x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai World Cup: Who is the greatest champion?

The National correspondents take you through who they think was the best horse to have taken all the glory at the world's richest race. Also, a look back at the UAE's greatest horse races.

Dubai Millennium, ridden by Frankie Dettori, crosses the finish line at the Nad al Sheba racetrack to win the world's richest horse race in 2000. AFP
Dubai Millennium, ridden by Frankie Dettori, crosses the finish line at the Nad al Sheba racetrack to win the world's richest horse race in 2000. AFP

Amith Passela

Dubai Millennium, 2000 The hype had already built around Dubai Millennium before he went into the Dubai World Cup. He had impressively won the Maktoum Challenge Round 3, a dress rehearsal over the same course and distance, two weeks early.

Dubai Millennium, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, erased Spindrift's Nad Al Sheba track record – two minutes flat – by clocking one minute, 59:60 seconds in the Maktoum Challenge. And the Saeed bin Suroor-trained horse lived up to that top billing by running 1.59:57 on World Cup night.

He trounced the field by six lengths. I have never seen a thoroughbred so dominating from the front, virtually turning the race into a procession.

The crowd were on their feet and the cheers became louder and louder as the charismatic Frankie Dettori drove him down the home straight. It was the millennium year and there could not have been a better advertisement for Dubai.

I have watched 17 World Cup races, and Dubai Millennium remains my most cherished memory.

Geoffrey Riddle

Well Armed, 2009 Dubai Millennium aside, it has been the Americans that have really provided the "wow" factor in the Dubai World Cup. Dubai Millennium provided Sheikh Mohammed with the perfect way to usher in the new millennium in 2000.

The homebred colt may have smashed his opponents by six lengths, but Curlin bettered that by a length and three quarters when cruising home in 2008.

However, it was 12 months later that the most taking performance ever seen in the world's most valuable race occurred.

Well Armed beat Gloria De Campeao, the following year's World Cup winner, by 14 lengths.

In truth, it was one of the worst fields ever assembled, but Aaron Gryder took the lead early and three furlongs from home, the horse set sail and that was that.

John Byrne

Curlin, 2008 Having not been here to witness Dubai Millennium demolish the field and his own track record in the 2000 Dubai World Cup, I would have to say the best World Cup race I have witnessed was the "duel in the desert" of 2004.

American raiders Medaglia d'Oro and Pleasantly Perfect tracked compatriot Fleetstreet Dancer until the top of the long Nad Al Sheba straight when Jerry Bailey, the most successful World Cup jockey, set sail for home on Medaglia d'Oro. Alex Solis made sure Pleasantly Perfect kept tabs on his old rival, whom he had beaten in the previous year's Breeders' Cup Classic, and the pair went head-to-head for the best part of 600m.

As the line neared, it was Pleasantly Perfect who pulled out that little bit extra to again beat his old foe. The third, Victory Moon, was five lengths back, with the rest a long way behind.

It was a proper horse race.

However, the best horse I saw win the World Cup was another American, Curlin, who was in a league of his own in 2008.

And now a look back at the greatest races:

Amith Passela

Dubai World Cup, 2010 There was a long silence before the announcement of the winner over the PA system. Gloria De Campeao, Lizard’s Desire and Allybar had flashed past the post and the winner was to be decided in a photo finish. For a moment, it seemed Lizard’s Desire had snatched it. But Gloria De Campeao, who made almost all the running, had held on to win by a nose. He was winning on his third attempt and was not among the fancied runners, and that made everyone sit up and applaud the grittiness of his win.

Geoffrey Riddle

Dubai Duty Free, 2011 Presvis was a nutcase. He hated training. He knew when trainer Luca Cumani tried to mess with his routine. When asked to perform morning track work in the lead-up to the 2011 Dubai Duty Free, his travelling groom had to try to work him around the track in reverse to keep him interested. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Ryan Moore was in the saddle and had won six times on him. Many other jockeys had tried and failed. The gates opened, and Presvis, at least, hauled himself out of the gates. Three furlongs from home Moore started to coax his mount through the pack before unleashing him on a weaving run to win the US$5m contest. It was a sensational effort from jockey and horse and took so much out of Presvis that he never won again.

John Byrne

Dubai Duty Free, 2004 The most exciting World Cup night race I ever witnessed was the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free of 2004 and not just because it supplied the only ever dead-heat on the big night; as the field flashed past the post, the judge was unable to separate Germany’s Paolini and the Mike de Kock-trained Right Approach. A neck back in third was Nayyir, who had looked the likely winner 100 metres out, with Godolphin’s Crimson Palace just behind in fourth, a short-head in front of another German challenger, Martillo, himself a neck ahead of Checkit. Basically, with 100m to run, there were at least eight horses threatening to scoop the prize.

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