Princess Haya completed a remarkable Classic double over the weekend when her English-trained colt Raven's Pass, under the guidance of Frankie Dettori, romped to a stunning victory over the Horse of the Year Curlin in the Breeders' Cup Classic in California.
Princess Haya, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had, in June, led her prize three-year-old New Approach - a present from her husband - into the winner's enclosure at Epsom after the Irish-trained colt had triumphed in the English Derby. Now Her Highness will have her eyes on adding the richest event on the calendar, the $US6million (Dh22million) Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba next March, to her collection because Raven's Pass has already replaced defending champion Curlin as favourite for that showpiece.
It was an historic occasion in Santa Anita as Dettori, the stable jockey for the Dubai-based Godolphin operation, upset the form book which suggested Curlin, an emphatic winner of this year's World Cup, would enhance his wonderful credentials. Instead, it became a first British victory in the $5million feature event of the two-day Breeders Cup meeting. Dettori rode a typically European race to bide his time and then surge past the pace-setting Curlin, who ultimately faded into an embarrassing fourth place behind the English and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Henry the Navigator and third-placed Tiago.
Dettori, who had earlier in the day ensured that Sheikha Haya's United States challenge was a successful one by kicking home her outstanding two-year-old Donativum in the Juvenile Turf, was ecstatic after his latest highlight of a fantastic career in the saddle. The charismatic Italian-born jockey, who had narrowly been denied a first Breeders Cup Classic win with Swain in 1998 and Sakhee (2001), said: "It was an emotional moment and when I crossed the line I didn't really know if it was true or just a dream. I then realised it was true and I'm delighted.
"I reminded my wife it's 10 years since I came second with Swain and that didn't go down very well. And I was close with Sakhee. Ten years down the line I got this chance and I didn't want to let it slip." It was a fortuitous ride for Dettori, who dismounted in his trademark acrobatic style after disappointing the large American crowd assembled to cheer home Curlin. Jimmy Fortune, the regular pilot of Raven's Pass completed a two-week ban on the day of the race and agreed to step aside in favour of the three-time champion jockey.
John Gosden, the English-based trainer of the winning three-year-old, enthused after a triumphant return to his former American stamping ground where he spent 11 years: "It doesn't get any better than this. It is a day I will cherish for the rest of my life." His American counterpart Steve Asmussen, trainer of Curlin, is not one to make excuses but there were mitigating circumstances surrounding the conquest of the wonder horse who had made light of sloppy conditions to win the race 12 months ago,
This time Curlin, who has amassed world record prize money of over $10m in earning the right to be regarded as probably the best horse ever to race on dirt, struggled to reproduce his most devastating form on a new synthetic surface. There must now be considerable doubt whether the four-year-old, who has enormous stud value, will train on to defend his World Cup crown in Dubai in March. Raven's Pass and Sheikha Haya will be waiting.