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Dubai report

There was a total prize fund of $26 million up for grabs on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan last night, and it was somehow fitting that the richest prize not only on the night but also on the entire racing calendar, the $10 million Dubai World Cup itself, should go to the Japanese horse, Victoire Pisa.

The contrast between the grandiosity of Meydan and the scenes that have visited our television screens from Japan in recent weeks could hardly be starker, and there was a genuine sense of goodwill in Dubai all week towards Team Japan. Even Sheikh Mohammed himself reportedly said that he hoped a Japanese horse would win the feature, despite the fact that there were three Godolphin representatives in the race.

It was a big ask. In its 15-year history, a Japanese horse had never before won the Dubai World Cup. That said, in Victoire Pisa, Transcend and the mare Buena Vista, they probably fielded their strongest team yet.

It was Transcend who took the field along through the early stages, as his two compatriots disputed last place. Last to cross the winning line on the first circuit, the runners had just straightened up in the back straight when Mirco Demuro on Victoire Pisa decided that the early speed was not adequate. In a bold and daring manoeuvre, he moved his horse to the outside and passed the entire field, joining Transcend on the speed. Such a sudden manoeuvre is usually the death-knell of a horse’s chance, but not on this occasion. On the contrary, it was probably the winning of the race.

Victoire Pisa, trained to the minute for the race by Katsuhiko Sumii, was ideally positioned at the head of the field when they straightened up for home, and he was able to surge into the lead inside the final 200 yards to go on and win by a neck, with Transcend keeping on really well to hold off Monterosso for second place and complete a remarkable 1-2 for the Japanese.

“It’s unbelievable,” said a visibly emotional Demuro immediately afterwards. “This morning I was wishing to run a good race, to give to the Japanese people. But I couldn’t believe I could win the Dubai World Cup. I love you Japan.”

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Cape Blanco was prominent throughout and kept on well to finish a more than creditable fourth under Jamie Spencer, just a length behind the winner, but warm favourite, the Henry Cecil-trained Twice Over, could not overcome his poor draw. He was forced to race wide throughout and could never really get competitive.

Aidan O’Brien went even closer with Master Of Hounds in the UAE Derby earlier in the evening. One of two Ballydoyle representatives in the race, it was the first time in six years that Ballydoyle had runners on Dubai World Cup night, and it looked set to be a triumphant return when the son of Kingmambo kicked on from Xin Xu Lin at the furlong pole under Ryan Moore. But 19-year-old rider Mickael Barzalona got favourite Khawlah running on the outside just on time, and the Godolphin filly got up to put her nose in front right on the line in a thrilling head-bobber, recording the first of three victories for Godolphin on the night, and denying O’Brien what would have been a famous win.

Presvis made it third time lucky in the Dubai Duty Free under an inspired Ryan Moore. Second in the race when it was run at Nad Al Sheba in 2009, and well down the field when he could never get competitive in the race last year, his running style (always from the rear and among horses) will usually mean that he is a hostage to circumstance. Disputing last place at the top of the home straight, as is his wont, this time the breaks game. Ryan Moore threaded the needle on the far side and brought the Luca Cumani-trained gelding with a sustained challenge that took him past River Jetez deep inside the final furlong to land a prize that was fully deserved

“It’s a great relief, it’s long overdue, we have had some near misses, but today it all came right,” said Cumani, who was notching his first win ever on Dubai World Cup night. “We had the usual concerns with Presvis, it is always a question of getting the gaps and then Ryan does the rest. Ryan has played a great part in the success of this horse, and we are incredibly happy that we won this evening.”

Frankie Dettori got off the mark on the day when he guided Skysurfers to a narrow victory in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile, while Rewilding, last seen when he finished a disappointing sixth in last year’s St Leger, brought up the Godolphin treble when he justified the favourite’s tag in the Dubai Sheema Classic, coming wide and late to win by an ever-expanding three lengths from the Barry Hills-trained Redwood.

© The Sunday Times, 27th March 2011