Dubai World Cup: Five highlights from Meydan showpiece

This year's renewal of the Dubai World Cup meeting was unlike any other in its 26-year history



Shahryar, ridden by Cristian Demuro, wins the Dubai Sheema Classic. (Photo by M. Sajjad)
Shahryar, ridden by Cristian Demuro, wins the Dubai Sheema Classic. (Photo by M. Sajjad)

By Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Mon 28 Mar 2022, 12:50 AM

The Japanese dominance

Having clinched four victories at Saudi Arabia’s big-race meeting in February, the Japanese were always expected to be a force to reckon with their 23-strong team of locally-bred horses.

But nobody could have bargained for the way they almost totally dominated the card at Meydan capturing five wins in nine races.

After rank outsider Bathrat Leon dropped jaws with his decisive victory at long odds of 6/1 in the Godolphin Mile, there was no let-up by the Red Army.

Stay Foolish maintained the winning momentum with a hard-fought victory in the Dubai Gold Cup before Crown Pride stormed home a cozy winner of the UAE Derby.

Panthalassa dead-heated with British raider Lord North in the Dubai Turf as Shahryar capped a golden night for the Far East nation when squeezing out a neck victory in the Sheema Classic.

Irish celebrations

A Case Of You won the Al Quoz Sprint. (Photo by M. Sajjad)
A Case Of You won the Al Quoz Sprint. (Photo by M. Sajjad)

Trainer Ado McGuinness celebrated the biggest victory of his career when A Case of You sprouted wings to win a thrilling renewal of the Al Quoz Sprint.

A winner of the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp, A Case Of You ran a blinder under jockey Ronan Whelan to win at odds of 14-1 with Happy Romance second at 20-1 and favourite Man Of Promise third.

Wild celebrations broke out at Meydan as the McGuiness clan rejoiced in a memorable victory.

“We like to celebrate and we always do. Even if it’s an ordinary race at home, we roar and shout our horses home,” said the Irish handler.

The celebrations were not without cause because A Case Of You was turning round a five-length defeat in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint earlier in the month to claim a popular victory on the world’s big stage.

The dead-heat

Jockeys Frankie Dettori and Yutaka Yoshida celebrate a photo finish win in the Dubai Turf. (Photo by Neeraj Murali)
Jockeys Frankie Dettori and Yutaka Yoshida celebrate a photo finish win in the Dubai Turf. (Photo by Neeraj Murali)

The photo-finish is a regular at most race meetings but a dead-heat is not an everyday affair.

The Dubai World Cup meeting got its first of these heart-stopping finishes when a trio of horses crossed the line in a blur in the $5 million Dubai Turf.

And, believe it or not, two of them were Japanese-trained horses, Panthalassa and Vin de Garde, the odd one out being Britain’s defending champion, Lord North.

What followed was a long, tense wait as the judges peered over the photo in a bid to separate the first two, before deciding to declare it a dead-heat between Panthalassa and Lord North.

It was the perfect enduring to an epic race that pleased the connections of both horses.

Lord North’s trainer John Gosden summed it up succinctly when he said: “It’s a very fair result. We did get ourselves in a Japanese sandwich there. Those (Japanese) horses are so tough. They knocked us for six in Saudi Arabia and they’ve come here and won four races now.”

Success for Dubai

Switzerland won the Dubai Golden Shaheen. (Photo by M. Sajjad)
Switzerland won the Dubai Golden Shaheen. (Photo by M. Sajjad)

It was left to Bhupat Seemar and Tadhg O’Shea to deliver a first and only victory of the night for locally-trained horses when the eight-year-old Switzerland rolled back the years to win the Dubai Golden Shaheen.

An equivalent of 100m dash in athletics, the sprint has never failed to produce something special and was no different this time around as the 8-year-old Speightstown gelding, bounced back from a sixth-place finish in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) to win a first Group 1. He also became the oldest winner in the race’s history.

The winner also handed nine-time UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea with his first group 1 victory.

O’Shea said: “It’s my first group 1 winner and I’m in the (age) 40 club! I have a good mate Adrian Nicholls who said ‘Don’t give up, it’ll come.’”

Spectacular closing ceremony

Drones helped illuminate the Meydan night sky after the final race. (KT photo)
Drones helped illuminate the Meydan night sky after the final race. (KT photo)

The Dubai World Cup has come to be renowned for its spectacular opening and closing ceremonies and Saturday’s show did not disappoint the thousands of fans present at Meydan.

Opening with the inspiring message — Life is a Race to the Future — it was followed by an exhilarating light show that used imagery and messages to deliver a brand and cultural message — DWC, a Falcon, and an Arabian horse motif – were all part of the three-minute thriller created and executed by Skymagic.

It was both captivating and entertaining as drones helped illuminate the Meydan night sky.

This led to the highly-anticipated post-race concert featuring British pop sensation Becky Hill, Rudimental and Ayesha Reid.

The two-hour show kicked off at 9:30 pm and provided the perfect finish to an unforgettable night’s entertainment.


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