The Godolphin horses will deservedly milk the bulk of the limelight from Dubai World Cup night, but it was Japanese-filly Almond Eye who shone brightest under the lights at Meydan.
The flying filly was racing for the first time since shattering the track record in November’s Japan Cup, and duly picked up where she left off on her first start outside of her home nation.
The four-year-old was produced with a well-timed run by jockey Christophe Lemaire to secure the 1800m Dubai Turf – her seventh successive win – with compatriot Vivlos a length and a quarter back in second and Deirdre finishing fourth.
“It was a really great race. She broke well, settled well, got a good position and accelerated well to win well. It was the result I thought we could get and I’m happy she proved us right. I was nervous, I’ve lost my voice,” said trainer Sakae Kunieda.
The ultimate target for the Lord Kanaloa filly is to become the first Japanese winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and from what she has shown to date, she has all the qualities to achieve this historic feat.
Kunieda added: “Almond Eye can continue my dreams, so next we’ll go to Europe, our dream is to take her to the Arc.”
Lemaire was equally impressed with the manner of her victory and believes there are big things on the horizon for a horse who still looked head and shoulders above the competition despite not getting out of second gear.
“She was very impressive. The way she accelerated is unbelievable. Today was her first start of the year, and quite early on she was actually in front of the rest of the field. I think she relaxed a little bit and she had a bit of a margin on them,” he said.
“When you have the right horse and you have confidence in your horse, you can go out confident no matter what happens – and she’s the right horse. Hopefully, there are some big victories on the horizon for her.”
Blue Point cemented his status as one of the best sprinters in the world with an impressive victory in the Al Quoz Sprint.
The Charlie-Appleby trained horse has been in outstanding form throughout the Dubai World Cup Carnival, with wins in the Meydan Sprint and Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.
Blue Point broke well and William Buick was happy to stay composed, until 200metres from home, where he made his move.
The sire of Shamardal quickly asserted and put the race to bed, crossing the line one length clear of Belvoir Bay.
Stormy Liberal finished three-quarters of a length back in third.
Appleby said: “You have got a combination here of William and the horse. They thrive off each other. William knows him inside out. I knew from the body language, as much as you never get confident too soon, but I felt that William had pretty much everything covered there. I’m delighted.”
With Blue Point’s long-term target set to be the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, victory in Dubai provides the Newmarket handler with the perfect confidence booster ahead of June’s showpiece.
“It’s a tough game but if he turns up fit and well, he is going to be there to try and defend his crown in the King’s Stand Stakes. I spoke to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and we said that as long as he ran well here that would be the plan,” he said.
Buick, who first rode Blue Point back in 2016, has seen the five-year-old’s progress first-hand and believes he has plenty more to come.
“It is great at the age of five he is showing everyone just how good he is and he has always shown us so much speed. I remember riding him as a two-year-old and I’d never ridden a faster horse before he made his debut. He has developed into a top-class sprinter now,” he said.
Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter led home a Godolphin one-two in the Dubai Gold Cup.
The four-year-old, who gave both Charlie Appleby and William Buick their first victories of the night, took his career record to six wins and two second placings from nine races.
The son of Teofilo, who has not raced since his historic success at Flemington in November, drew clear to beat his impressive stablemate Ispolini by a length and a quarter in the third race of the day.
French-trained Call The Wind stayed on over the last 500m to seal third, three lengths off the first two and four lengths ahead of Gold Mount, Hong Kong’s first runner in the race.
Appleby said: “It was his first opportunity to run since Melbourne and he answered all the questions. William (Buick) was put in a bit of a pocket in the race but you’re actually never too worried when you’re working with the nice horses and good jockeys we have.
“I’m delighted with the result, it’s what tonight is all about and it’s good to get the first one out of the way. I just spoke to His Highness and we said we’d let the dust settle before come up with a plan but we could maybe go for the Gold Cup. But we’ll sit back and enjoy today before deciding where we go.”
Buick was quick to pay tribute to Cross Counter’s desire and confidence after a four-month lay-off, and admitted his decision to ride the winner over Ispolini was down to knowing how special the horse is to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“I was always going to choose Cross Counter over Ispolini and it is great has he come out and won on his return. Cross Counter is a special horse for His Highness and Godolphin,” said the 30-year-old.
“The pace was a bit stop-start and I was very happy with the way he travelled and he finished off well with great energy and confidence. It is a great effort when you consider he has been off since the Melbourne Cup.”