One of the most exciting events for me this season was going to the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup as it galloped to a thrilling finale in front of thousands of visitors, media and dignitaries. I was left in awe on the paddock meeting so many people in one area I would love to feature in our magazine but focus of the hour was of course on Godolphin’s Prince Bishop, winner of the big prize.
This year, the 20th running of the event was hosted by His highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the ambience more than equaled the red carpet glamour of the Kentucky Derby and Royal Ascot.
For us in Dubai, this is the social event of the year, as it combines the best of fun, fashion, sports and entertainment on a large scale.
This year, the race attracted 60,000 fans to the world’s premier track as the horse racing’s fastest thoroughbreds competed for a total purse of $30 million.
With a huge crowd at Meydan cheering and jubilantly throwing their racing programmes in the air, Godolphin’s Prince Bishop (IRE) unleashed the run of his eight-year-old life to defeat American challengers California Chrome (USA) and Lea (USA) in the 20th anniversary renewal of the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates.
Running in the colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Prince Bishop represents the eighth Dubai World Cup winner trained by the Godolphin racing operation founded by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
It was trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s seventh win.“It’s a great result,” Bin Suroor exclaimed in between receiving kisses and hugs from many friends who ran to engulf him in the parade ring.“I knew the horse had the class to win this race. Some horses improve with age, and it’s great to see him win. This is great for me and for everybody here.”
Jockey William Buick, who just last November signed a retainer with Godolphin, kept Prince Bishop to his task after he powered past California Chrome and early pacesetter Hokko Tarumae (JPN) in a matter of strides in a powerful stretch rally from just off the pace.
When they crossed the finish line, Buick blew a kiss to the crowd.“I can’t believe it. This is surreal,” said the 26-year-old Buick. “I didn’t look back. I just kept going.”Buick followed Bin Suroor’s instructions to stay clear of the kickback on Meydan’s new dirt track, and the trainer indicated that may have been the key to victory.
“Saeed and the whole team had a lot of faith in (Prince Bishop) going into the race today. He has a very unorthodox way of racing, so I took him out of the kickback in the back, and when I got onto California Chrome’s tail, he picked up the bridle and listen, he ran on well in the end,” Buick said.
Prince Bishop, who had finished second by a neck to stablemate and 2014 Dubai World Cup winner African Story (GB) in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan on March 7, crossed the finish line in track record time of 2:03.24 for the 2000m.
African Story finished well back in an attempt to defend his World Cup crown, checking in sixth in the field of nine. California Chrome proved valiant in defeat, enduring some rough-and-tumble jostling around the turns after breaking from the outside post, and he finished a length and a quarter in front of his American-based rival Lea.
Racing for the inaugural Dubai World Cup-winning trainer Bill Mott, Lea was bottled up and checked while trying to rally from the rail in the stretch run but he also finished gamely.
Jockey Victor Espinoza said California Chrome “ran awesome.” Co-owner Steve Coburn hugged the jockey and kissed California Chrome on the nose as his voice choked with tears, saying: “You ran your eyeballs out. You are still America’s horse.”
Prince Bishop captured the lion’s share of the $10m purse, with $6m staying in Dubai with Godolphin. However, the Americans were well rewarded for coming to Dubai, with California Chrome earning $2m and Lea gaining $1m for their connections.
Following Lea across the finish line were Candy Boy (USA), Hokko Tarumae, African Story, Long River (USA), Side Glance (GB) and Epiphaneia (JPN).
After soaking up the festive atmosphere at the Dubai World Cup this year, I am already looking forward to the exciting experiences the hosts will bring in next year.