Godolphin and partners’ Jack Hobbs has long promised to be a top older horse, and the John Gosden charge signaled his intent to deliver with a convincing display in Saturday’s $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan.
The torrential rains earlier in the day proved a good omen for the son of Halling, who figured to enjoy the yielding course more than his two principal rivals, 6-5 favorite and defending champion Postponed and the 9-5 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) star Highland Reel.
A touch keen in his seasonal reappearance, and first-time blinkers, the 9-2 Jack Hobbs took quite a hold as he drafted in the slipstream of front-running Highland Reel. As Highland Reel steered wide of the cut-up turf toward the rail rounding the far turn, Jack Hobbs and Godolphin second-stringer Prize Money had no fears of the rougher paths and plowed through to his inside at the top of the stretch.
Jack Hobbs was still on the bridle for William Buick, but Highland Reel and Postponed were coming under pressure and lacking a response. Buick finally turned him loose, and Jack Hobbs bounded 2 1/4 lengths clear to finish about 1 1/2 miles in 2:32.39.
Seventh Heaven, Highland Reel’s stablemate from the Aidan O’Brien yard, rallied for second. Postponed churned on in third, avenging himself on fourth-placer Prize Money, who’d beaten him in the Dubai City of Gold (G2) last out. Highland Reel dropped back to last of the seven.
Jack Hobbs had defeated Highland Reel before, in his romp in the 2015 Irish Derby (G1). His sophomore campaign also featured runner-up efforts to stablemate Golden Horn in the Derby (G1) at Epsom and the Dante (G2), a bloodless score in the September (G3) on Kempton’s Polytrack, and a third in the Champion S. (G1). His 2016 season was over before it even began as he suffered a fractured pelvis in the Jockey Club (G2) at Newmarket. Resurfacing six months later with another third in the Champion, this time to all-conquering Almanzor and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) queen Found, Jack Hobbs has had this date circled in red ink on his calendar.
Quotes from Dubai Racing Club
Godolphin chief executive John Ferguson on Jack Hobbs: “This is a great credit to John Gosden and his team and two years ago they made a plan to bring this horse here for this race as a five-year-old, and they have stuck to the plan.”
Trainer John Gosden: “First of all he liked the conditions, good to soft. Secondly, he had a long year off but ran brilliantly in the Champion Stakes, the form was amazing with Almanzor and Found. And then he just trained really well after this race and I was hopeful of a huge performance. So it didn’t come as a big surprise, to be quite honest.
“I put semi-blinkers on the horse tonight just to make him concentrate. He has had so much time off that he forgets he is a racehorse and it looking around at who is in the boxes in the stands. He is in no way un-genuine but he was dreaming at Ascot and I just wanted to concentrate his mind.
“We knew Ryan (Moore on Highland Reel) would play with the pace and he was very clever as he kept out of the chewed-up ground on the inside and we went wide and we got a beautiful lead off him. And in the straight it was an open horse race and everyone had his chance. And William waited, which was very wise as it is a long straight. He is a very fine horse, it has been a long road back.”
Jockey William Buick: “My plan was always to follow Highland Reel. Obviously I’m very pleased with the way the horse has done it. John (Gosden) said to me earlier in the week that he didn’t think he had the horse in better shape. He was 100 percent right. The horse really showed his true colors today. He has shown again that he is a top-class colt. He had a difficult year last year. And John got him back, it’s a great training performance. He is a classy colt and we will hear more about him throughout the season.”
Jockey Seamie Heffernan on runner-up Seventh Heaven: “I was a little disappointed when the rain came for all our horses. I think it cost some of them a few lengths. I rode her to run well and she didn’t disappoint. She battled. She’s a classic winner and a double Group 1 winner. I was hoping she would be third at least, so I’m very happy.”
Jockey Andrea Atzeni on Postponed, third as the defending champion: “I was travelling well in the right spot but he didn’t let down like he can on that ground. But to be fair the winner was in a different league tonight. Our horse will come back.”
Jockey Adrie de Vries on fourth-placer Prize Money: “I had a lovely run round and thought I might make up a few lengths by coming inside in the straight. It’s just a pity he didn’t hold on for third but it was still a great performance seeing as he came here as a handicapper and leaves having done well against the best middle-distance turf horses.”
Jockey Ryan Moore on the trailing Highland Reel: “He didn’t run very well and didn’t enjoy the ground.”