Defending champion Switzerland gave his all over the last few yards, but failed to reel in Sibelius as the five-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding won the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Nakheel by a nose.
It was the second win of the night for jockey Ryan Moore, and trainer Jeremy O’Dwyer was quick to credit him for the way he handled Sibelius.
“The race worked out quite the way I had predicted. I only predicted this in my head, but you know, you can write these races in your head a hundred times and they never go to where you think they should,” said O’Dwyer, who used to be a good jockey himself.
“I thought he will be close to leader, on the leader or around 1-2 to be honest. However, he just sat back in the gates and was just off the steps, but when you’ve got a master rider like Ryan Moore, he just gets you out of trouble.
“It really is a proud moment for us. But I couldn’t have done it without owners Jun (Park) and Delia (Nash) sending me this horse and letting me do what I felt was best with this horse every step of the way. They never once interfered. I am happy that their patience is finally getting rewarded.
“It was hard to know if he definitely fit in such a great field, but based on what I was seeing at home, how he was acting and doing things, I knew he trains like a good horse, acts like a good horse, rides like a good horse and today, he proved that he is indeed a very good horse.”
Moore, who had earlier won the Dubai Gold Cup aboard Broome, added: “I was very lucky to pick up the ride. He actually stepped a little slowly, I was a half-length further behind than I wanted to be. We had a charmed run, they just drifted off which meant we didn’t have to change lanes and the horse dug in really deep. He showed a lot of courage and heart to get there.”
Two American horses – Hopkins and favourite Gunite – led going into the stretch, but Moore, who was riding Sibelius for the first time, moved from the inside and took the lead. With not much distance remaining to the finishing line, the nine-year-old Switzerland, under Tadhg O’Shea, produced a magnificent finish, only to fall short by inches.
Sibelius won in 1:10.69, followed by Switzerland and the Steve Asmussen-trained Gunite in third place. Hopkins, trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, finished fourth.
Bhupat Seemar, trainer of Switzerland, appeared heart-broken when he said: “It’s hard to get beat like that. He did everything right. These horses, if you take care of them, they pay you back. We had a plan to just give him two races and keep the miles off his legs and I thought we had it there.”
1. Sibelius (Jeremiah O’Dwyer) Ryan Moore
2. Switzerland (Bhupat Seemar) Tadhg O’Shea
3. Gunite (Steve Asmussen) Taylor Gaffalione
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