On Saturday the Dubai World Cup Carnival culminated with success for two of Britain and Ireland’s best, in the form of Brown Panther and Sole Power.
The main event went to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, when his eight-year-old Prince Bishop trained by Saeed bin Suroor rather unexpectedly took the Dubai World Cup, defeating America’s horse of the year California Chrome.
Only ninth in the race last year, his trainer believed tactics played a part in the horse’s success. “I knew the horse had the class to win this race”, said bin Suroor. “Some horses improve with age, and it’s great to see him win.”
Jockey William Buick followed the trainer’s instructions, and stayed clear of the kickback on Meydan’s dirt track. “He has a very unorthodox way of racing, so I took him out of the kickback in the back, and when I got onto California Chrome’s tail, he picked up the bridle and ran on well in the end,” said the thrilled pilot.
The $6 million prize was donated to charity. “I am pleased to announce that I have donated the Dubai World Cup prize to the Dubai Autism Centre,” Sheikh Hamdan wrote on his Twitter page. “I am optimistic for what the Dubai Autism Centre will achieve socially and medically for children with autism.”
As for California Chrome, a trip to Royal Ascot now looks a strong possibility. Co-owner Perry Martin wasted no time in targeting Britain for the Art Sherman trained four-year-old. The horse will be based at Rae Guest’s yard in Newmarket and may well have a crack at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 16 before taking in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Ascot.
Martin said: "We are grateful for the opportunity to race at Royal Ascot and hopeful that California Chrome can put up a good show. We are looking forward to the experience."
Brown Panther put in a devastating performance to win the Dubai Gold Cup by more than three lengths. “He always jumps really well out of the traps and he found himself right up there,” said owner Michael Owen. "The rest is history, as they say. He's a special horse. I'll probably never replace a horse like this."
The Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, over a trip more than half a mile further, has inevitably been mentioned as a likely target. Last summer when fourth in the race, Tom Dascombe’s talented stayer appeared to run out of gas in the latter stages.
Eddie Lynam’s wonderful sprinter Sole Power had failed to strike gold in his previous eight visits to Meydan. But showing all the class that saw him so dominant in Britain last summer, jockey Richard Hughes delivered him with that now familiar late surge to beat Hong Kong’s race favourite Peniaphobia in the Al Quoz Sprint.
A ferocious pace had been set by last year’s winner Amber Sky. But he was unable to hold off the fast finishing Sole Power, who struck the front just 100 yards from the finish. “After his last start, I wasn’t strong on him as he was lacklustre that day”, said a beaming Richard Hughes. “Edward (trainer Lynam) has worked on him and whatever he has done has paid off. Any winner is special but to win here is great.”
The Grey Gatsby also ran with great credit though his jockey Ryan Moore was unable to land a serious blow on the impressive Solow in the Dubai Turf. Forging clear some way from home, Freddy Head’s fast improving five-year-old could become one of the stars over the coming months. “He’s a great horse who is improving all the time,” said Head. “I knew he was very well. This was biggest test yet as he was running in his first Group 1 and he showed what a good horse he is. He’s among the best I've ever trained for sure.”
The meeting certainly served to whet the appetite for an exciting summer of flat racing that lies ahead.