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(Image and Footage : Dubai Media)
DUBAI WORLD CUP
“We’re all in for a helluva night.”
Racing fans around the world must’ve been bewildered when, about eight years ago, Dubai’s Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed announced through his deputies that he and his brothers would no longer be patronising the stallions of their arch rivals, John Magnier’sCoolmore group, nor buying their progeny at the yearling sales. Although no official reasons were given, the grapevine had it (strongly) that the Sheikhs’ noses were out of joint because the Irish seldom, if ever, bought the progeny of their stallions, and especially because they were said to have snubbed (or plainly put, “boycotted”,) the Dubai World Cup meeting by not sending their horses there. And when they did send one, exception was made that it was accompanied only by “the secretary.” If you know Tammy Twoomey, you’d hardly call her “the secretary”.
Of course, it happened when Coolmore were riding high, and sweeping all before them, and whilst their dominance wasn’t quite at the level it is today, (mainly because, at the time, the Arabs still possessed some competitive Coolmore-sired horses in their own armoury,) it was true that you seldom found a horse in the colours of any one of the Coolmore partners, Susan Magnier or Michael Tabor at the World Cup.
If you spoke to the Irish though, they’d proffer a simple explanation. Their horses were programmed for the European and North American seasons, and they needed a break. The winter was the perfect time. The Dubai World Cup, on the other hand, was something of an imposition on the racing programme, as it came late in the day in the traditional affairs of our sport, and we don’t like change, you know. But to be fair, it filled a great gap for racing fans all over the globe, because March happens to be a quiet time, particularly if you’re not European or North American. Besides, it injected a massive flow of funds into the game, to be welcomed no matter where it slots, and the lure of these riches is evident in the fields for this weekend.
There are five Group Ones and two Group Twos in Saturday’s World Cup extravaganza, and Coolmore have come to the party. Aidan O’Brien’s intent is especially evident in the Sheema Classic (Gr.1) ($5 million over 2410m), where he has engaged his two stars, Treasure Beach and St Nicholas Abbey. In the Duty Free, (also for $5 million over 1800m) he has Giant’s Causeway’s capable son, Await The Dawn, while he’s named his number one horse of last year, So You Think, for the $10 million World Cup itself. O’Brien has obviously decided to make a meal of the day with Wrote in the $2 million UAE Derby, and the team has another ticket in Mike de Kock’sViscount Nelson in the Godolphin Mile.
What is evident though, is that things have either thawed between these two leviathans of the game, and Coolmore have taken the practical route, or it may be a case of “cash in while there is war and we have the cattle.” Of one thing there’s little doubt: the Irish are there for the dough as much as the sport, and we’re all in for a helluva night.