide proved he has the temperament as well as the talent, and Stidham added: “It’s a totally different atmosphere here (to America), and horses have to be able to handle it – it’s not easy for an American horse to come over and do it.
“(But) I felt really good when he got the position he got, lying third comfortably down the back. I didn’t know for sure – but then down the lane, it was amazing.”
Stidham can begin pondering future challenges, including the Breeders’ Cup and even returning next year to try to retain his Dubai title.
At the mention of those prospects, he said: “Absolutely – the sky’s the limit now for him, I think.”
Saez was understandably equally impressed.
Asked for the jockey’s reaction on dismounting, he added: “He just said ‘what a horse!’ He’s just a tremendous horse, so much talent.”
Like the trainer, Saaez admitted the pre-race mishaps of others was briefly worrying – but soon realised he need not have been too concerned.
“It was a little difficult in the gate, a lot going on,” he said.
“But he handled it pretty well … professional horse.
“That was the plan, try to break and get a good position, and be right there. Everything went so well.
“I could feel from half-a-mile out how much power he had. It was magnificent. I’m so grateful to be here and be a part of this.”
Hopes were high before the race, and Mystic Guide disappointed no one.
“We were confident today,” said Saaez, who is also the partner of Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby favourite, Essential Quality.
“I knew we had a horse, and he was going to show off. He’s a super horse.
“This is one of the biggest events in the world, so for me to be here it’s an honour. I’ve always dreamt of being here one day.
“There was a little bit of pressure, because the horse was favourite, but I was confident.
“What a wonderful trainer – he did the best with this horse, and had him ready for this race.”