Every year the Dubai World Cup never fails to live up to all the hype and hoopla. This edition, the 19th running of the richest race in the world, was no exception.
A record crowd of 75,000-plus witnessed a brilliant spectacle unfold before their eyes, with the highlight being the home win for Godolphin in the final race of the evening.
The win in the feature race of the night – the $10 million Dubai World Cup – gave His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum his seventh winner in the 19-year history of the race.
The World Cup has become an event in which it is difficult to find a fault. It is superbly organised, and ticks all the boxes.
It showcases the city in all its glory across the globe, it entertains its residents and visitors like few other events do, and it provides a great platform for the sponsors involved to achieve a bang for the buck spent.
An early announcement regarding the 2015 edition has set the tone for what is to come – both Group 1 turf races, Dubai Duty Free and Dubai Sheema Classic, will offer an increased prize purse of $6 million each, up by $1 million from last night.
Connoisseurs of the racing would perhaps have just one complaint – the lack of American interest this year.
Horses from the other side of the pond have always played a major role in the night’s revelry, having won eight of the previous 18 editions.
Animal Kingdom, who was the defending Dubai World Cup champion, is also from the States. But this year, there were none in the big race.
Experts have blamed the allweather Tapeta surface for this apparent apathy from the American connections.
There is a belief there that the synthetic surface, once considered the future of racing, is dangerous for the horses, and hence, they have it in no more than a handful of courses there and prefer dirt and turf.
Although unconfirmed by the Meydan officials, there is a feeling that the Tapeta surface may be removed next year.
While meeting the media on the eve of the race, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, brother of Sheikh Mohammed and two-time Dubai World Cup winner, was asked why the Americans stayed away this year.
He said: “When Animal Kingdom won the title last year, his trainer said, ‘Thank God we have won the cup and our horse is safe’.
“The Americans didn’t like to send their horses to race on the surface after having removed it from all their tracks, and never race on the Tapeta anymore.”
Surely, the absence of American connections is something that Sheikh Mohammed would have noticed.
His vision for the Dubai World Cup is simple – it’s a competition to showcase the best horses in the world. One can rest assured that he would have already looked into the issue and will rectify it.
Saeed Bin Suroor has had to wait eight years for his sixth Dubai World Cup success – but he had every confidence African Story was the horse to end his drought.
The celebrated trainer last tasted success in the world’s richest race with Electrocutionist back in 2006.
Since then he has had to be patient, but last night he revealed that African Story’s triumph in the Godolphin mile two years ago convinced him it was only a matter of time before win No6 arrived.
He said: “I have had five winners in the Dubai World Cup before this, but this one took a lot of time to come. There was a lot of pressure from a lot of people who kept asking me when will we have a winner again in the Middle East.
“The reason we did not win in all these years was because we did not have the right horse.
“But I always knew we would win again with the right horse. This horse, when he won the Godolphin Mile two years ago, I told the boys in the stable that I knew in my heart that this horse would win the World Cup one day.
“About 10 days before the race, the boss (Sheikh Mohammed) asked if we have a horse to win the World Cup, and I told him that African Story had the class to deliver on the big night. Thank God he did.”
As for their plans for the race, Bin Suroor said: “Luckily, he got a good draw from No6, which helped him a lot. I told Sylvester that the moment you jump, take a nice position and take him behind the pace. I know the horse has good turn of foot and when I saw him three furlongs out, I knew he’d win.”
Bin Suroor added that nothing was planned in the future for African Story right now, apart from the fact that he flies back to Europe.
“He is very special. We will take him back to Europe now and we will keep the options open for him. I think we will bring him back in the second half of the season for Europe,” he added.
Apart from the World Cup triumph, Godolphin was also crowned leading owner at the Dubai World Cup Carnival for a seventh consecutive year with 23 wins during the festival.
Bin Suroor also gained a seventh successive trainers’ championship for his 17 victories, while de Sousa took the leading jockey title for a second time with 13 wins.
A delighted Bin Suroor brandished the golden whip he won and said: “This gold whip, I will give it to my mother as a present.”
A relieved Silvestre De Sousa, who rode African Story to his first Dubai World Cup win and Godolphin’s only triumph of the night, said it was a “perfect run” in the richest race in the world.
He said: “He really travelled so well and answered all the questions I asked him. It’s so special to win this race. I am over the moon, and also relieved. It really was the perfect race for me.”
African Story swooped on front-running Mukhadram to win the 19th renewal of the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Saturday, in the process breaking the track record with his winning time of 2min 01.61 sec.
Tracking front-running Mukhadram throughout, winning jockey Silvestre De Sousa asked African Story for his effort with 400 metres left and eventually won a protracted battle.
He pulled two and three-quarter lengths ahead of Mukhadram, with Cat O'Mountain a further four and a quarter lengths adrift in third place.
It was a sixth victory in the world's richest race for Saeed Bin Suroor, who trains African Story for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Seven countries were represented but the result was a clean sweep for the ruling Al Maktoum family of Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed also owns Cat O'Mountain, while his brother, Sheikh Hamdan, owns the runner-up.
"It is a dream come true," said De Sousa, the Brazilian who was winning the world's richest race for the first time. "This is a team effort, and we did it. We had a bit of bad luck earlier in the evening but this has saved the night."
African Story's victory earned his connections $6 million.
He finished fifth in last year's Dubai World Cup and is seen as a specialist on the synthetic surface on which the race was run.
Military Attack, from Hong Kong, and Ruler Of The World, from Ireland, were both expected to feature prominently but could finish only eighth and twelfth respectively.
The South African runner, Sanshaawes, reared up and caught a front foot in the gates of the stalls before the race started.
He was inspected by on-site veterinarians, who cleared him to run, but he could finish no better than seventh.