DUBAI // Corine Barande-Barbe became the first woman to win a race on World Cup night as the French trainer welcomed her Dubai Sheema Classic hero, Cirrus Des Aigles, back to the parade ring.
Within minutes of the French star crossing the line last night, Barande-Barbe declared she would like to come back to the desert to defend her title next year. She also has an attempt at a second consecutive Group 1 Champions Stakes win in her sights.
"In my opinion, he is the horse of a lifetime. He is my life," she said. "He is everything to me. It is a great achievement to win a race here."
Cirrus Des Aigles's regular jockey, Christophe Soumillon, was fulfilling his duties for Mike de Kock aboard Bold Silvano, so the plum ride went instead to top French jockey Olivier Peslier.
"I wanted Olivier on him because it is a big race and he is a big-race jockey," Barande-Barbe said.
"Many people asked me why, because he has never ridden the horse before, but Olivier knows the horse, he has ridden in many races against this horse and he has beaten him also.
"He beat him on Goldikova and Prince Bishop, so he knows how this horse runs."
Barande-Barbe, who was cheered by an effusive French contingent in the stand, added that Peslier's successes against her horse influenced her choice of him.
"I joked that I wanted Olivier because he is the only jockey that is capable of beating my horse so I would rather he was riding mine than riding another."
Barande-Barbe hailed her horse's fighting nature, which saw him hold off a sustained challenge from the Aidan O'Brien-trained St Nicholas Abbey under O'Brien's son, Joseph.
Barande-Barbe, though, said she was hardly aware of the other horse.
"I was just watching my horse the whole time during the race. I was not really watching the rest of the field," she said.
"He is a fighter. If a horse is in front of him then it makes him want to pass it and if a horse is coming up behind him then it pushes him to stay in front. I think you could see that tonight."
The trainer adopts a very sensitive approach with her horse, having learned to read signals from him over the years she has conditioned him.
"He is very expressive," she said. "If something would be wrong he will show it.
"All this week he never showed anything wrong so I knew that he was in really good form. He has never showed anything wrong since he has been gelded."
The jockey, Peslier, took a leaf from the trainer's book, allowing a headstrong Cirrus Des Aigles to gallop up next to the early leader, Bold Silvano, who faded in the straight to finish last but one.
"We didn't go very fast but I knew I was on a horse that had a lot of speed so I went straightaway close to the leader," Peslier said.
"There was hardly any pace and he started to pull so I just let him go and he finished really well. I could see St Nicholas Abbey and I knew it was going to be tight and he held on.
"The trainer said the horse was very tough and as long as you ask him, he's always very competitive."
Barande-Barbe said she chose not to enter her horse in the World Cup because she preferred to keep him on the turf.
"He is a turf horse and maybe he could have run on the Tapeta but the Tapeta is only here, so I preferred to keep him on the grass rather than start a career for him on the Tapeta," she said.
Now the Prince of Wales Stakes and the King George are on Barande-Barbe's radar but no decision will be made until the trainer has made sure her precious charge has come out of the race in good health. "The most important thing is to make sure that he is OK, then we can make plans for the future," she said.
Jakkalberry, trained by Marco Botti, was third under Ryan Moore in what must constitute the race of the Irish-bred horse's life.
"He missed the break a little bit but the plan was to take our time. He finished off well," said Moore, a three-time British champion jockey. "For him to be third in a race like that is very good."
Aidan O'Brien's second horse in the race, Treasure Beach, was fourth under Jamie Spencer.