Dubai World Cup: everything you need to know as Mystic Guide shows the way for Godolphin

By Nicholas Godfrey

So you know US-trained favourite Mystic Guide scored for Godolphin in the 25th running of the Dubai World Cup. Here’s some stuff you might like to know about the $12m contest and the other dirt races at Meydan – plus videos and tweets.

What’s going on?

‘The sky’s the limit!’ – Mike Stidham on Mystic Guide

After a straightforward victory for Mystic Guide in the 25th Dubai World Cup, trainer Mike Stidham wasted no time looking ahead to the 26th.

“I’m so proud to be here on the 25th anniversary of the Dubai World Cup for Sheikh Mohammed and the sky’s the limit for this horse,” said the US veteran. “We’d love to come back next year, I’ll know the lay of the land better then!”

Dubai World Cup ‘Iron Rule’ maintained

There is an ‘Iron Rule’ when it comes to the Dubai World Cup – at least when it is run on dirt, that is, because the race is always won by a horse either owned by the Maktoum family or trained in America.

Like the 2007 winner Invasor, Mystic Guide fulfilled both criteria as he scored by 3¾ lengths under Luis Saez. The flashy chestnut son of Horse of the Year Ghostzapper is owned by Godolphin and trained in the US.

He is the 12th US-trained World Cup winner and the 13th owned by the Maktoums. Only nine of them carried the Godolphin blue, although Almutawakel was very much a Godolphin horse, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor when he won the fourth edition in Sheikh Hamdan’s silks in 1999.

Horse Racing Mystic Guide Dubai World Cup
Mystic Guide (Luis Saez) wins the G1 Dubai World Cup. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

Stidham’s first runner outside North America

Mystic Guide wasn’t just Mike Stidham’s first runner in Dubai, he was the trainer’s first-ever runner outside America.

Stidham is a veteran of more than 40 years as a trainer, having begun aged 21 with a small string at Louisiana Downs after helping out in his father George’s barn. His dad was also jockey’s agent for the legendary Bill Hartack, a family friend.

In an up-and-down career where the win came in 1980, Stidham saddled his first graded-stakes winner as long ago as 1988 with Manzotti, while his first Grade 1 win came in 1994 with Two Altazano in the Coaching Club American Oaks. It was a dozen years until the second and another nine until the third.

Stidham has moved around the country with early spells in Florida and California north and south, then Texas, Louisiana and Chicago. With nearly 2,200 career winners (among them just short of 50 graded stakes), he now also has a string at Tampa and the Fair Hill Training Center, the quality higher than ever thanks to the patronage of Godolphin for the last couple of seasons.

Keita Tosaki vows revenge on Chuwa Wizard

Mystc Guide tracked the duelling leaders Capezzano and Hypothetical – stablemates doing each other no favours – before asserting in the straight for an emphatic triumph.

Runner-up was Japanese dirt star Chuwa Wizard, with Andre Fabre-trained Magny Cours a staying-on third. But although the winning margin was respectful indeed, Chuwa Wizard’s jockey Keita Tosaki wants another crack. “He ran his race but I want to come back to get revenge,” said the rider.

Double delay slows things down

Eventful preliminaries meant the Dubai World Cup was subject to a lengthy delay after two horses had to be withdrawn. 

First, Saudi Cup third Great Scot unseated Frankie Dettori and bolted on the way to post, then UAE-trained Military Law slipped under the gate and parted company with Antonio Fresu before galloping riderless.

Fresu had already hit the dirt during the meeting, having been thrown off Golden Shaheen winner Zenden as the sprinter tragically broke down almost immediately after crossing the line.

Dubai World Cup card: watch the John and Thady show as Gosdens strike with Mishriff and Lord North

Golden Shaheen: tragedy after Zenden triumph

Absolute tragedy followed unlikely triumph in the $1.5m Golden Shaheen, where jockey Antonio Fresu was still celebrating a 40-1 triumph aboard Zenden when the horse suffered a fatal breakdown to his near-fore within yards of the post and shot his rider out of the saddle. 

‘It wasn’t the way I wanted to win a G1’ – Antonio Fresu relives Golden Shaheen heartbreak on Zenden

The five-year-old could not be saved in what was the saddest aftermath to a truly stunning victory. Although Zenden had five dirt wins over this 6f trip in the US, he had never won a graded stakes – and neither had little-known Carlos David, assistant to now-disgraced trainer Jason Servis for five years before going out on his own in 2017.

Horse Racing Zenden Golden Shaheen Meydan
Zenden (Antonio Fresu) wins the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

Drawn widest of all in gate 13, Zenden rocketed from the stalls and was soon clear on the inner – the old inside-rail front-end Meydan bias was back with a vengeance – seemingly with the race in his pocket as they turned for home.

None of his potential speed rivals could live with him – favourite Yaupon had no chance after missing the kick – and it was left to Japanese-trained Red Le Zele to stay on through beaten horses to claim second.

Winning trainer David is a native of Cali, Colombia, who emigrated to the US aged 16 and has also worked for Bill Mott and Steve Asmussen. Now a US citizen, he has a career total of 85 winners in North America.

UAE Derby: Kentucky quotes for Rebel’s Romance

Though Godolphin already have a leading contender in US-trained Breeders’ Cup winner Essential Quality, Kentucky Derby talk was in the air after Rebel’s Romance redeemed his reputation in no uncertain terms with 5½-length victory over front-running Panadol.

UPDATE: Kentucky Derby ruled out for Rebel’s Romance in favour of Belmont Stakes

The gelded son of Dubawi holds the Triple Crown entry and trainer Charlie Appleby said it was a “nice conversation to be having”. If you’re interested, Ladbrokes make him a 16-1 chance.

Appleby, though, was looking even further, adding: “We’ll be working back from the Dubai World Cup next year.”

Rebel’s Romance was taking his career record to four out of five, that sole defeat having come on his previous outing when beaten into fourth in the Saudi Derby. He was Godolphin’s ninth UAE Derby winner; the previous eight were all trained by Saeed Bin Suroor.

Kentucky Derby betting (Ladbrokes): 3 Concert Tour, 5 Essential Quality, 8 Greatest Honour, 10 Hot Rod Charlie, 14 Prevalence, 16 Medina Spirit, Rebel’s Romance, 20 bar.

Godolphin Mile: UAE stalwart Tadhg O’Shea hits mark

Tadhg O’Shea, the winningmost rider of all-time in the UAE, got on the scoresheet when Dubai veteran Secret Ambition capped a long career with a runaway six-length victory in the Godolphin Mile.

Trained by reigning champion Satish Seemar, the eight-year-old vied for the early lead before making most of the running and scooting clear off the turn for his seventh success at Meydan and his tenth altogether in the UAE.

With nearly 600 UAE wins to his name, O’Shea is on the verge of his ninth UAE jockeys’ title.

In memory of Sheikh Hamdan

Tadhg O’Shea dedicated his Godolphin Mile triumph to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who died this week at the age of 75.

“The whole racing world sadly lost Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum this week and I want to dedicate this to him,” said the jockey. 

“It was when I was champion apprentice in Ireland in 2001 that Sheikh Hamdan sponsored a trip to Dubai and I’m coming back here ever since. I’ve been here a long time and it wouldn’t have been possible without him.”

Shall we talk about it?

Mike Stidham (Mystic Guide’s trainer): “I am so happy to be here and the horse performed to his capability. It’s a beautiful thing. He was getting antsy in the parade ring and then with a loose horse it made it more difficult, then we had to load a couple times. It was a little scary at the start but he stayed relaxed.
“All that added to the concerns – he gets a little tough and doesn’t like being restrained a lot. I saddled him outside the stall because he was getting a little antsy in the stall. With all of that that went on, I was really concerned, like I said, but he overcame it.  I got a good feeling when I saw him lying in third on the backside then down the lane it was amazing.”

Horse Racing Mystic Guide Dubai World Cup
Mystic Guide (Luis Saez) wins the G1 Dubai World Cup. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Mathea Kelley

Luis Saez (Mystic Guide’s jockey): “Our plan worked out. To break well, get a position and then I knew he would give me that kick at the top of the straight – and he did. I didn’t want to be too far back and I just asked him turning for home and he kicked. The plan worked out perfectly. He’s a young horse and last time I rode him I knew he was a Group 1 winner.
“Today he proved he is a champion and I know he is going to get better and better. What a nice horse, he has all the ability. It’s an honour for me. This was my dream as a little kid and I can’t believe I’m here now. It’s a dream come true.
“He was a little nervous before the race and in the post-parade, but he does that sometimes and I wasn’t too worried. He is just a very talented horse and it is amazing to win this race. I can’t believe it.”

Keita Tosaki (Chuwa Wizard’s jockey): “While he was waiting for the race he was relaxed, he jumped out very well and could run his race. I knew the winner was travelling nicely on the final turns but my horse was also moving well and when the pace picked up he showed his turn of foot. When he breezed over the week, he felt really nice. He ran his race but I want to come back to get revenge.”

Andre Fabre (Magny Cours’ trainer): “I was delighted. He was given the perfect ride by William. He travelled well, didn’t mind too much kickback and well, I couldn’t be happier with him.”

William Buick (Magny Cours’ jockey): “He ran fantastic. Mr Fabre was quite confident of a big run, he handled the kickback very well and he travelled beautifully. Look, the winner was strong but Magny Cours finished the race really strong and ran a huge race in third.”

Horse Racing Secret Ambition Meydan
Secret Ambition(Tadhg O’Shea) wins the G2 Godolphin Mile. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood

Satish Seemar (Secret Ambition’s trainer): “All week I’ve been saying that in this race there was no more experienced horse for this distance. At the post-position draw, he was prominent in every race they would show him in the videos. He’s the most deserving horse in this field and most experienced and it’s perfect. With us they improve as they get older and this has worked out well. This is what we live for here in our jobs – nothing better than having a winner on this night.”

Tadhg O’Shea (Secret Ambition’s jockey): “Satish told me the other day he was the best horse in the race and how right he was. We tried 2,000m with him last time and that didn’t work. I had a lovely gate today and luckily Secret Ambition was on his best behaviour and he wasn’t on the back foot jumping, so he broke well.
“I wanted to get to the lead if at all possible and luckily I was able to and it worked out good. I filled him up before I kicked. He went for his wind and had a nice breather, so I had plenty left and I felt if anyone came to me, he would pull out again.”

Charlie Appleby (Rebel’s Romance trainer): “He is still very much a work in progress and he looked much better tonight than he did in Saudi Arabia. I think the biggest attribute to him today is that he was going to stay. When you see your horses wide on the back of that turn, you start to worry, but he was always travelling so well into it. Down the back straight I saw half of them coming under the pump and I thought: ‘Don’t worry, he’s just coming good at the right time now.’
“The Kentucky Derby will be a nice conversation to have over the next 10 days. Thankfully, Godolphin has a very special horse over there in Essential Quality, who looks as though he might have the Kentucky Derby within his grasp. The long-term aim with Rebel’s Romance will be to work back from next year’s Dubai World Cup.”

Horse Racing Rebel's Romance Meydan on Dubai World Cup day
Rebel’s Romance (William Buick) wins the G2 UAE Derby. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen

William Buick (Rebel’s Romance jockey): “I was always where I thought I would be – he breaks a little bit slow, so I never thought I would be up there. He doesn’t have much speed early and I was quite happy with the draw because I knew I could control where I would be and I did. Once I got out, he just bolted. I was a little bit worried I was getting there a little early; a little too quick, but that was some performance tonight. He’s really come on and he’s a big horse, but he’s still a shell. He really knows how to use his power now.”

Salem Bin Ghadayer (Panadol’s trainer): “I’m so happy, I mean 1:56 – the time! We got beaten by a better horse. For Panadol, this is his third start, a Listed race on his second start and now a Group 2. I couldn’t be more happy than this. I still believe in his ability and I’m pretty sure we are going to have something amazing for him next season. He’s a small baby, this is his third start. He was a late horse, we broke him at the end of September. I think he has a lot of things left to show. I am really looking forward to next season.”

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