DUBAI // Animal Kingdom destroyed the myth that horses trained in America could not win the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse with a power-packed performance last night in the world’s richest race.
The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner provided the fillip that the US challenge needed by becoming the first American winner of the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) race since Well Armed in 2009.
American horse after American horse had trailed in beaten throughout the night, but the sight of the giant chestnut striding clear of Royal Delta, the dual Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner, coming out of the home bend must have buoyed those watching in the middle of the afternoon across the Atlantic. US horses won the Dubai World Cup eight times when it was run at Nad Al Sheba, but until last night they had not won on the Tapeta at Meydan, the track built by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
“To be here in this country, Sheikh Mohammed has been so welcoming to us, it is nothing like I have ever seen,” said Graham Motion, the winning trainer.
“It is so hard to judge horses running on synthetic tracks and this is not a normal synthetic track.
“I felt 90 per cent confident he would handle it and I guess this is a shot in the arm.”
With the $6m cheque ready to be wired by the Dubai Racing Club, connections of Animal Kingdom must now decide whether to stick or twist.
Animal Kingdom was carved up last year by his original owners, Team Valor and John Messara, the owner of the Australia-based Arrowfield Stud that acquired a 75 per cent share in the son of Leroidesanimaux.
It is now a matter of whether the new champion goes straight to stud, or competes at Royal Ascot in England in June.
Either way, Animal Kingdom will ship out of Dubai in a few days to head to England, and although there are always unforeseen dangers with racing Messara was keen to don his top hat and tails.
“It is very bad to make decisions on nights like this and we will think it through,” he said. “We came into this horse as a stallion proposition and there are risks and logistics involved.
“This is the run we wanted and Royal Ascot is a possibility, but he is also entered in Hong Kong.”
Animal Kingdom emerged out of stall 12, and Rosario encouraged his mount on the outside, four horses wide, until the pair loomed up on Royal Delta’s flank after a quarter of a mile.
Rosario was content to sit behind Mike Smith, who set the pace in an effort to lay to rest the traffic problems Royal Delta encountered 12 months ago.
Rosario barely had to move as Animal Kingdom stretched into the lead and if Gerald Mosse had not managed to get a fine tune out of Red Cadeaux, who stayed on up the rail to be second by two lengths, it would have been a rout.
Planteur was almost five lengths back to be third, as he was a year ago, ahead of fellow English raider Side Glance.
African Story, last season’s Godolphin Mile winner, hung on to finish fifth as the best of the three Godolphin runners after Monterosso was scratched earlier in the day.
“When turning for home he was looking around for his competition but he was going so easy from that point,” said Rosario, who was riding for the first time at Meydan, which opened in 2010. “It seemed a long way home in the stretch.”
For Barry Irwin, the head of Team Valor, the victory capped what has been a sustained effort in Dubai.
Ipi Tombe won the Al Fahidi Fort, Jebel Hatta and Dubai Duty Free in 2003 for the syndicate, and they added to their Group success here when Irridescence won the 2006 Balanchine at Nad Al Sheba.
Team Valor rarely breeds horses and Animal Kingdom’s progression from foal to champion on two continents in the green-and-red silks had Irwin welling up in tears immediately after the race.
He said: “How ’bout that? We have known for some time he was a great horse. I thought he would win but I didn’t think it would be that easy.”