This year’s Dubai World Cup had it all. Any big event needs its headline act to show up, and Arrogate did that; providing a performance so dramatic that even his jockey was shaking afterwards.
We all expected him to win, but no-one thought he’d be so relaxed about it that he’d be stone last early in the race and swoop by late to conquer – it was genuine heart-inthe-mouth stuff.
“He’s the best I’ve ever had,” said Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert after the race. He’s not a man often moved by emotion, but the trademark dark glasses were off and he laid himself bare to greet his $17million star.
In winning the World Cup, Arrogate eclipsed California Chrome’s record and became the richest American-trained horse to date, with the promise of more to come.
Not that he knows, obviously, or cares. Just before the race I turned around at the right time and caught a glimpse of him in the Parade Ring.
He was so relaxed you’d swear he was drugged; lolling around, head lowered. The trouble was, he was just as relaxed in the race itself, and so leisurely early on that even his unflappable jockey Mike Smith must have been flapped.
The rest, as they say, is history, but what history – he’s officially the best World Cup winner in the event’s 22-year history, and I can’t find anyone to argue with that.
Rated 134, Arrogate is officially the best horse ever to race in Dubai, being two points higher than the great Cigar; winner of the inaugural Dubai World Cup back in 1996.
He’s only been beaten once, on his debut, which remarkably came less than a year ago. We’re unlikely to see him in Dubai again – his career might well end at the Breeders’ Cup in November – but it’s fantastic that he came and conquered.
Arrogate aside, it was a vintage day of racing. The huge, rain-dampened, crowd, called for a win for their patron, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, there with his family, and they got two.
First, the wonderfully game Thunder Snow dug deep to land the UAE Derby, then Jack Hobbs was oh so smooth in taking out a quality Sheema Classic field.
The latter is a horse who will be able to take Godolphin to all of the big middle distance events this summer. Japan rarely miss a beat, either, and they strengthened their grasp on the meeting’s grass races by taking the Dubai Turf for a second successive year, this time with the likeable mare Vivlos.
Before that, we saw a pair of French victories; legendary trainer Alain De Royer-Dupre taking the Gold Cup for a second time with Vazirabad, given a superb ride by Christophe Soumillon.
Then, Didier Guillemin announced his arrival on the world stage in no uncertain terms, sending out The Right Man for a narrow Al Quoz Sprint victory.
We also saw an “unexpected” – in the words of jockey Harry Bentley – win for Qatar with Reda in the Arabian’s Group I, the Dubai Kahayla Classic, plus journalist-turned-trainer Chad Summers made his own bit of history when saddling Mind Your Biscuits to win the Golden Shaheen.
It was his first ever runner, and he’d told us all week he would win. That’s just one story to emerge from a truly vintage World Cup meeting. It was such a great week that my post-World Cup depression is worse than normal. I can’t wait to do it all again next year.
Thierry Douillard will be leading the EFG Bank Monaco team as they gear up to win what will be their fourth consecutive win in the Arabia Tour.
In this video by Gillette World Sport, the Frenchman discusses the complexities of the race and his “Never give up” mantra for success.
Do you think EFG Bank Monaco can get their fourth consecutive win in the Arabia Tour?
In what was an enthralling contest, both sides enjoyed periods of dominance in a tight first-half with Dragons holding control.
Chief marksman Ryan Perkins was again central to Dragons exploits, kicking four goals to give his side a 27-17 advantage at the break. Mark Nancarrow produced a swashbuckling display around the middle, cleaning up loose balls and initiating attacking opportunities. He was ably supported by Michael Campbell, Lach de Morton and Will Cox, all of whom shone throughout.
“It was a tough battle and a really physical match from the start. We’re proud of how we stood up to the challenge,” said Dragons manager Rich Wharton. “The third quarter was huge for us, especially those opening five-10 minutes when we scored a couple of goals. That gave us a bit of breathing room which was critical in the end.
“The Bulls came hard in the last quarter and really had some momentum. We had some sore boys, so we were watching the clock closely. I’m not sure how long we could have held them off for.”
Despite losing their third final in a row, the Bulls’ commitment and dedication could not be doubted, with Jack Egan, Nathan Holly, Joseph Yodgee, Tim Leoncelli and Mark Mullally delivering outstanding displays.
Egan, in particular, has been the most devastating player in the competition this campaign and looks a genuine threat with and without the ball.
Bulls team manager Andrew Walters said: “The conditions were slippery which we felt played into the Dragons hands. They had big experienced bodies around the ball who handled the wet pill a lot better. We were frustrated with our inaccuracy when scoring, however all credit goes to the Dragons, as they were the more composed team on the night. To lose by such a small margin has really hurt the boys, so I’d expect everyone will be fired up when pre-season training kicks off in August.”
Victory also earns the Dragons a place in the history books as the most successful team in AFL Middle East history, and Wharton was quick to praise the influence of all involved.
“That stretch does say a lot about our club over a long period of time. We’ve had some great people involved and set some real standards on and off the field. We’ve got a strong culture and we like to think our results on the pitch are a by-product of that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bahrain will re-enter the 2017/18 AFL ME League after a six-year absence. Bahrain will join Dragons, Entertainer Dubai Dingoes, Doha Kangaroos, Multiplex Bulls and Abu Dhabi Falcons in the six team competition, which will resume in September.