Laurel River Romps in Dubai World Cup

With 12 million reasons to run, the folks at Juddmonte Farms figured why not go for it in the Dubai World Cup?

Ushba Tesoro, Senor Buscador run distant 2-3

And so they did, and unsung Laurel River put on a command performance in routing a field packed with champions in the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.

The victory was a stunning display of early speed by Laurel River, who took the lead from post 12 at the start, was barely challenged by favorites Ushba Tesoro (second), Senor Buscador (third), Derma Sotogake (sixth), and Newgate (ninth), and won by 8 ½ lengths.

Irish jockey Tadhg O’Shea, 11-time UAE champion rider, raised a hand to the sky and couldn’t keep a smile off his face.

“I’m very, very grateful. I have to pinch myself,’’ O’Shea said. “I’ve been very fortunate to win most of the championships, but to ride any winner on this stage is special.”

Laurel River, at 9-1 odds, returned $20.70 on a $2 win bet. Winning time for the 1 ¼-miles was 2:02.31.

“Wow! That horse got loose on the lead, and we weren’t catching him,’’ said Joey Peacock, Jr., owner of Saudi Cup winner Senor Buscador, who finished a distant third.

Laurel River, a former Bob Baffert trainee, is a 6-year-old son of Into Mischief now trained by Bhupat Seemar, a former Basauffert assistant. The horse did not race as a 5-year-old after making the move from Baffert’s stable following a victory in the 2022 Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) at Del Mar on Aug. 27.

Laurel River

He showed up in Dubai this year under the care of Seemar, running seventh in his first race back after a 17-month break, then winning the Burj Nahaar (G3) on March 2 at 1 mile. He had not run 1 ¼ miles, but Garrett O’Rourke, the manager for Juddmonte’s operation in the U.S., said going in the Dubai World Cup rather than the Godolphin Mile on the undercard is “worth a try. There’s 12 million reasons to do it.”

It marked the 11th DWC win for a horse trained in Dubai and ended a two-year run by Japan-based horses. Ushba Tesoro, who finished, was trying to become the second two-time winner of the race but came up well short.

“We hoped to catch him, but we saw how easy it was for the leader (Laurel River),’’ Ushba Tesoro’s trainer Noboru Takagi said.

Seemar said on the Dubai Racing Club broadcast: “It’s an undescribable feeling to train the horse in Dubai. “I’ve grown up here almost, I’ve been here 21 years. I thought I would probably never have a horse to run in the Dubai World Cup, and to win it is the stuff of dreams.”

Wilson Tesoro was fourth, followed by Dura Erede, Derma Sotogake, Defunded, Kabirkhan, Newgate, Crupi, Clapton, and Military Law.

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