Mystic Guide makes no mistake in Dubai World Cup

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Both horses had to be withdrawn, and Stidham admitted to concerns about how Mystic Guide would deal with the commotion around him.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.”

Mystic Guide seeks to do Godolphin proud in landmark World Cup

American Mike Stidham feels honoured to be saddling the Dubai World Cup favourite Mystic Guide in the colours of Godolphin in the landmark 25th edition of the race.

Fellow countryman Bill Mott won the first renewal with Cigar in 1996 – but Mystic Guide’s owners have since been successful on eight occasions, including the two most recent with Thunder Snow.

After the cancellation last year of what would have been the 25th running, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are three Godolphin runners this time – with Andre Fabre’s Magny Cours and Saeed bin Suroor’s Gifts Of Gold also lining up – but Mystic Guide is their main hope.

“It’s a long trip – and as a trainer you always worry about things that can go wrong – but so far it’s been really good,” said Stidham.

“He seems to be thriving here, the weather is great and the accommodation is amazing.

“I’ve taken advice from Steve Asmussen, from Scott Blasi who stables near me at the Fairgrounds, (and) they were both very helpful.

“This is my fifth year training for Godolphin, and the quality they send is amazing. I’m honoured to get the opportunity.

“The first time we worked him he was a ‘wow’ horse. I think the draw is fine, I’m happy to be there. I’d love to see him break well and be forward, in a stalking position because that is what suits him.

“It’s an honour to be here, and especially training a horse for Sheikh Mohammed on the 25th anniversary. Being owned by Godolphin, this race was always in the back of my mind.”

Andre Fabre is seeking an elusive first win in the Meydan showpiece, with the lightly-raced Magny Cours.

“Yes, he has had his issues,” said Fabre.

Magny Cours (far side) was a winner at Sandown last year
Magny Cours (far side) was a winner at Sandown last year (Francesca Altoft/PA)

“But now he is in perfect condition and form. He had an excellent journey over to Dubai – he drank up, he ate up, and everything is going well. He is six now and is just more stabilised in his body.

“I really believe this horse has a lot of ability, and I am confident that he can be close.”

Ryan Moore has picked up the mount on Title Ready for Dallas Stewart

“His stamina for this 10-furlong trip doesn’t look assured – but we do know he comes here in form, having won well last time in the Grade Three Louisana Stakes over nine furlongs,” Moore told Betfair.

“I think it is fair to say that he needs to improve a fair bit on what we saw of him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (seventh), but nothing scares you that much in here, does it? You can’t argue too much with his draw in four, as well.”

Jesus' Team brings strong form to the race
Jesus’ Team brings strong form to the race (Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club)

Jesus’ Team was second to Knicks Go in the Pegasus World Cup, which is arguably the strongest form on offer.

Trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo said: “I like the post position (nine), because ‘Jesus’ can find a good spot to make an aggressive move in the first part.

“I asked Bob Baffert and my friend Chad Summers about preparation. They are familiar with the environment here. I took their advice and made my plan. All horses are different, and need different things to get ready. ‘Jesus’ is coming into this race perfectly.”

Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s Military Law enjoyed a fruitful Dubai Carnival, before finishing sixth behind Mishriff in the Saudi Cup.

Military Law is a Meydan regular
Military Law is a Meydan regular (Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club)

“We have a good horse in Military Law. He is honest and works hard and has always shown us that in training,” said Al Mheiri.

“A good draw (five) has improved his chances, and we could not have asked for a better spot. We will look for a good break and for Antonio Fresu to get him into a good spot just off the pace so that he can give himself a good chance at the finish.”

The former Clive Cox-trained Salute The Soldier has been a revelation for Fawzi Naas – but stall 11 could be tough to overcome, according to jockey Adrie de Vries.

He said: “The draw could have been kinder, but the horse is in great form, and his final piece of serious work was very pleasing. When he works well he normally runs well – so let’s hope that is the case again!”