Prince Bishop caused a huge upset at Meydan racecourse on Saturday when he won the $10 million Dubai World Cup ahead of rags-to-riches American challenger California Chrome.
It was Dubai trainer Saeed Bin Suroor’s seventh victory in the world’s richest race, yet few have been as surprising.
Bin Suroor’s first-choice jockey, James Doyle, chose to ride stablemate African Story, which won the race 12 months ago.
English jockey William Buick stepped into the breach and had Prince Bishop well placed throughout.
He moved his mount forward rounding the turn for home and quickly took California Chrome’s measure.
Buick, in his first season as a retained jockey for Godolphin, said: “I cannot believe it.
“This horse has come good. I can’t express what I’m feeling right now. It’s very surreal.
“We were detached last but we ended up travelling very well in the last turn.
“I feel a bit numb at the moment but I’m sure when I get home it will all sink in.
— Dubai World Cup (@DWC_Meydan) March 28, 2015
“It’s a great team effort.”
Bin Suroor, who also won the race last season with African Story, said of the 14-1 scorer: “I knew the horse had ability.
“It’s such an important victory. I am very happy with that.”
California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman said: “He lost a lot of ground on both turns but he still ran game.
“He ran his eyeballs out. I’m just happy he came back in one piece.
“He tried every inch of the way. There’s nothing wrong with finishing second in this type of a race.”
Bin Suroor went on: “Usually this horse jumps slowly and gets everybody real worried.
“I said to the jockey William that it doesn’t matter if he jumps slow as usual don’t give up with him and see how he is with the kickback.
“This horse has class and he has a big heart.
“We’ve have had a really good winter and won several Group races and now to win the World Cup is very good.”
Jockey James Doyle said of African Story: “That’s just how it goes.
“No horse has won back-to-back Gold Cups and he didn’t seems that much at home on the surface.
“He owes us nothing and you can’t fault him.”
Joel Rosario, rider of the third-placed Lea, said: “He travelled into the race nicely and when I turned for home I was hoping for a hole to open up but it didn’t.”
Christophe Soumillon, who rode Epiphaneia, said: “It sounds like he has breathing problem. He started to wobble.”
In 1996, on the dirt off Nad Al Shebait was Cigar who proved the stellar name from America in the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup.
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This time California Chrome is the star raider from the USA on everybody’s lips, connections clearly tempted not only by the $10 million purse (and why wouldn’t you be?) but the switch to dirt by Meydan this season.
Admittedly, he cannot boast ‘highest-rated dirt horse in the world’ status as did Cigar when he arrived in Dubai and promptly won the first edition of, now, the world’s richest horse race, but he is certainly in the top half dozen.
Having triumphed in last year’s Kentucky Derby he promptly followed up in the Preakness Stakes and, with the first two legs of the American Triple Crown in the bag, started favourite in the concluding leg, the Belmont Stakes.
— Dubai Racing Club (@DRC_Meydan) March 27, 2015
However, he failed in his quest to become the first winner of all three legs since Affirmed in 1978, his stamina seemingly failing over the 2400m trip.
Today’s 2000m should be ideal and he looks certain to start a solid favourite with regular pilot Victor Espinoza aboard for 78yo trainer Art Sherman, saddling his first runner in the UAE.
Alan Sherman, assistant trainer to his father, said: “He has taken the trip very well and has been striding out nicely on the surface. To be honest, I personally feel he will handle any track or surface. He has won on turf as well remember.
“He was a good second on his return to action this year, behind a very good horse in Shared Belief. He has improved a lot since then and we are all looking forward to Saturday.”
— Dubai Calendar (@Dubai_Calendar) March 26, 2015
The exercise rider for 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps and a winner of more than 2,000 races as both a jockey and trainer, Sherman knows a good horse when he sees one, but he admits that California Chrome’s progress and eventual stardom took him by surprise.
“He started growing and developing and all of a sudden he kept getting better after each race,” said Sherman Snr.
“He won six races in a row and in San Felipe he won by eight just being eased and it gave me goose pimples.
“I was like ‘wow, I hope he runs this good in the Santa Anita Derby’. He beat a field of top horses and won easily.
“Then I felt I had a real chance in the (Kentucky) Derby and he didn’t prove me wrong.”
Despite the deflating defeat in the Belmont Stakes, in the eyes of his adoring ‘Chromies’, California Chrome lost no lustre and the likeable great grandfather Sherman remained racing’s darling.
— Amy Lynam (@A_Lynam) March 26, 2015
“I call him the California rock star,” Sherman added. “He’s got such a following. I thought nobody would know me in Dubai but from the moment I stepped off the plane, people said ‘there’s California Chrome’s trainer’.
“In the end, I’d like to leave some sort of legacy with him that says ‘wow, I remember California Chrome, he was a great horse and we had a lot of fun watching him run’.”
California Chrome is joined in the nine strong field by compatriot Lea, trained by Bill Mott who saddled Cigar to land the inaugural running in 1996 but whose three subsequent runners have failed to make the frame.
The mount of Joel Rosario, who won the race on Animal Kingdom in 2013, he will actually be having his third start of 2015, having won on his seasonal debut before a close second in the Donn Handicap early last month.
— Visit Dubai (@visitdubai) March 26, 2015
The Donn has been a good source of World Cup winners in the past with Cigar one of three winners of both races, whereas 2005 World Cup victor, Roses In May, was runner-up in that year’s Gulfstream Park on his previous start.
“He is an easy horse to ride,”
Rosario said. “He’ll do anything you want him to do. I have a lot of confidence.”
Seeking a 10th Dubai World Cup victory, the American duo dominate the international markets and it would be no surprise were they to fight out the finish.
Japanese ‘supermare’ Gentildonna won the 2400m Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic last year and there looks a strong chance this turf contest could be destined for Japan again.
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Seeking a fourth win in the race, the country is doubly represented in a nine strong field with four-year-old Harp Star currently international favourite.
Winner of last year’s Japanese 1000 Guineas (1600m), she was then narrowly denied in the Japanese Oaks, before stepping out of her age group and taking on the boys in the Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen. Victory ensued with connections then aiming her to France and the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe.
Harp Star was sixth in that behind winner Treve, with surely no worse ride seen in a big international race last year. She was then fifth in the Japan Cup (behind World Cup hopeful Epiphaneia).
— Longines WBRR (@worldsbesthorse) March 25, 2015
She has had one start this year, perhaps a disappointing fifth in Grade 2 company but has the benefit of Ryan Moore, successful on Gentildonna last year, in the saddle for the first time. Her trainer, Hiroyoshi Matsuda, saddled Buena Vista (his only previous runner in the race) to be second in this in 2010 having won both the Japanese 1000 Guineas and Oaks the previous year.
Matsuda, surrounded by a throng of Japanese media, said: “We are very happy with her. She is used to international travel and has taken everything in her stride. We have probably the best jockey in the world and are very excited.”
Compatriot One And Only appears to have a bit to find with France supplying two of the main dangers with the Alain De Royer-Dupre-trained Dolniya and Flintshire, to be saddled by Andre Fabre.
The latter won the Dubai Sheema Classic in 2004 with Polish Summer, like Flintshire, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah. Winner of last year’s Group 1 Hong Kong Vase, he was runner-up to Dolniya in their prep race over 1800m (Polytrack) at the beginning of the month.
He is fancied to gain his revenge here over a more suitable trip and he also has previous with American challenger, Main Sequence.
He has been a revelation since switching Stateside and joining Graham Motion who won the 2013 Dubai World Cup with Animal Kingdom.
Yet to taste defeat in five outings for his new handler, Main Sequence’s four Grade 1 victories last year included the Breeders’ Cup Turf, defeating Flintshire. Designs On Rome, winner of last year’s Group 1 Hong Kong Derby and Hong Kong Cup in a stellar campaign, has won both starts this year.