x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Mickael Barzalona rises to the occasion for Godolphin

The 20-year-old French jockey says 'It is the most fantastic day of my life', as Monterosso wins the Dubai World Cup.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, who personally chose Mickael Barzalona, above, to ride Monterosso in the Dubai World Cup, embraced the French jockey when he dismounted in the winners’ enclosure.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, who personally chose Mickael Barzalona, above, to ride Monterosso in the Dubai World Cup, embraced the French jockey when he dismounted in the winners’ enclosure.

DUBAI // Mickael Barzalona lifted Godolphin from the depths of despair to rare heights last night when he rode Monterosso to an emphatic victory over stablemate Capponi in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse.

The 20-year-old jockey galloped across the line standing high in his stirrups and punching the air in triumph and vindication to win the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) race by three lengths.

Ahmed Ajtebi, the Emirati, rode Capponi to half a length ahead of Ryan Moore on Planteur.

"I'm so happy, it's enormous," Barzalona said. "It's the most fantastic day of my life. I have been dreaming about this since I was younger. It was the race I watched in jockey school."

When asked about his outrageous celebration, which mimicked that when he won the Epsom Derby on Pour Moi last season in England, he added: "I just had to. I had no choice. I couldn't help myself."

For Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, it was an especially poignant victory as Monterosso's grandsire was Dubai Millennium, his favourite racehorse, who won the richest prize in the sport 12 years ago.

As soon as Barzalona returned to the winners' enclosure and dismounted, the sheikh embraced his newly appointed jockey, having personally decided to give him the ride. In the melee that followed, Barzalona lost his whip, which was picked up and returned to him by Princess Haya bint Al Hussein.

The victory followed the loss of Fox Hunt in the Dubai Gold Cup due to a sickening fall in front of the grandstand. The Godolphin horse had to be put down.

"It has been extremely hard," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "We were all distraught over Fox Hunt and we will not forget him. One minute you are down and the next you have a one-two in the world's richest race."

Before the race, Smart Falcon started acting up in the starting stalls, which unsettled several horses in the 13-runner field, and when the gates opened the early pace was furious.

Transcend, last year's runner-up, was locked in a pace duel with Capponi, while So You Think, trained by Aidan O'Brien, jostled with Royal Delta, the American filly, for the best position in behind.

Halfway through the race, Chantal Sutherland, who became the first woman to ride in the race, made a move on Game On Dude on the outside, which further increased the tempo.

Monterosso had finished third in last year's contest, and the feeling at Godolphin was that he ran out better than any other horse, after Victoire Pisa had crossed the line in first place. And so it proved as the five year old stayed on strongly, and with Capponi recorded the first one-two by an owner.

Deidre Johnson, wife and assistant to the trainer Mark Johnston, contended with a particularly difficult set of emotions. The Johnstons had trained not only Monterosso and Capponi in England before the horses transferred to the Dubai operation, but also Fox Hunt.

"It's so big for us. We have seen all the ups and downs with racing today," she said. "We had Fox Hunt until November.

"For Sheikh Mohammed, who puts so much into racing and is so enthusiastic, I am just so thrilled for him. For him to give me a big hug was just phenomenal."

For the North Americans, however, there was little to feel happy about. Royal Delta finished ninth as Bill Mott's dream of following up on Cigar's victory in 1996 perished.

Although Sutherland finished 12th on Game On Dude, one ahead of last-placed Transcend, the 36-year-old Canadian rider was still proud she had competed on the international stage after all her camp had suffered this week.

Bob Baffert, the American trainer, was on hand despite having suffered a heart attack on Monday, and Sutherland conceded that Smart Falcon's antics had unsettled Game On Dude.

"It was a good trip considering everything that happened," she said. "The horse next to mine was acting up in the gate, so he thought they were going to break. At home we break quicker, so he went to go forward and then he sat down."

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