Frankie Dettori enjoyed a momentous victory aboard Moon Ballad in the world’s richest race, the $6m Dubai World Cup on Saturday (29 March).
Moon Ballad left his poor form in last year’s Derby behind in swaggering style, beating America’s Harlan’s Holiday and the Marcus Tregoning-trained favourite Nayef by five lengths and one length.
Dominating proceedings from the start, Moon Ballad was in the driving seat and once in line for home he quickened clear of his rivals, making Donn Handicap winner Harlan’s Holiday, Juddmonte International winner Nayef and triple Group 1 winner Grandera look pedestrian.
Frankie, gleaming under the floodlights, lead the celebrations from horseback in the middle of Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba racecourse and his admirers lapped it up.
It was an occasion Frankie won’t forget. His treble in the royal blue Godolphin silks on Firebreak, Sulamani and Moon Ballad were in high quality international races totalling $9m in prize-money, of which his cut was close on $400,000.
By the 1997 Dubai World Cup winner Singspiel, Moon Ballad has a pedigree suitable for both dirt and turf. Simon Crisford, racing manager to Godolphin, indicated that his ultimate objective will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in California this autumn. Meanwhile, he may come back to a mile on grass for a tilt at Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes in July.
Dettori reported: “Turning for home, he gave me the same feel as my previous World Cup winner, Dubai Millennium. Moon Ballad is much stronger than last year; he is a mile and a quarter horse with lots of speed.”
War overshadows visitors
Despite the Iraq War being just 600 miles to the north, this playground of the Middle East remains a haven of tranquility and visitors from Europe claimed they felt safer in Dubai than they did at home.
Even so, many Japanese and Australians refused to travel and, inevitably, numbers were down both in terms of tourism and raceday attendance.
But the widely held theory that Dubai is too close to the hostilities for comfort is not true. Paris art dealer Alec Wildenstein, who came to watch his filly Aquarelliste (unplaced) in the World Cup, said: “You are safer here than you would be in England and you don’t feel threatened at all.”
In reply to those questioning whether it was right that Dubai staged the World Cup in the present political climate, a source close to the World Cup Committee said: “England are at war, but they still see fit to continue with their majorsporting events. Dubai is not part of the war coalition.”
However, it would not have been an easy decision for Sheikh Mohammed, the driving force behind the sport in Dubai. “You can’t wait for everyone to sort out their problems,” he said.