x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

It was home sweet home for Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin

If you have never seen the vice president of a country suddenly bolt on a giddy little run, well, maybe you should. It's a vivid sight.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, gives Monterosso a thankful pat on the nose.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, gives Monterosso a thankful pat on the nose.

If you have never seen the vice president of a country suddenly bolt on a giddy little run, well, maybe you should.

It's a vivid sight.

Some people can look awkward running at 62, but Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid displays the coordinated stride of a sportsman, proven just before 10 last night at Meydan Racecourse.

Having received congratulations from just about everybody in sight after Godolphin's Monterosso crossed the wire first in the Dubai World Cup, Sheikh Mohammed headed towards a glass-walled room at the base of the grandstand.

Inside were family members, and as he walked toward them, he began running toward them until he had gone in there and hugged the children. Witnesses smiled all around.

One little jog told a lot. The host had got a prize. Every so often at parties and events, the host should get something other than thank-you notes.

Just about everyone else had since Electrocutionist won for Godolphin in 2006. The phrase "Godolphin drought" entered the Dubai World Cup lexicon as horses foaled, trained or owned by Argentina, the United States, Brazil, France and Japan each had turns at the exhilaration.

In the world's-richest-race Sheikh Mohammed devised and created, he took five years as gracious host, congratulating others.

Now, on the sand, fibre, rubber and wax placed above the porous blacktop placed above the washed rectangular stone - you know, synthetic Tapeta - horses with recent experience on same finished one-two. Godolphin horses finished one-two. Mahmoud Al Zarooni-trained horses finished one-two. Horse racing once again became that sport in which you might spend weeks and days and hours studying a race, calibrating all the possibilities, scanning the dialect of the form guide, analysing countries and tracks and rivals, then watch the race, see the winner ease to the wire with the jockey standing up and exulting 100 yards from the finish and say …

Really?

A horse unraced for 11 colicky months between Dubai World Cups had won the most lucrative prize in the world after contending in the pre-race week for the prize of Least Discussed Entry. After preceding days in which the Godolphin trainers practiced realism in their comments, speaking of the calibre of the field, one of those trainers, Al Zarooni, had a finish of near-mysticism.

One-two. In the Dubai World Cup.

And the three-horse Japanese contingent, the American hopeful Game On Dude, the Kiwi-Australian-Irish-globalisation representative So You Think and the American filly Royal Delta? None had menaced much.

So You Think did the best of that lot, finishing fourth while in the process lacking sufficient gears. The unheralded Planteur had grabbed third for Marco Botti.

So, from this hotchpotch on an evening of perfect air, what might prove memorable?

Well, you might go with the track, which again gleamed on its big night. Down the line you might remember the harrowing scenes of the Dubai Gold Cup, with their sickening sights of horses going down on the turf course in both in the original third race and in the re-run staged later, after the Dubai World Cup.

You might go with the sprinkling of mirth around the Gulf itself, with winning owners coming from Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in addition to the UAE. Or you might opt for a landmark, for the first win by a female trainer on World Cup night, Corine Barande-Barbe's favoured Cirrus Des Aigles holding on to take the Dubai Sheema Classic, the day after her 54th birthday.

What figures to cling to memory, though, is the exuberance of a sheikh. Just before the race, amid the parade of entries, Sheikh Mohammed greeted well-wishers. A circle formed around him. Visitors and tourists and racing people held up cameras, hoping to take a shot of the host.

Then the race began, and the crowd ratcheted up its murmur. The French jockey Mickael Barzalona, a prodigious pup at 20, rode so perfectly that his accompli seemed fait amid the stretch. Then he stood up, and you wondered if that didn't cause all Godolphin a palpitation after these years of "drought".

Then he won by three, and people started congratulating the host, left and right and centre, until the host started walking towards that little glass-walled room with the children in it, whereupon an elated royal figure forged a brief little sprint.

Yeah, that should stay in the memory.

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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