Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 22 February 2018

Dreams come true as 'Chrome' grabs Dubai glory

Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to victory in the Dubai World Cup Photo: Getty
Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to victory in the Dubai World Cup Photo: Getty

Marcus Armytage

Superlatives abound in Dubai; the world's tallest building, fastest-growing city, busiest airport, richest race and, at a kilometre, the world's longest grandstand.

Given what is built for Olympics and then discarded, Meydan, in which 60,000 people rattle around once a year, probably has a bit of competition for the title biggest sporting white elephant, but as statements go it is, nevertheless, pretty impressive.

As a regular visitor in the 1990s - my last winner was at Nad Al Sheba in 2000 - it is very hard not to be impressed with what has arisen, exponentially, out of the desert.

Very soon, Meydan will not be a great monolith beyond the suburbs - it will be subsumed by them.

On Saturday, as the Emirates Dubai World Cup came of age, the 21st meeting can surely boast another superlative - the most international set of results ever posted at a meeting.

UAE-based trainer Doug Watson, an American who has spent 23 years in Dubai and remembers being the ambulance driver at the first World Cup, won the Godolphin Mile with One Man Band, while the Golden Shaheen also stayed at home after Muarrab won a thriller. Everything else went abroad.

The Dubai Gold Cup went to France thanks to Vazirabad; the UAE Derby and Turf were won by the Japanese. Buffering, an Australian, landed the Al Quoz Sprint and Britain got on the board with the last throw of the dice, the Roger Varian-trained Postponed.

Just as Solow served notice here a year ago that he would be the horse to beat in Europe over a mile, so Postponed looks like he could be pencilled in for another King George if his Sheema Classic romp is anything to go by.

However, the best result of the night for Sheikh Mohammed was, surely, the American California Chrome winning the Dubai World Cup.

You can throw as much money as you like at a race, but, like the Derby or Arc, for its prestige and reputation it needs to be consistently won by the best horses. That has not always been the case, but it was on Saturday.

South Africa did not have a winner but, with Mubtaahij picking up £1.3 million for his second to California Chrome, I am quite happy to accept it as one.

The world's richest second prize - there you go, another superlative.

Trainer Art Sherman described California Chrome's Dubai World Cup victory as a "dream of a lifetime" after he dazzled beneath the Meydan floodlights.

The American challenger - beaten by rank outsider Prince Bishop last year - was posted wide throughout after breaking from his wide draw, not to mention the fact his saddle slipped, but he still ran out a stunning winner.

Winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2014, California Chrome was supposed to run at Royal Ascot last June, but a late setback prevented an appearance in Britain, and he is highly unlikely to try again.

Sherman said: "He's got such a fan club in Dubai. He got a standing ovation and it made me feel really good.

"I wasn't sure the saddle had slipped until he pulled up. I don't think he'll go to England and the ultimate goal is the Breeders' Cup Classic. He's a great horse. What can you say? It's the dream of a lifetime for me and it doesn't get better."

Rider Victor Espinoza, partner of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, said: "I could feel the saddle slipping so I kicked for home earlier than I wanted. It went quite far back."

The British travelling party had a largely disappointing evening, but Postponed happily stuck to his end of the deal.

A repeat King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes bid looks like being top of the summer agenda for Roger Varian's new recruit after he ran out a ready winner of the Sheema Classic.

Varian said: "He had already won a King George when we got him, but he has thrived out here." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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