1 April 2007
Time was when Lincoln day was at Lincoln and was the start of the Flat racing season. Yesterday the William Hill-sponsored Lincoln was run at Newcastle, Flat racing has been going on the all-weather since Jan 1.
Lincoln winner Very Wise honourably picked up £61,000 for this first day’s highlight on the turf, over in Dubai last year’s Derby winner Sir Percy was pitching for a cool £1.5 million in the Sheema Classic on the same surface, and Breeders Cup winner Invasor was adding £1.8 million in the Dubai World Cup itself.
Phew! But that’s only the start of what a race fan had to swallow from yesterday. Jump racing at Ascot, polytrack at Kempton and an hour and a half before Sir Percy ran a good fourth to Hong Kong-trained Vengeance of Rain, the South African-based Argentinian champion Asiatic Boy took Dubai apart by landing the UAE Derby and the third leg of their triple crown with British-trained Jack Junior four lengths in his wake.
There has never been a race meeting as international or as rich ($21.25 million) as yesterday’s Dubai World Cup day. Only 11 years since the remarkable Cigar took the first World Cup on his way to equine immortality, this is not, as then, a single day, but the climax to a six-week international carnival and it was fitting that Invasor was actually confirming his status as the highest-rated runner on the planet.
It’s enough to give our own racegoers an inferiority complex, but don’t tell that to Very Wise’s trainer, William Haggas, or especially not his veteran owner-breeder, John Greetham. This Lincoln success is their gelding’s third victory and 15th run since he collected first time out at 50-1 in Oct 2004. What’s more, Very Wise’s 9-1 starting price was nice compensation for money lent when hot favourite two races ago only to lose everything at the start by having his head stuck in the wrong stall. Desert billions are one thing, but yesterday’s victory was home town at its sweetest.
The failure of the event was last week’s Winter Derby winner, Gentleman Deal, but then all races have failures and in Dubai Frankie Dettori had to taste the bitterest pill on the formerly unbeaten Discreet Cat. As he trailed in last of seven behind Invasor and the 19-year-old Panamanian Fernando Jora on the Nad al Sheba dirt, Dettori was looking beneath him as if something was amiss with his partner. Something may show, but it’s more likely it was the change to hold-up tactics that was awry.
To nurse Discreet Cat’s brilliant speed through this first attempt at 10 furlongs, Dettori dropped his horse in behind what turned out to be a very steady pace from the start. It didn’t work. “I am sorry boss,” Dettori said to Sheikh Mohammed, “I was beaten too early. He hated the kick-back and it wasn’t smooth at all.” Under many banners Discreet Cat might be hustled off to stud, but the greatest of all the Dubai operation’s gifts to racing is their commitment to racing horses through a full career.
In some hands Sir Percy would already be at stud; after all, Holy Roman Emperor is already at it and he is only a three-year-old. But Sir Percy’s team were always determined to campaign their little hero for a third season, and after his worrying failure in last year’s Champion Stakes he began this term with a terrific run behind Vengeance Of Rain in the Sheema Classic. The South African Oracle West got second and the Mick Channon-trained Youmzain confirmed last year’s impression that he would be even better in maturity by coming from a long way back to inch Sir Percy out of third.
Connections of both British-trained horses could be very happy with this big early season pay-day, Youmzain for his finish, Sir Percy for his persistence. The Derby winner got bumped around a bit in the slow-run early stages and for a few strides had looked in danger of being swamped in the straight, but stuck on to land £150,000 for his efforts long before most Derby victors get serious in their four-year-old season.
“He has run a great race and I am very happy with him,” Martin Dwyer said. “He might have got a little tired late on but he is back.”
Channon was equally excited about Youmzain. “I am absolutely thrilled,” said the man who has brilliantly put the tag of “ex-footballer” behind him. “I knew he was a good horse and he will come on a ton.”
Improvement up ahead …that’s always been the race fan’s early season dream, but those of us who watched Cigar on that first desert night never thought Dubai could get this far this quickly. Yesterday it unveiled plans for a new ‘super track’ in 2010 and a World Cup purse rise to $10 million. It’s all a bit much for Lincoln day.