DUBAI // Gloria de Campeao, a distant runner-up to the runaway 2009 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed, made it third time lucky in the world's richest horse race last night as he stubbornly refused to be overtaken throughout the 2,000 metres.
The Brazilian-bred, French-trained and Swedish-owned six-year-old showed tremendous courage down the home stretch as he was challenged by a cluster of rivals before finally being taken on in the closing strides by Mike de Kock's Lizard's Desire and Godolphin's Allybar, ridden by the Emirati jockey Ahmad Ajtebi. The massive crowd, watching this US$10million (Dh36.7m) showpiece for the first time at its new Meydan Racecourse home, were convinced that Lizard's Desire, under the relentless driving of jockey Kevin Shea, had got up on the line but the photograph ruled in favour of "Gloria", who was declared the winner by a nose with Allybar a further short head away in third place.
It was a tribute to the tenacity of jockey Tiago Pereira, who refused to accept that his mount was tiring on the run-in and he was wildly embraced on returning to the saddling enclosure by the victorious trainer Pascal Bary. The narrowest of victories boosted Gloria's career earnings by a further $6m - the take-home payout for the winner - after the consolation prize of $1.2m 12 months ago. Gloria de Campeao finished eighth behind the American wonder horse Curlin in 2008.
The World Cup, contested for the first time on the synthetic surface of Tapeta after 14 previous runnings on the dirt track of Nad Al Sheba, had two principal supporting events on the exciting eight-race programme, which offered total prize money of $26.25m. Two Group One turf races - the Dubai Duty Free and the Dubai Sheema Classic - each offered $3m to the winner out of their purses of $5m and they produced thrilling finishes to delight the packed Meydan crowd.
The Duty Free trophy stayed in local hands thanks to a blistering finishing burst by Royston Ffrench on the outsider Al Shemali who comfortably got the better of Bankable and Imbongi down the lush home stretch to endorse the credentials of UAE champion trainer-designate Ali Rashid al Raihe. Dar Re Mi prevailed in a blanket finish to the Sheema, the five-year-old mare holding off the Japanese-bred Buena Vista and Sir Michael Stoute's Spanish Moon after Frankie Dettori's mount Cavalryman had looked like winning going into the final furlong.