“Britain prides itself with having the best racing in the world, but Japan,
Hong Kong and South Africa are making us all sit up and take notice”
London - The Breeders Cup in the US is a wonderful race meeting, but while the Americans persist with dirt rather than a synthetic surface they will never attract a truly international galaxy of equine stars, and Dubai showed the Yanks just how it can be done last weekend.
Two winners each for Japan and Hong Kong, a home-bred one-two for South Africa, plus victories for Britain, Ireland and Godolphin in the World Cup itself made Meydan a night to remember - and if that was not enough we had Jennifer Lopez topping the bill after racing. It just doesn’t come any better than that.
Ironically, success in the richest race on the globe for Godolphin’s African Story, who has shown himself to be a tapeta specialist and led a clean sweep for the home nation, was met with muted applause - turf stars Military Attack and Ruler of the World clearly failed to fire on the surface - and was hardly the result that Sheikh Mohammed would have liked.
However, we were not short of international fireworks earlier, with Variety Club, South Africa’s Horse of the Year for the last two seasons, enjoying a soft lead out in front in the Godolphin Mile, holding off fellow Springbok Soft Falling Rain to give Joey Ramsden his biggest training triumph.
Mike de Kock will take Soft Falling Rain to Europe, with the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot being the prime target, and, despite having been beaten into third place behind Hong Kong flying machine Amber Sky in the Al Quoz Sprint, stablemate Shea Shea will also be on the plane to Britain, the King’s Stand Stakes at the Royal meeting again being the aim.
Christophe Soumillon asked a huge question of Shea Shea, who did not jump as smartly from the gate as De Kock would have liked, but Amber Sky’s electric early pace had everything on the stretch from a long way out, and it was no surprise to hear that he had shaved Shea Shea’s track record.
The turf sprinters look stronger than their dirt counterparts, though Hong Kong again had plenty to celebrate in the Golden Shaheen, in which the stronger stamina of Sterling City kicked in during the last 150 metres, enabling him to wear down his countryman Rich Tapestry, who is arguably better at 1000m and did well to go so close from his outside draw.
Sterling City, a second winner on the night for Hong Kong-based Brazilian superstar Joao Moreira, who also rode Amber Sky, is a possible for the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot, but he will probably take in the KrisFlyer International Sprint in Singapore beforehand.
Dual Japan Cup heroine Gentildonna overcame traffic problems to win the Sheema Classic for the “Land of the Rising Sun”. She is an exceptional mare, and she had to be to come from such an uncompromising position 400 metres from home, having been held in by Christophe Soumillon on the 2012 winner Cirrus Des Aigles.
Ryan Moore, who rode Gentildonna, was lucky to find an escape route in time, and the filly duly got him out of jail, but, while we would love to see her at Royal Ascot, the prize money in Japan is so big that both she and Just A Way, undoubtedly the most impressive winner of the night in the Dubai Duty Free, are likely to stay at home.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Trev was rated the best horse in the world last year, but she is in danger of being toppled from her pedestal by Just A Way, who remember had hammered Gentildonna by four lengths in the Tenno Shen earlier in the year.
Mike de Kock’s Vercingetorix produced a career-best performance to finish second, but he had no answer to the gear change of Just A Way, who took a phenomenal 2.41sec off the course record. The Ascot executive have been courting Just A Way for several months and still hope to tempt him to Britain, with a mouth-watering clash with Trev in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes being the bait, but the Yasuda Kinen, which is run around the same time, carries an even more valuable purse and is on his doorstep. So unless Just A Way’s connections opt for prestige over the yen it ain’t going to happen.
Not to be outshone by Moreira, former British champion jockey Jamie Spencer also helped himself to two winners on the card, a shock 33-1 celebration on Irish-trained Certerach in the Dubai Gold Cup, in which Godolphin’s Cavalryman was a desperately unlucky runner-up, being stopped more times than a taxi driver on Sheikh Zayed Road, and following up on Jamie Osborne’sToast of the York in the UAE Derby.
Osborne does not have another horse in his Lambourn yard rated above 80, but for weeks he has been telling anybody who would listen that Toast of New York is “the real deal”, and, having blown the opposition away by the time they had reached the home straight, the trainer feels that it is well worth owner Michael Buckley stumping up the £8,000 next week to supplement the colt for the Epsom Derby.
However, having seen Godolphin avoid a whitewash with a seven-year-old gelding and Coolmore, who mounted their strongest raid yet on Dubai, not managing to get a horse in the first three, one left Dubai on Monday morning feeling that racing’s shift of power was edging towards the Far East.
Britain prides itself with having the best racing in the world, but Japan, Hong Kong and South Africa are making us all sit up and take notice - and long may it continue.
Extract from Tab News