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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

And the home crowd roared

by Julia Wheeler

The Dubai World Cup

Sheikh Mohammed's conviction about his plans for hosting the World Cup were watered down on the Saturday it was scheduled to be run, he could have no doubt the sun was shining on them by the time the mile and a quarter was finished the Thursday afterwards.

The delay because of heavy rain and flooding meant that the original day of racing was quite literally a washout, but all that was forgotten under the floodlights at Nadd Al Sheba five days later.

And what a glittering occasion it was, even more sparkling than the inaugural event. Dubai knew what to expect this year and really went to town in the glamour stakes.

The atmosphere of the evening was outstanding. When the spectators realised that it was number two Singspiel that was first past the post, the cheering in the grandstand was deafening.

Sheikh Mohammed admitted that his horse's victory was a surprise to him, but that he knew that if any horse could beat the Americans, it was this one. And he was right to have faith.

This was not the first time Singspiel has delighted racing fans loyal to one of the premier names in horse racing. Singspiel is now the biggest European money winner in history. Before being entered for the richest horse race in the world, he had a considerable previous winnings total of three million dollars

The champion has also been through some lean times. The horse has been involved in six photo finishes and lost five of them. But after his World Cup victory, the record in his last 12 races shows six wins and six seconds.

The man who jockeyed Singspiel to success at Nadd Al Sheba was no stranger to the World Cup winner's enclosure. Jerry Bailey wore stars and stripes to ride Cigar the American super horse, to victory in 1996. This time he did it in the burgundy and white colours of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Bailey is now one of Americ's leading jockeys. He started grooming horses in his father's stable at the age of 12 to earn a little extra pocket money. He has now won most of America's big races, many aboard his first World Cup victor, Cigar.

Bailey had thought nothing could equal winning the inaugural richest horse racing prize on earth, but after achieving that feat for a second time, he said that it felt just as good for history to repeat itself.

It was a less fortunate repetition of history for the American trainer, Richard Mandella. His horse, Soul of the Matter, was second to Cigar by half a length in 1996. Mandella's entry this time was Siphon who finished a length and a quarter behind the winner. The race favourite, Californian-trained Sandpit, was third.

Last year Mandella had 77 winners and total prize money of $7,881,328, and this year he took first, second and third in the Santa Anita Handicap. Despite such success all around the world, the American trainer said before this year's race that running a horse in the World Cup is simply one of the most exciting things he has done in his life. He said he was honoured to have the chance again, but after the race he was clearly disappointed. Nothing if not determined, Mandella hopes one of his horses will be included in next year's starting line up and will make it third time lucky.

For Michael Stoute, the English Newmarket trainer of Singspiel, there was only applause, joy and laughter. Growing up in Barbados, he says that by the age of six, he was fascinated by horses. It is fair to say that Stoute dominated British racing in the 1980's - his winners included Shergar, Shahrastani, Shadeed and Shareef Dancer. But Stoute put down the April 3rd win at Nadd Al Sheba as one of the greatest moments in his training career. "Singspiel is a star," he said of his winner.

As Sheikh Mohammed received the World Cup from his brother, His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and held it aloft, the thousands of spectators at Nadd Al Sheba roared with approval. The race had been won by the man who had inspired the event, the most successful owner-breeder in the world, and a true favourite with the home crowd.

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