Last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1) hero Shahryar captured his debut on the international stage in Saturday’s $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan. A fifth winner on the Dubai World Cup card for Japan, the Hideaki Fujiwara trainee will set his sights on the elusive Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).
Shahryar was resuming after an inconvenienced third in the Nov. 28 Japan Cup (G1), where he succumbed to two older stalwarts in 2020 Triple Crown star Contrail and Authority. The Sunday Racing Co. runner had to renew rivalry with Authority in the Sheema, but the 7-1 chance benefited from a more straightforward stalk-and-pounce trip for new rider Cristian Demuro.
As Authority set up shop in front, Shahryar drafted in his slipstream on the rail. The tracking For the Top flanked Shahryar. Unhurried at the rear of the field was Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) champion Yibir, an characteristic if unpromising position.
Turning for home, For the Top drifted out, and the seam opened for Shahryar to break free of the pocket. The son of Deep Impact and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) champion Dubai Majesty quickened to challenge. Although Authority tried to dig in, Shahryar had the superior turn of foot to prevail in 2:26.88 – just off Mishriff’s 2:26.65 course record set in the about 1 1/2-mile affair a year ago.
Yibir ran a mighty race for second. Swooping widest of all from dead last, the Godolphin homebred came up just a neck shy of Shahryar.
“Before the race,” Demuro said, “I knew I wanted to be behind Authority as I knew he would lead. We were able to get a nice position just behind him on the rail and when I pulled my horse out in the straight I knew he was going to win.
“For a moment he was a little lost in front, but we felt Yibir coming and I always believed we were going to get there.
“It is amazing to win a race like this. Amazing also to win on a Japanese horse. They are showing they are the best in the world.”
Authority was relegated to third, another half-length back. Pyledriver, who was briefly caught for room when trying to thread between Shahryar and Authority, was a short head away in an excellent fourth. The British shipper was turning the page on his tough-trip 11th to Authority in the Neom Turf Cup (G3) on Saudi Cup Day.
“It was a super run,” jockey Frankie Dettori said of Pyledriver, “and he didn’t get the splits at the crucial moments, but I’m very happy with him.”
Japanese filly Uberleben took fifth. Alenquer, Hukum, Glory Vase, Stella Veloce, Dubai Honour, Dubai Future, Without a Fight, Kaspar, Burgas, and For the Top concluded the order of finish.
Shahryar returned $16.20 while advancing his resume to 7-4-0-2. Victorious in a newcomers’ race as a juvenile at Kyoto, the dark bay was third to Efforia in the Kyodo Tsushin Hai (G3) before scoring in another classic trial, the Mainichi Hai (G3). Shahryar turned the tables on hitherto unbeaten Efforia in the Japanese Derby, nipping the future Horse of the Year in a stakes-record 2:22.5. Soft ground proved Shahryar’s undoing in last September’s Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2), as he trudged home fourth, and his only intervening start came in the Japan Cup.
Bred by Northern Farm in Japan, Shahryar is the second classic winner produced by Dubai Majesty, a daughter of 2002 UAE Derby (G2) victor Essence of Dubai. Shahryar’s full brother, Al Ain, landed the 2017 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1).
Fujiwara expected a bold performance from Shahryar in the Sheema.
“This horse was a winner of the Tokyo Yushun, the Japanese Derby, and that is as good a race as we have in Japan. I was confident that he wasn’t going to lose,” the horseman said.
“It’s very normal for him to get on his toes before he races so I wasn’t too concerned, and I had full faith in Cristian to handle the horse and take care of him during the race.
“It would be a dream for me to take this horse to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It is the race we want to win, and it would mean so much to be able to take him there. That is our ambition and our aim.
“It has been a great night for Japan and a great night for our stable with a first and a third (Vin de Garde’s near-miss in the Dubai Turf [G1]). I am so proud of our horses.”