When legendary American composer Bacharach almost won the Dubai World Cup

Burt Bacharach, who died at the age of 94, was close to winning the $4 million horse race in Dubai


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Cigar beat Soul of the Matter in a classic finish in the inaugural edition of the Dubai World Cup. Photo: Twitter
Cigar beat Soul of the Matter in a classic finish in the inaugural edition of the Dubai World Cup. Photo: Twitter

Published: Fri 10 Feb 2023, 8:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 10 Feb 2023, 12:09 PM

Burt Bacharach is an institution of American music not just for his contribution to the country’s cultural mosaic but also to the sporting industry.

During his lifetime, Bacharach gave us several memorable songs that we sang along to, gems like 'Magic Moments' and 'What’s New Pussycat'? But it was his signature tune, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, that will resonate for centuries and evoke memories of a man who lived life to the fullest.

While music was his first love, and what earned him worldwide fame and multiple Grammy and Academy Awards, Bacharach was also passionately fond of owning and breeding top-quality racehorses.

It all began in the eighties but it was in the mid-nineties when he bred two Grade 1 Stake race winners, that the story really began.

One of them would cement its name among the era’s best horses.

Bred in West Virginia, Soul of the Matter was a superstar middle-distance horse who narrowly came close to winning the world’s most iconic horse race – the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse – a race with a purse of $4 million, which at the time was unprecedented in the sport’s rich history.

Breeding horses just as fast as he was making hit records like “The Story of My Life,” Battle Royal gave Bacharach his first taste of success on the turf.

Together with breeder and trainer Vincent Moscarelli of Country Road Farm, Bacharach bred the filly Heartlight No. One, which he named after the song he wrote for Neil Diamond.

While the song did not reach the No 1 spot, the filly proved a sensation winning an Eclipse Award following wins in the Grade 2 Del Mar Oaks, the Grade 1 Hollywood Oaks, and the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap before rounding off the year with a second-place effort in the Grade 1 Beldame.

Legendary American composer Burt Bacharach. Photo: Reuters
Legendary American composer Burt Bacharach. Photo: Reuters

By the early nineties, Bacharach began breeding under the name Blue Seas Music which proved to be the turning point in his racing career.

A foal by Maryland-based stallion Private Terms, winner of the 1988 Wood Memorial winner, out of his homebred mare Soul Light, was born and Bacharach named him Soul of the Matter.

Trained by Richard Mandella at Santa Anita Park he would finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Stakes but it was at three, that he would start his foray into racing history.

Soul of the Matter won the Grade 2 San Felipe before travelling to Keeneland to finish second in the Lexington Stakes and on to Churchill Downs where he made history as the first West Virginia-bred horse to run in the Kentucky Derby where he finished fifth behind Go for Gin.

After winning the Super Derby and finishing fourth in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic he would have his first brush with the legendary Cigar, the winner of 11 straight races, where he once again finished fourth in the 1995 Classic behind the Horse of the Year.

In 1996, both Cigar and Soul of the Matter travelled to Dubai to contest the inaugural running of the $4 million contest at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse.

And what a race it was.

Sent off as the overwhelming favourite, Cigar recovered from an early scare when he stumbled at the start before his jockey Jerry Bailey masterly got his horse to settle midfield into the 2,000-metre contest.

Soul of the Matter and his jockey Gary Stevens opted to race toward the rear of the pack.

As the field approached the final bend, Bailey asked Cigar to pick up a gear which he readily did Soul of the Matter mounted his challenge.

The rest of the race was a blur and a memory that lives in the hearts of every racing fan present at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse and the thousands watching around the world.

Inside the final furlong, Bacharach’s colt drew level with Cigar and Stevens would challenge Bailey to get the best out of his champion.

The pair raced eyeball to eyeball, toe to toe down the dusty track as the crowd of over 60,000 fans screamed till they were hoarse.

There was not a person sitting down as the two American superstars flashed past the winning post with Cigar crossing the line half-length in front of Soul of the Matter.

It was a race for the ages and one which Bacharach himself would describe as ‘unforgettable.’

If Walk On By, which he penned for the great Dionne Warwick was arguably his greatest composition, then Soul of the Matter was without down the best thoroughbred racehorse that he bred and will always be remembered for.


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