How prophetic that a five-year-old American horse blew away the rest of the field to win horse racing's richest race, at US$10 million.
Last night's star came in stripes at the Dubai World Cup
Before the race, all the talk was of the withdrawal of Godolphin's Monterosso, the winner of last year's Dubai World Cup. But with four of its horses still in with a shout, it was going to take a special performance to deny the stable founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, a sixth win in the main event.
That performance came from Animal Kingdom.
The five-year-old American horse blew away the rest of the field to win horse racing's richest race, at US$10 million (Dh36.7m), with $6m to the winner. Red Cadeaux, scooped the second prize of $2m, while third place and $1m went to Planteur.
There were celebrations from the owners, Arrowfield Stud and Team Valor, from the trainer Graham Motion and the jockey Joel Rosario as Sheikh Mohammed presented them their prizes at the end of a dramatic day of racing.
In the build-up to this year's Dubai World Cup, much had been made of the increased involvement of American horses and trainers compared to last year.
"We haven't done well at Meydan for one reason or another and a lot has been made of that, but it's only been a few years at Meydan so maybe we hit a dry spell," Dale Romans, the American trainer of Dullahan, said last week of his country's poor performances in recent years.
He pointed out that American horses had done well at Nad Al Sheba, the venue which hosted the Dubai World Cup until Meydan opened in 2010, providing eight of the 14 winners there.
"I think you're going to see a good performance out of a lot of Americans," Romans had predicted. Those words proved prophetic. Animal Kingdom was the third American winner on the night after Lines of Battle in the UAE Derby and Reynaldothewizard in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
Throughout the day, the crowd had swelled in the Meydan grandstand, and in the apron views the real fanatics among them marked their cards before every race.
Royal Delta was the most fancied US horse, while Hunter's Light carried the main challenge for Godolphin. And the renowned American jockey Gary Stevens, returning from a seven-year retirement, had high hopes of winning on Dullahan.
But it appeared many in the stands had a soft spot for Animal Kingdom. There certainly were plenty of celebrations at the end of the race, and not just from owners.
Before yesterday, Animal Kingdom's biggest win was the 137th Kentucky Derby in May 2011, and to more parochial fans in the US the Derby is the world's most important race. Either way, Animal Kingdom has won both at Churchill Downs and Meydan.
Victory was just reward for connections of a horse that was due to run in last year's World Cup until he injured a leg three weeks beforehand and was withdrawn.
Motion was handsomely compensated for his patience with the injury-prone horse and described himself as "numb" afterward.
"In many ways it was a little like the Kentucky Derby in that he seemed to draw off so easily," he said.
Despite, the initial disappointment of Monterosso's withdrawal, the day had no shortage of exciting action.
Fans saw trainers Saeed bin Suroor, of Godolphin, and Mike de Kock, battle it out, ending with two wins each. Three course records were set, and the jockey Richard Mullen had an emotional first win in the Golden Shaheen.
But the majority of the acclaim, appropriately, will go to the winner of the big race. And the final word goes to Animal Kingdom's owners Team Valor who within minutes of the end of the Dubai World Cup tweeted, simply: "Awesome horse, awesome trainer."
Racing fans, inside Meydan and around the world, will surely agree with those words.
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