Dubai World Cup 2022: A look back with wonder

This year's much awaited Dubai World Cup will be held on March 26.

By Leslie Wilson Jr

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Reuters file
Reuters file

Published: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 1:35 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 1:39 PM

As the Dubai World Cup celebrates it’s 26th meeting on March 26, 2022, with six Group 1 races and three Group 2s, including the $12 (Dh44.08) million Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup we turn back the clock to pay tribute to the previous year's winners

1996: Cigar

The Dubai World Cup got off to a flying start at Nad Al Sheba racecourse when it was won thrillingly by American champion Cigar, following a titanic battle with fellow Stateside raider, Soul of the Matter.

A six-year-old bay horse trained in the United States by Bill Mott and ridden by Jerry Bailey, Cigar arrived in Dubai with a huge reputation of being the most dominant racehorse in the United States with eight Grade 1 victories that included the Breeders' Cup Classic.

All this led to him being voted American Horse of the Year.

KT file
KT file

Cigar warmed up for his trip to Dubai when headed another Grade I success when winning the Donn Handicap in February 1996.

The inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup also attracted challengers from the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, and Japan as well as four locally trained runners, all racing out of Emirati handler Saeed bin Suroor’s fledgling stable

Once the gates flew open for the 2,000-metre dirt contest, Bailey and Cigar moved into an advantageous position, stalking the pace before he took the lead a quarter of a mile from the finish.

But this is where the race began as Gary Stevens threw down the gauntlet aboard of Burt Bacharach's Soul of the Matter.

Soon, the two American stars were engaged in an epic battle down the home straight before Cigar showed just when he is regarded as the best horse in the world to win by half a length.

L'Carriere, who had finished second to Cigar in the Breeders' Cup Classic, completed a 1-2-3 for American trained horses as he got the better of a struggle with the British colt Pentire for third place.

Upon his return to his homeland in Kentucky Cigar would finish third behind Alphabet Soup in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Woodbine before he was retired at the end of the year.

The racing great passed on in 2014 at the age of 24.

1997: Singspiel

Following Cigar’s epic victory over Soul Of the Matter in the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup expectations were high when the great race returned to Nad Al Sheba for the second installment.

While Jerry Baily was once again in the saddle, the winner was British-trained Singspiel, who claimed a fitting victory for the race’s founder, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

A five-year-old bay horse trained in the United Kingdom by Michael Stoute, Singspiel had excelled at the highest level, having won the Canadian International Stakes and the Japan Cup in 1996, both turf contests.

KT file
KT file

Although Singspiel had never previously raced on dirt Bailey rode a confident race aboard the horse, taking the lead approaching the final furlong to win by one and a quarter length and one and a half-length from Siphon and Sandpit, two Brazilian-bred horses trained in the United States.

But the 1997 Dubai World Cup will, perhaps, be remembered more for the resilience of its organisers, who pulled off a miracle to stage the restage of the race just five days after torrential rain virtually destroyed the race track.

1998: Silver Charm

Like in the inaugural year, an American champion called Silver Charm headed to Dubai as the big international favourite and he lived up to his reputation when posting a hard-as-nails neck victory over the home hope, Swain.

Gary Stevens, who lost out when Soul of the Matter was beaten by Cigar, would claim his first Dubai World Cup following a lion-hearted performance by Silver Charm

A, a four-year-old gray colt trained in the United States by Bob Baffert and Silver Charm's victory was the first in the race for his owners Beverly & Robert B. Lewis trainer and jockey.

Named American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse for 1997 when he won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, Sibler  Charm was shipped to Dubai after winning his warm-up races, the San Fernando Stakes in January and the Strub Stakes in February.

At Nad Al Sheba Silver Charm took the lead approaching the final quarter mile and dug deep to held off the late challenge of Swain, trained in Dubai by Saeed bin Suroor, by a short head. French challenger Loup Sauvage finished two and a half lengths back in third place.

There was a little drama on the side before the race, as Silver Charm’s trainer Bob Baffert, who had never left the USA, was able to make the trip to the UAE through a hastily arranged passport.

1999: Almutawakel

Almutawakel made it two-all for the Dubai-trained horse against the mighty American dirt specialists, when he landed the $4 (Dh14.69) million contest by half a length from the much-fancied Malek, with trainer Richard Mandella once again denied victory in the great race.

Almuawakel also made history as being the first winner of the race that was prepared by the Emirati handler, Saeed bin Suroor, under the Godolphin banner, although he was owned by the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, former Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.

He was ridden to victory by Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey, Richard Hills, who sported Sheikh Hamdan’s racing colors – royal blue with white epaulets.

Godolphin had a four-pronged attack led by High-Rise, winner of the 1997 Derby at Epsom, Central Park, the Italian Derby winner, Daylami, a Classic winner of the French 2000 Guineas and Almutawakel, winner of the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat.

Silver Charm had returned to Dubai to attempt to become the first back-to-back winner of the 2,000-metre contest, with Victory Gallop, winner of the previous year’s Belmont Stakes, also in the race.

Godolphin’s stable jockey Frankie Dettori opted to partner High-Rise while Richard Hills’ was duly booked to partner Almutawakel.

The horse also provided Hills, a regular figure on the Emirates racing circuit for many years, with the biggest success in his racing career.

Central Park finished fourth while Daylami, who did not enjoy the best of runs, stayed on well to take fifth place.

Almutawakel placed twice at Gr1 level in America following his Dubai World Cup victory.

2000: Dubai Millennium

The 2000 running of the Dubai World Cup was one of the most memorable in its history.

It was a fairy tale that revolved around the extraordinary vision of one of the sport’s most passionate patrons who renamed a horse with an eye on winning the Dubai World Cup at the turn of the millennium.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, saw something special in a two-year-old horse that he owned called Yaazer (meaning White Gazelle) and decided to rename him Dubai Millennium.

AFP file
AFP file

The rest is history. As a three-year-old Dubai Millennium would win some of the top races in the UK and France.

Sent off as the favourite in the Dubai World Cup Dubai Millennium hit the front after breaking smartly from barrier 11 and eased into a smooth rhythm, devouring the ground effortlessly. Just as he had done in the QE Stakes at Ascot, he never looked back and dominated a world-class field to win by six lengths under Frankie Dettori.

In doing so he set a speed record time of one minute 59.50 seconds over 2000 at Nad Al Sheba.

After the race, Sheikh Mohammed would describe Dubai Millennium as the best horse that he had ever owned. This was high praise considering Sheikh Mohammed owned some of the greatest horses that the sport has ever seen.

2001: Captain Steve

Captain Steve became only the third US-trained horse, after Cigar in 1996 and Silver Charm in 1998, to win the Dubai World Cup. Trained by Bob Baffert, a four-time Eclipse Award-winning handler and future Hall of Fame handler, he came into the race with a big reputation having won the 1997 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

As the gates flew open Japanese contender To The Victory set a scorching pace and was leading the 12-horse field by nearly two lengths entering the home stretch.

But Jerry Bailey, already a two-time winner of the race, kept his composure before he asked his mount for his effort and the response was immediate. Captain Steve, who was named after Captain Steve Thompson, the head of the Louisville Police Department's criminal investigation division, picked up a gear and hit the front before powering to a three-length victory over To The Victory.

Hightori, the French contender, was third.

Owner Michael E. Pegram was arrested at the Louisville International Airport while attempting to clear security with a gun, a gift from his girlfriend, unknowingly in his possession.

Baffert called the Louisville Police Department and spoke with Captain Thompson who intervened with the presiding judge, drove to the police station, and had Pegram released from detention. He would name the after the office, in honour of saving him from a sticky situation.

Captain Steve was sold to the Japan Racing Association for $5 (Dh18.37) million to stand at Shizunai Stud. He died on April 21, 2013, in northern Japan from acute heart failure. He was 16.

2002: Jerry Bailey

For the fourth time since the Dubai World Cup began, a Godolphin-trained horse landed the world’s richest race. Jerry Bailey was once again on the plate as Street Cry comfortably recorded a four-and-a-half length win over Saudi Arabian-trained Sei Mei.

The seventh running of the famous race was a huge success for Middle Eastern-based horses with the first five across the line coming from the UAE or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Japan’s Agnes Digital, finishing sixth.

Street Cry was then sent to America where he delivered an impressive performance to win the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs before running second in the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga.

However, an injury, unfortunately, brought a premature retirement and he was sent to Jonabell Farm.

2003: Moon Ballad

Godolphin’s Frankie Dettori may have chosen wrong in 2002 when he finished third on Sakhee giving Jerry Bailey the winning ride on Street Cry but he would ensure that he was on the right horse in 2003.

Moon Ballad, trained to perfection by Saeed Bin Suroor, was a runaway winner coming home five-lengths clear of American raider Harlan’s Holiday, with British-trained favourite Nayef, finishing third.

Moon Ballad gave Dettori his second Dubai World Cup and Bin Suroor trainer a record fifth.

Moon Ballad was formerly trained in England by David Loder, who looked after Godolphin’s younger horses, before being transferred to Saeed bin Suroor's stable in 2002.

As a three-year-old, he won the Dante Stakes and finished third in the Epsom Derby and second in the Champion Stakes.

He prepared for the World Cup by winning the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in February.

Upon his retirement, Moon Ballad was sent to stand at stud under Darley Stud's management at the Yoshun Company's Stud in Hokkaidō, Japan. In 2010, he returned to Ireland to stand at the Woodlands Stud, Galway.

2004: Pleasantly Perfect

This was the year when the Dubai International Racing Carnival, now known as the Dubai World Cup Carnival, was launched.

There were several international contenders based in Dubai and as a result a quality field lined up to contest the big race.

Among them were, Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia D’Oro, 2003 UAE Derby winner and Maktoum Challenge champion Victory Moon, nor Japan Cup Dirt winner Fleetstreet Dancer and Japan’s finest dirt runner, Admire Don.

It was widely expected to be a repeat of the epic Breeder’s Cup Classic duel four months earlier in which Pleasantly Perfect ultimately triumphed over Medaglia D’Oro.

And the US superstars did not disappoint. Trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by Alex Solis he once and once more got the better of Medaglia D’Oro in a thrilling contest.

Pleasantly Perfect entered stud in 2005 at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Kentucky. His first offspring to race was Rapid Redux, who won a record 22 straight races and was the winner of the Eclipse Special Award for 2011.

Pleasantly Perfect was exported to Turkey where he died on June 3, 2020 at the age of 22. His most successful son, Whitmore, won the Breeders' Cup Sprint a few months later in November 2020.

2005: Roses in May

A crack field of Thoroughbreds, led by the big American hope Roses in May, assembled at Nad Al Sheba for the 10th running of the Dubai World Cup. It was the first time that the race was run without a Godolphin contender after the withdrawal of injury-hit Grand Hombre on the eve of the race.

Roses in May was the big favourite having aced all run in his three-year-old season until he met Ghostzapper in the Breeder’s Cup Classic.

He arrived in Dubai on the back of a second-place effort in the Donn Handicap and wowed fans during morning trackwork in the build-up to the race,

Strongly favored to win in the 2,000-metre contest despite a poor draw. Roses in May broke slowly under John Velazquez but moved around the outside of the field to take the lead in the straight.

He then drew clear and won by three lengths from Dynever and Choctaw Nation.

Roses in May was retired in 2005 following a torn tendon in his left foreleg. The following May he was sent to Japan’s Big Red Farm. He currently stands at Big Red Farm in Niikappu, Hokkaido, Japan with a stud fee of $6,500 (Dh23,875).

2006: Electrocutionist

Godolphin may not have had a runner in the 2006 Dubai World Cup but in 2006 they produced a serious challenger, with a threatening name – Electrocutionist.

The son of Red Ransom followed in the footsteps of previous Godolphin World Cup winners, Dubai Millennium, and Street Cry in landing the official prep race, the Al Maktoum Challenge R3 over course and distance.

Saeed bin Suroor and Frankie Dettori teamed up to win the race, the former for a sixth time, and Dettori for the third.

Electrocutionist won by one-and-a-half lengths from American raider Brass Hat who would make newspaper headlines when he failed a dope test and was later disqualified.

After winning the 2006 Dubai World Cup, Electrocutionist finished second to Ouija Board in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, and second again by a short margin to Hurricane Run in King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, also at Ascot.

On September 9, 2006, Electrocutionist, who Bin Suroor described as a “wonderful, brave horse”, suffered an unexpected and fatal heart attack.

2007: Invasor

The 2007 Dubai World Cup saw two of the most powerful stables in the world, Godolphin and Shadwell, face off with Discreet Cat and the Argentine-bred, Invasor.

Discreet Cat had been the runaway winner of the UAE Derby in 2006, where Invasor finished fourth.

Discreet Cat came into the race having strung together three victories in the US including the G1 Cigar Mile, while Invasor was crowned Horse of the Year after remaining unbeaten in five G1 races including the Breeder’s Cup Classic.

However, it was the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Invasor under Panamanian jockey Fernando Jara who got the better of the Frankie Dettori-ridden Discreet Cat.

Invasor was the second Dubai World Cup winner to carry the colours of the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, and the owner of the Shadwell breeding empire.

Discreet Cat finished last by 23 lengths, while front-running Premium Tap, battled with Invasor in the stretch for second place with the Hong Kong raider Bullish Lin third.

Invasor returned to the United States for a summer campaign but was injured and retired.. His career earnings were $7,804,070 (Dh28,660,447).

2008: Curlin

The build-up to the 2008 running of the Dubai World Cup had been dominated by Curlin, the 2007 and later the 2008 US Horse of the Year.

With Robbie Albarado doing the steering, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt led from two furlongs out and won, pulling away from the field a record seven-and-three-quarter length victory margin.

"What a horse?" said Albarado. "Curlin is like a limousine and I am just along for the ride."

Curlin's victory came five months after the colt enjoyed a championship three-year-old campaign with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the richest race in North America.

He became the fourth horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic and the World Cup the following year emulating the likes of Cigar, Pleasantly Perfect, and Invasor.

Curlin's winning time for the 2,000-metre contest was 2:00:15 — the third-fastest in 13 runnings of the World Cup.

In January the next year, Curlin won the Eclipse Award for the older male horse of the year and the second year in a row was named Horse of the Year.

He joined Secretariat, Forego, Affirmed, and Cigar as the only horses to win the award consecutively since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971.

2009: Well Armed

It was the final year that the Dubai World Cup was held at Nad Al Sheba with bulldozers waiting in the wings to begin their demolition work the very next day to make way for the new Meydan Racecourse.

So history will tell us the last running of the $6 (Dh22.03) million contest at Nad Al Sheba racecourse was won by American galloper Well Armed.

Third in the 2008 Dubai World Cup, Well Armed closed the chapter at Nad Al Sheba by obliterating an international field to win by a record 14 lengths. Aaron Gryder was in the saddle for trainer Eoin Harty, a key member of the Godolphin American string, giving the US an eighth victory in the famous race.

KT file
KT file

Going back to America he was beaten in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on August 2, 2009, by Informed who produced a big run in the final strides to win by a nose in the Grade 2, $250,000 (Dh918,125) race.

Well Armed finished last and it was discovered that he had a small chip in his left front ankle. He was sent to the Alamo Pintado Clinic near Solvang, California, where the chip was discovered.

2010: Glória de Campeão

The Dubai World Cup was run on a synthetic surface for the first time in its history with an increased purse of $10 (Dh36.72) million.

All eyes were on the majestic Meydan Racecourse where Brazilian runner, Glória de Campeão, and jockey Tiago Pereira romped home victorious.

The winner was trained by Frenchman, Pascal Bary,

Glória de Campeão had finished runner up to Well Armed on the dirt in 2009 and proved himself a better horse on the synthetic ‘tapeta ’surface a year later.

In the race, Glória de Campeão made the first move off the home turn and bolted clear of the field before he was joined by the Mike De Kock-trained Lizard’s Desire who appeared to have caught him on the line.

However, the judges ruled that Glória de Campeão had won the resulting photo finish by a nose which was one of the closest finishes in Dubai World Cup history.

After his win in the Dubai World Cup, he faced off against Lizard's Desire again in the Singapore International Cup. But this time Lizard's Desire wore down Glória de Campeão in the straight to get up by half a length.

Glória de Campeão was aimed at the Cox Plate as his next start but he came up with a tear in his left front tendon after a workout and was retired.

After this unexpected end to his career his trainer, Stefan Frieberg paid tribute to him saying: "He is a great horse and he deserves his retirement. If he hadn't been injured, he would of course have come back to Dubai to try and win the World Cup again."

Glória de Campeão was then sent back to Brazil to stand at stud and even today has remained the all-time highest money earner for any South American bred at $9,258,355 (Dh34,001,308). Surpassing the previous leader Invasor who earned $7,804,070 (Dh28,660,447).

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