x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

This Dubai World Cup race will live long in memory

Scenes in parade ring after Victoire Pisa's win brought tears to many an observer's eye.

Japanese horse Victoire Pisa, No6 ridden by jockey Mirco Demuro won the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse.
Japanese horse Victoire Pisa, No6 ridden by jockey Mirco Demuro won the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse.

DUBAI // Victoire Pisa's victory in Saturday's Dubai World Cup and subsequent scenes in the parade ring at Meydan Racecourse will go down as one of the most memorable renewals of the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) race in its 16-year history.

Given the raw emotion on show, not even losing connections could begrudge the Japanese their success when the earthquake and tsunami-hit country supplied the first two home in the big race.

Many of those present, even with no link to the stricken country, confessed to a lump in the throat as Katsuhiko Sumii's lion-hearted charger took up the running in the backstretch.

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The fact that Mirco Demuro, the jockey, had the race sewn up six furlongs from home, added to the magic of the result. It takes guts to go for it from so far out but Demuro's inspired riding in a slow-paced contest proved to be just the ticket to the $6m winner's purse.

After the courageous 32-year-old Italian crossed the line on Victoire Pisa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was enveloped in a huge, tearful hug by Manami, the daughter of the winning owner, Yoshimi Ichikawa.

Sheikh Mohammed's easy manner in offering congratulations and comfort displayed a side of the Dubai ruler not often seen in public and that alone will live long in the memory of the racing world.

Sadly, Japan's woes are too great for one victorious racehorse to have much impact in real terms, but as Sumii, the trainer, said on Saturday night: "It has been a really dark time for Japan and hopefully this will lift the country up a little."

The Japanese are renowned as passionate and knowledgeable racing fans, and Victoire Pisa's success and that of Transcend in second place will certainly have registered at home.

Martin Talty, the Dubai Racing Club's International Manager, witnessed the victory.

"It's a funny thing but if you look at the big sporting stages like the football World Cup or the Olympics, you find that sport often has a way of producing moments like this," he said. "During the build up you just got a sneaking feeling that the Japanese would produce something special."

And Talty said that, while Victoire Pisa may not have been among the hot favourites in the race, it should come as no surprise that the now three-time Grade 1 winner took the spoils for the first time for Japan.

"This guy, [Sumii] is at the top of the tree," Talty said. "Lets not forget he's trained the first two home in the Melbourne Cup in 2006 and he's the man who trained Vodka, another exceptional racehorse.

"He's been at the top of his game for a long time and is up there with the absolute best in the world."

Talty said that the memory of the 2011 Dubai World Cup would last a long time.

"You can't compare World Cup races," he said. "Every year is special for a different reason, but what I will say about this renewal is that we assembled the strongest field ever with 11 of the 14 already Group 1 winners owning a total of 27 top-tier victories between them.

"That, the fact that this was Japan's first World Cup and the amazing scenes in the parade ring after the race combine to ensure that the 16th renewal of the race will live a long time in the memory."

Perhaps, in summing up, the final words should go to Sumii himself. "As I was watching the race I was very nervous," he said after the race. "When I saw that my horse was going to win it was unbelievable. I just kept screaming it's a miracle, it's a miracle, it's a miracle!"

 

sports@thenational.ae