DUBAI - They came from Europe and Asia, from South Africa and neighbouring Saudi Arabia, but the ruling Maktoum family of this desert emirate dominated the $10 million Dubai World Cup over 2000 metres at Meydan racecourse. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, saw horses in his colours finish first and third, courtesy of African Story and Cat O'Mountain respectively.
And his brother, Sheikh Hamdan, saw his silks carried into second place by Mukhadram. African Story was a revelation, stalking front-running Mukhadram from the outset before sweeping past with 200 metres left to run. The horse who finished fifth in this race 12 months ago looked a different proposition this time, stopping the clock in a new track-record time 2 mins 01.61 secs under jockey Silvestre De Sousa.
African Story won by two and three-quarter lengths from Mukhadram, with Cat O'Mountain a further four and a quarter lengths adrift. Side Glance and Akeed Mofeed filled the next two places but Military Attack and Ruler Of The World, which were both expect to feature prominently, finished 10th and 12th respectively. Red Cadeaux, which chased home Animal Kingdom in the race 12 months ago, again ran well to finish sixth.
Even though he had won the race five times previously, victory meant a lot to the winning trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor, who trains exclusively for Sheikh Mohammed and his family. "I hadn't trained the winner (of this race) for seven years and I felt a lot of pressure from a lot of people," Bin Suroor said.
"I thought African Story was the right horse for this race two years ago and I told that to the boss. He is a special horse and I am dedicating this victory to my mother. I am going to give her my winner's trophy." De Sousa, for his part, was celebrating his first winner in the world's richest race. Originally from Brazil, he was retained to ride for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin enterprise 14 months ago. This was the biggest victory of his career. "It's so special to win this race," an elated De Sousa said. "It's a dream come true; I'm over the moon. We had a bit of bad luck earlier in the evening but this has saved the night."
Mukhadram's jockey, Paul Hanagan, briefly entertained hopes of victory when he asked his mount to accelerate on reaching the home straight. "For a moment I thought we'd stolen it but we were beaten by a very good horse on the night," he said. African Story's bid to win the Dubai World Cup came after a flurry of runners owned by the Al Maktoum family failed to meet expectations in the previous seven races for Thoroughbreds.
In a cosmopolitan gathering of horses from around the globe, runners from Hong Kong and Japan won two races each, with horses from Britain, Ireland and South Africa also getting in on the winning act. In the World Cup itself, the South African runner, Sanshaawes, reared up and caught a front foot in the gates of the stalls before the race started. He was unloaded and inspected by on-site veterinarians, who cleared him to run, but he could only finish seventh.
As for African Story, he is unlikely to contest the major races in Europe when Bin Suroor transfers his string from Dubai to Newmarket next month. The seven-year-old is seen as a specialist runner on the synthetic surface at Meydan racecourse, where Jennifer Lopez closed proceedings with a live concert lasting 45 minutes.