Two-time defending champion Vazirabad had plenty of ground to make up turning for home in Saturday’s $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G2), but the Aga Khan’s homebred had his rivals right where he wanted them. The searching pace made it into a real stamina test around the two metric miles, tailor made to suit Vazirabad’s combination of staying power and a brilliant turn of foot, and he overwhelmed them down the stretch to make history at Meydan.
Perfectly ridden by Christophe Soumillon, who later delivered another virtuoso performance aboard Thunder Snow in the Dubai World Cup (G1), Vazirabad bided his time near the rear of the 16-horse field most of the way. Up front, Godolphin’s Frontiersman was motoring despite being an uncertainty at the distance, and fellow colorbearer Red Galileo was egging him on. They opened up a break on Big Orange, who never looked comfortable and ultimately faded to 12th.
Vazirabad was gearing up as the field straightened for home, but aside from his massive deficit with Frontiersman, the gray had to weave his way through one-paced foes. After a few moves that kept interrupting his momentum, like a Ferrari having to changing lanes, he went into overdrive once clear and ultimately won for fun. Soumillon wrapped up on him, letting the venerable Sheikhzayedroad cut the winning margin to just a length.
By clocking 3:17.92, Vazirabad obliterated the track record of 3:18.84 established by Brown Panther in the 2015 running. He also became the first Thoroughbred to score a hat trick in a World Cup night event. The only others were Purebred Arabians Alanudd (1997-99) and Madjani (2005-07) in the Dubai Kahayla Classic.
Sheikhzayedroad speared through in the final yards to take second from Godolphin’s Rare Rhythm, who’d beaten a prepping Vazirabad in the Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3) last out but couldn’t confirm the form over an extra quarter-mile.
Frontiersman was a gallant fourth in light of his pace exertions, leaving no doubt that the son of Dubawi and Ouija Board stays the trip. He’ll be interesting in all the Cup races, especially at a more modest tempo. Gold Star, another up-and-comer for the royal blue Godolphin silks, was a creditable fifth. Red Galileo wound up sixth, trailed by Germany’s Parviz, who arguably exceeded expectations by finishing in the top half of the field; Prince of Arran; Natural Scenery; Janszoon; Al Sahem; Big Orange; American shipper Run Time, last early and never involved; Los Barbados; and the very much below form Dal Harraild and Torcedor.
Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, Vazirabad is also a two-time winner of the Prix Royal-Oak (G1), Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (G2), and Prix Gladiateur (G3). In addition to those six trophies at home, he also boasts victories in the Prix Chaudenay (G2) and Prix de Lutece (G3) at three and in last season’s Prix du Cadran (G1).
The French-bred gelding is by Manduro out of the Group 3-winning Linamix mare Visorama, a productive branch of the family responsible for ill-fated champion Swale.
Quotes from Dubai Racing Club
Trainer Alain De Royer-Dupre: “How the race was run was perfect for him. I always said that we never had him better than today. He was so relaxed and calm before the race and the pace was very strong. And the more pace, the better for him. They went as fast as if they were going over a mile and that really helped my confidence. He nearly came too early. There is no doubt that this is his best every performance, but as I said, I am not surprised, he was so well in the run-up to the race. When you come every year to Dubai, you learn what to do. It is very hot and you have to adapt to that. We will now target the Ascot Gold Cup in June.”
Jockey Christophe Soumillon: “He’s a good horse. He got beat on his first run here, but Alain knows how to get him fit and he has done a great job. All the wins have been different but to do it three times is history. Hopefully there will be more in the future and he can be back again next year.”
Trainer David Simcock on runner-up Sheikhzayedroad: “He’s evergreen and he was fresh in the paddock today. I was just delighted with him. To finish second, it was a better position than we could ever have imagined. The winner was very good. He’s an exceptional stayer (Vazirabad) who has come out here to win it three times. We’re happy to finish second.”
Trainer Charlie Appleby on the third and fourth, Rare Rhythm and Frontiersman: “They have both run well and I am delighted, to be fair. James (Doyle) has gone a decent clip on Frontiersman and it has probably told over the last 200 meters. The winner is a good horse and Alain De Royer-Dupre knows how to get the job done! I thought Rare Rhythm got the trip well enough and hopefully that sets them both up for Cup races back in Europe this summer.”
Jockey Jim Crowley on Gold Star’s fifth: “I was delighted with his run, he gave me everything and it was a great effort for his first try at the distance.”
Gerald Mosse on Red Galileo in sixth: “He ran really well, no complaints at all. He kept on galloping, but maybe he wants to come back a little in distance”
Jockey Oisin Murphy on Prince of Arran (8th): “He ran a cracker. He ran way above his rating and full credit to everyone involved with him.”
Frankie Dettori, who rode Big Orange (12th): “I was never happy and was beaten 1000 meters out. There could be many reasons – the heat, his first race of the year, or the fact he had a little setback earlier in the week. But whatever it was, that wasn’t the Big Orange that I know.”
Jockey Ryan Moore on Dal Harraild (15th): “He had a nice position on the rail but didn’t quicken up.”
Colm O’Donoghue on the trailing Torcedor: “He was under pressure a long way out. He didn’t have the ideal preparation with all the snow at home. I still feel he has a good season ahead of him.”