x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Trainer's worry turned to joy at Dubai World Cup

A pair of his horses won Dh28 in just over two minutes, yet before that trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni was thinking his 2012 Dubai World Cup night was cursed.

Trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni raises the trophy won by Monterosso in the Dubai World Cup as, on his right, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, looks on.
Trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni raises the trophy won by Monterosso in the Dubai World Cup as, on his right, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, looks on.

Mahmoud Al Zarooni still could not believe it when he woke Sunday morning. He had trained the first two home in Saturday's Dubai World Cup, ending a six-year drought for Godolphin in the world's richest race.

Any concerns that his historic one-two was a dream were quickly allayed when he looked at his telephone.

"I slept really well last night," he said, "and when I looked at my phone I had about 200 missed calls from people ringing to give their congratulations."

But even after a good night's sleep, Al Zarooni struggled to describe the achievement that netted his stable US$8 million (Dh29.38m) in just over two minutes.

"It is amazing," he said. "I woke up this morning and I still could not believe it. I don't have words to explain how I'm feeling about winning this race.

"This is thanks to teamwork from everyone at Godolphin and I'm happy for the whole stable and for the UAE that we have finally won again."

It was a remarkable turn of fortunes for the trainer. Just a few hours before Mickael Barzalona's outrageous celebrations on the big race-winning Monterosso, Al Zarooni was contemplating the possibility that his 2012 World Cup campaign might be cursed.

Godolphin had started well when the Saeed bin Suroor-trained African Story romped to a four-length victory under Frankie Dettori in the opening thoroughbred race, the Godolphin Mile.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was wreathed in smiles as the crowd cheered the popular winner and Dettori leapt off African Story in a flying dismount.

Fast-forward barely half-an-hour and the atmosphere could not have been more different.

Every ounce of jubilation was sucked from the meeting when Fox Hunt, one of Al Zarooni's two runners in the two-mile Gold Cup turf race, broke his front legs when he faltered while galloping in front of the packed stands for the first time.

Silvestre de Sousa, his rider, looked certain to be seriously hurt, but the quick-thinking Brazilian rolled swiftly away from his mount's flailing legs. The jockey then tried to calm the desperately thrashing animal as it repeatedly attempted to rise to its feet as officials raced to the scene.

The stewards made the decision to halt the galloping field, alerting the outriders to call off the race at around the 1,400m mark before the runners entered the home straight where the stricken Fox Hunt and the veterinary staff were directly in their path.

Al Zarooni, who watched events unfold from a vantage point on the rail, looked shocked.

"It's a very sad thing to happen," he said at the time.

When his Oaks-winning filly, Falls Of Lora, failed to live up to her form in the next race, finishing 10th in the UAE Derby, Al Zarooni began to wonder whether fortune had deserted him.

"At the beginning I lost a very nice horse in a very sad way," he said. "I thought that was a sign of very bad luck and maybe my luck had gone. So I was 50-50 on whether it would be a very bad day for me.

"Then afterwards in the Derby, Falls Of Lora didn't run a good race, so I thought maybe she had a problem, too, and then I was beginning to worry about all my horses."

As the evening progressed, Al Zarooni's best finish was a four-and-a-half length third with City Style under Barzalona in the Dubai Duty Free.

Godolphin had downplayed their runners in the big race. Neither bin Suroor, who saddled Prince Bishop and Mendip, nor Al Zarooni, who sent out Monterosso and Capponi, boasted the favourite.

Aidan O'Brien's So You Think, and American contenders Game On Dude and Royal Delta all attracted more pre-race attention than the Godolphin quartet.

"That is really the best way," Al Zarooni said. "I like to play with outsiders, first because there is no pressure, and second because often if you have an outsider, sometimes the other jockeys will let him go, instead they follow the good horses and then sometimes you can surprise them."

Al Zarooni's plan in the World Cup was simple. Ahmed Ajtebi was to ride the front-running Capponi prominently to ensure a good pace. If he was good enough he might be able to run away from the rest of the field in the home straight. If he was not, at least he would have set a sparkling pace that would allow Barzalona to make his move at the right moment on the hold-up horse Monterosso.

"The race went perfectly for us," Al Zarooni said. "I told Ahmed to make sure he was up there at the front with Capponi. If he is good enough and he stays then he could run on from there and perhaps win, if not then the others would pass him, but with that horse he would have no chance coming from the back.

"Then the pace would be set for Monterosso to make his move."

His smartly-executed plan proved successful. Al Zarooni realised he had beaten his run of bad luck yet the trainer still had trouble believing what he had achieved.

Al Zarooni said he will head to England in the next few days to continue training his share of Godolphin's large British-based string.

"It's hard to get a holiday because we race in different countries, but right now I don't feel like I need a holiday," he said.

"I am still very happy about the World Cup."

Yet even after the running of the World Cup, the evening's trials and tribulations were not over. The stewards had decided that the Gold Cup would be re-run following the conclusion of the World Cup. Al Zarooni found himself once again in the winner's enclosure after Opinion Poll claimed the race from O'Brien's Joshua Tree in second and Mike de Kock's Zanzemar in third. But that ill-fated Gold Cup was once again blighted with tragedy.

In a heart-breaking demonstration of the highs and lows of horse racing, Barzalona, who had just 30 minutes earlier been standing high in his stirrups as he crossed the line first in the World Cup, was forced to pull up his runner, Grand Vent, after the horse damaged his leg. Grand Vent, trained by bin Suroor, was found to have a fractured hind leg and was later euthanised.

Moments later, Bronze Cannon from Herman Brown's yard, appeared to stumble under Khamzat Ulubaev. Inspections revealed a fractured fore leg and he also was euthanised.



Barzalona, the 20-year-old jockey who won the Dubai World Cup aboard Monterossa, was fined Dh5,000 for celebrating before the finish line.

The French rider stood in the stirrups and punched his fist in the air as he crossed the line three lengths in front of Capponi.

Stewards deemed Barzalona guilty of breaching Emirates Racing Authority rules in that he rode in an improper manner.

“I just had to,” he said after the race. “I had no choice. I couldn’t help myself.”

Barzalona’s celebration was similar to his reaction to winning the 2011 Epsom Derby on Pour Moi in England.



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