Friday 23 March 2018

Race for $10m not just about the money

Chris McGrath

Expressed as a ratio of dollars won per second, it is surely the most lucrative opportunity in sport.

For a while, the Dubai World Cup slugged it out with the Breeders' Cup Classic for the status of the Turf's richest prize. Every time the Americans dug into the lining of their pockets, and came up with another million, the Maktoum family raised the stakes. Eventually, they reached $6m.

Then, last year, to celebrate the construction of a racecourse commensurate with everything else that has happened to the skyline here, they decided to settle the matter for good. So it is that tonight a field of thoroughbreds, assembled from four continents, will carve up $10m in barely two minutes.

Using last year as a model, the winner will earn something in the region of £30,000 for each second of his journey from starting gate to winning post.

It seems fitting, however, that the two favourites should together reprove the crude brevity of perspective that can afflict this sport.

Between them, Cape Blanco and Twice Over make this a race of second chances, and a race of reconciliation. Flavoured by both contrition and vindication, you might even go so far as to say that it's not all about the money.

Through the agency of a new investor in the Coolmore confederacy, Jim Hay, the presence of Cape Blanco represents an olive branch in two very different breakdowns.

The fact that Hay spends much of his time in Dubai, and retains Jamie Spencer to ride his horses, is sufficient to account for a double rapprochement -- sufficient, that is, to discourage anyone from believing that Spencer is first in line to benefit from Johnny Murtagh's defection as Ballydoyle stable jockey; or, more significantly, that John Magnier and his Coolmore partners are eager to end some kind of feud with the Maktoums.

In each case, however, the truth is not so terribly inconvenient. It is six years since Aidan O'Brien, who trains for Coolmore at Ballydoyle, last had a runner at this meeting. But Magnier is a pragmatist, above all.

It was on a matter of perceived principle that Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers have declined to bid, at public auctions, for the offspring of Coolmore stallions since 2005.


Their grievance remains private. The end result has done neither camp much good. Commercial breeders developed such a dread of offending either that they ended up avoiding both.

Sheikh Mohammed, meanwhile, had to buy a series of expensive stallion prospects to retrieve the ground he was losing to Coolmore's star stallions, Montjeu and Galileo.

These included some of their best sons -- the likes of Authorized, New Approach and Teofilo -- and it may be that Coolmore recognise the imminent influx of their own bloodlines, in the yearling market, as an opportune time to patch things up.

Step forward Hay, with a clean slate -- together with, it might be added, a good deal of money. The recruitment of Spencer attests to his judgment. But nobody should be deceived that the renewed involvement of the former stable jockey is a mere expedient.

Spencer had a miserable year at Ballydoyle in 2004, but there has since been much water under the bridge for both Spencer and O'Brien. And Magnier never wavered in his affection. He will have found Murtagh's departure, and the previous travails of Kieren Fallon, far more exasperating.

Ryan Moore is in line for plenty of mounts (indeed, he rides one for Ballydoyle in today's UAE Derby) but Spencer's opportunities will by no means be contingent on Hay.

When it comes to fresh starts, however, the race could volunteer no better template than that of Twice Over and Henry Cecil. The horse himself has been a slow burn, disappointing here last year, but arrives in his pomp at six.

Having delayed his arrival to work Frankel, favourite for the first Classic of the season, Cecil has not known days like this since himself becoming estranged from Sheikh Mohammed.

At the time of their spat, Cecil failed to comprehend the Sheikh's ambitions for his homeland. To come here and beat the Godolphin horses in their own back yard -- and then go home to Frankel, in a stable back up to 130 horses -- would be the sweetest possible admission of error.

The World Cup crowns an astonishing card that also includes two turf races nowadays worth $5m apiece.

Brian Meehan saddles his Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Dangerous Midge, in the Sheema Classic, but Rewilding should make his class tell provided he handles the firm ground.

Spencer also has a big chance on Wigmore Hall in the Dubai Duty Free, though a stronger pace than in their trial would make Presvis tougher to beat. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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