By Ed McNamara
Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum created the Dubai World Cup 25 years ago, and for the ninth time the master of Godolphin Racing owned it.
Mystic Guide, trained by American Michael Stidham, always looked like a winner Saturday night in the $12 million international extravaganza at Meydan Racecourse. The 8-5 favorite, under Luis Saez, stalked the pace close up in third before powering clear in midstretch for a 3 3/4-length victory over Japan-based longshot Chuwa Wizard.
France’s late-running Magny Cours, another Godolphin product, rallied for third, with pacesetter Hypothetical (Dubai) fourth in the Cup’s 25th running.
“That was the plan, to get a good position, and it all worked out well,’’ Saez said. “I could feel at the three-eighths pole how much power he had, and he was fantastic.”
The evening was marred earlier when Zenden, a 53-1 shot, won the $1.5 million Golden Shaheen, then broke down past the finish line and was euthanized. He sustained a compound fracture in his left front leg.
Stidham, 61, never had run a horse outside North America, and Mystic Guide never had run farther than 1 1/8 miles. Didn’t matter. Stidham had him primed perfectly, and Mystic Guide’s distance pedigree (by Ghostzapper out of an A.P. Indy mare) served him well. It was the 4-year-old’s fourth win in eight starts.
“I felt like it was finally my turn to step up to the big time, and I really wanted it to happen,’’ Stidham said. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and it’s 40 years of memories right now.”
The field was reduced to 12 after Great Scot and Military Law were scratched because both got loose. Great Scot misbehaved and ran two circuits of the track after being led onto the track. Military Law slipped under his stall in the gate and galloped to the backstretch, delaying post time by 14 minutes.
The delay was a bit unsettling.
“He was getting agitated, and I was concerned, but his class and ability came through,’’ Stidham said. “When I saw him get a good position in third on the backstretch, I was feeling good, but I wasn’t sure. Then down the lane he was amazing.”
The World Cup race was canceled last year because of the pandemic, and this year it was run behind closed doors because of COVID-19 protocols.
“What a brilliant performance by Mystic Guide,” Australian race caller Craig Evans said. “He was absolutely dominant. Michael Stidham and Luis Saez made it a one-act affair of the World Cup.”
Mystic Guide covered the 2,000-meter race [about 1 ¼ miles] in 2:01.61.
Mishriff hits unique Saudi-Dubai double
If Mishriff isn’t the world’s best horse in training, who is?
England’s 4-year-old superstar rallied from far back to take the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan five weeks after winning the $20 million Saudi Cup. Saturday’s race was at 1 1/2 miles on turf. The Saudi Cup was 1 1/8 miles on dirt. His combination of excellence and versatility could not be rarer.
The bay son of Make Believe, trained by John Gosden, surged down the middle of the track under 21-year-old Irishman David Egan to edge Japan’s Chrono Genesis by a head.
“He’s the horse that’s going to make my career, hopefully,” Egan said. “He brought me to that next level by winning the Saudi Cup, and this is just icing on the cake.
“A lot of people were questioning why Mr. Gosden and [owner] Prince Faisal were running him on the turf over a mile and a half. Some said it was the wrong decision not going for the World Cup, which he might have been favorite for, but this was the right decision.”
Mishriff paid a generous $14.60 because bettors questioned whether he could win at a distance three-sixteenths of a mile farther than he’d ever gone.
Earlier, Gosden and Thady Gosden, his son and assistant, won the $4 million Dubai Turf with 8-5 favorite Lord North. It was jockey Frankie Dettori’s first victory on World Cup night since 2012.
Rebel’s Romance takes U.A.E. Derby
Rebel’s Romance ($26.10) rallied wide from midpack for William Buick and drew off to take the Grade 2, U.A.E. Derby by five lengths over pacesetting favorite Panadol. Englishman Charles Appleby trains the gelding, bred in Ireland and owned by Godolphin. The time for 1 3/16 miles on a fast track was 1:56.25.
The longshot improved his career record to 4-for-5 as he rebounded from a fourth-place finish last month in the mile Saudi Derby.
“This horse was good as a 2-year-old, and he’s really grown up,” Buick said. “We knew we wouldn’t be close up early, but he came up under me really well in the straight.”
Rebel Romance earned 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, with 40 going to Panadol and 20 to third-place New Treasure. No U.A.E. Derby runner has won the Run for the Roses, with its first winner, China Visit (2000), posting the best finish (sixth) in 2000. Ten skipped the Derby, and three finished last.
Extravagant Kid takes grass sprint for U.S.
America’s Extravagant Kid ($34.50) picked the perfect spot to end a seven-race losing streak [five seconds] by surging late under Ryan Moore to win the $1 million, 6-furlong Al Quoz Sprint. The 8-year-old gelding gave trainer Brendan Walsh a 2-for-2 record on Dubai World Cup day. The Irishman’s first runner in Dubai, Plus Que Parfait, took last year’s U.A.E Derby before finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby.
It was the 50th start for Extravagant Kid, who ran fourth last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He has eight wins and 12 seconds in 26 starts for Walsh in the past four years.
“He’s a very talented horse,” Moore said. “I’m delighted for Brendan.”
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.