As the English horse racing flat season began at Doncaster Town Moor, the World’s richest race was staged soon afterwards at the Meydan track in Dubai. No expense was spared on an evening incorporating many of the more talented horses from around the globe yet the 10 furlong World Cup was won by the Godolphin owned African Story based in the affluent Emirate.
The seven year old chestnut horse was not considered as one of favoured horses after two fairly unconvincing preliminary races on the track and a disappointing fifth in the same event behind Animal Kingdom twelve months previously. As the horses jostled for position rounding the final bend, the English trained Mukhadram led the field and appeared capable of winning the race but under a well-timed ride by Silvestre de Sousa, African Story was able to asset his authority and silence the critics.
Winner owner Sheikh Mohammed has been the instigator of much of the success of Meydan racecourse in Dubai and it appears that his horse was more ably suited to the all-weather track than several of the visiting contingent with form on turf and more galloping courses. Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World was unable to cope with both the underfoot conditions and an unfavourable draw before finishing next to last in another mediocre performance.
Although African Story won the $10 million showpiece event, one of the more impressive displays during a quality evening of horse racing was the performance of Japanese trained Just A Way in the 9 furlong Dubai Duty Free race staged on turf. In winning the race by six lengths in record time, the horse was justifying his rising domestic reputation and a trip to Royal Ascot has been mentioned as a possible future target. Just A Way had previously beaten Gentildonna who secured victory in the following race on the evening card.
Gentildonna came with a late surge to win the Sheema Classic over 12 furlongs and in doing so overpowered French horse Cirrus des Aigles who is more comfortable at a slightly shorter distance but who has rarely run a bad race in his six seasons as a flat performer in Group 1 races.
Earlier in the evening, Amber Sky claimed victory in the Al Quoz sprint when holding the late challenges of Ahtoug and the South African favourite Shea Shea who was held at the back of the field for much of the race by rider Christophe Soumillon before being asked to quicken through a wall of horses in the later stages.
However, as African Story’s victory in the Dubai World Cup concluded the evening meeting, it so ended several months of racing at the Meydan track which often draws competitors from several continents. It has now become a welcome additional fixture on the horse racing calendar.