DUBAI // If any hint was needed that Sajjhaa was going to run a huge race in the Dubai Duty Free race at the Dubai World Cup tonight, fans at Meydan Racecourse received it when the horse's owner chose to walk from the parade ring to watch the US$5 million (Dh18.4m) contest from among his people.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, watched from a vantage point on the rail of the grandstand he built, and with 400 metres left in the 1,800m contest he must have known his mare was going to prevail.
Sajjhaa's third consecutive victory at Meydan this season handed Godolphin their first win in the Dubai Duty Free since Rhythm Band in 2000. That horse was trained by Saeed bin Suroor, and the master of Al Quoz stables was delighted at the success.
"To beat an international field like that is just brilliant," Bin Suroor said. "She has won two Group 1s this season and she just has improved all the time."
Before arriving in Dubai, Sajjhaa had not won since July 2011, but she has thrived with the sun on her back.
The six-year-old mare started out under the guidance of English trainer Michael Jarvis, who died two years ago in September, and Simon Crisford was quick to remind the world how strongly Jarvis had believed in the mare when she was younger.
"Michael Jarvis said that she was always going to be a Group 1-winning filly and he has been proved right," Godolphin's racing manager said. "If he's watching from up there he will be so thrilled."
As soon as the gates had opened, Silvestre De Sousa angled Sajjhaa out of the fifth stall and headed towards the rail.
De Sousa tracked Little Mike, ridden by the 50-year-old Gary Stevens, and when the American challenger tired, De Sousa urged on his mare and went for home.
De Sousa kept to the far side rail on Sajjhaa, while a rejuvenated Igugu swept past Little Mike on the outside and it appeared the two mares would sew up the race.
Christophe Soumillon, however, had other ideas and, buoyed by a double on the night aboard Shea Shea in the Al Quoz Sprint and Al Mamun Monlau in the Kahayla Classic, he coaxed The Apache to the front and managed to get within a length and three-quarters of his Godolphin rival.
On a night of fast times after Shea Shea had beaten his Super Saturday course record in the Al Quoz sprint earlier in the night, Sajjhaa also lowered her own Super Saturday time and stopped the clock at one minute, 47.93 seconds.
The lightning-fast final quarter told on Igugu. Giofra finished strongly to take third, while Trade Storm, the Zabeel Mile winner, was fourth.
Dale Romans found the defeat of Little Mike, who was 11th, difficult to stomach. Little Mike became the 41st American horse to be beaten on turf in Dubai but Romans found little balm in statistics.
"None of this makes any sense to me," Romans said. "He was positioned where he was supposed to be, but he opened up in the straight and that was it.
"I don't know what to make of it."
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