In a desperate drive to the wire in the world's richest race, Brazilian-bred Gloria de Campeao nosed Lizard's Desire and Allybar in the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I) at the sparkling new Meydan Racecourse March 27.
The pacesetter in the 2,000-meter test (about 1 1/4 miles) over Meydan's Tapeta racing surface was ridden to victory by Tiago Pereira for French trainer Pascal Bary and owner Estrela Energia Stables. The World Cup was the highlight of an eight-race card worth $26 million.
The world traveler Gloria de Campeao, racing on the inside, won an incredibly tight photo by a nose over the late-running Lizard's Desire, who was on the grandstand side with Allybar, between the two, a short head farther back in third. The difference between first and second was worth $4 million, with the winning connections collecting $6 million.
The three horses were evenly spread across the track in the final 100 yards and the result was so close that jockey Kevin Shea, aboard the South African-bred Lizard's Desire, was pumping his arm wildly in apparent victory after the finish. A few minutes later, however, the order of finish had Gloria de Campeao on top, with Lizard's Desire second and the Irish-bred Allybar finishing a tough-luck third.
"He just tried and tried and tried," Bary said immediately afterward. "(Lizard's Desire) came so fast, I was not sure (if Gloria de Campeao) won. But I love this horse. He beat some horses (that) may be better than him, but he loves it here. It's so nice for France. It's fantastique!"
“I thought I had won but as we passed the post, I looked across and (Shea) was celebrating, so I thought I’d keep quiet and wait for the result," Pereira said. "The horse settled in front and I dropped my hands 300 meters out and asked him to kick on. He was so brave and this is all just a dream.”
Seven-year-old Gloria de Campeao ran second in the World Cup last year, finishing 14 lengths behind Well Armed over the dirt surface at Nad al Sheba.
Sent off at 16-1 odds (25-1 in the U.S.), Gloria de Campeao was able to dictate an easy pace and inched away in the home stretch before Allybar, ridden by Ahmed Ajtebi, charged up along the inside to make a race of it. Lizard's Desire, racing in the pack most of the way, came on strong, however, and just missed as all three hit the wire together in a terrific finish.
“It’s a very bitter pill to swallow, but I’ve got to swallow it," Shea said. "When I looked up it was just after the line and I was in front and I thought I’d got it. It’s hard to take. (Lizard's Desire) gave me everything but the winner got it soft up front."
America's top hope this year, Gio Ponti , finished fourth, 1 1/4 lengths behind Allybar.
“I had a great trip," said jockey Ramon Dominguez. "I was very proud of how my horse ran. They were setting a very modest pace in front of me. That really affected my horse. I wish there was a little more pace. They just didn’t come back a whole lot.”
Gitano Hernando, who went off favored in the European betting and finished sixth behind Mastery , was surrounded by traffic in the stretch while racing penned in on the rail.
“They went no pace and consequently, there were traffic problems and everything was blocking up in front of me," said jockey Kieren Fallon. "On a tight track like this, you need some room.”
Richard's Kid , with Garrett Gomez aboard, finished seventh. “I couldn’t get him to quicken," Gomez said. "It was like he was in quicksand. All of a sudden, the last sixteenth of a mile, he started hitting gears."
This was the third race over the new surface at Meydan for Gloria de Campeao, which was a big advantage for the 7-year-old son of Impression out of the Brazilian mare Audacity, by Clackson. The winner was bred by Haras Santarem.
Gloria de Campeao won the one-mile Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (UAE-III) on Jan. 28. Stretched out to the World Cup distance for Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (UAE-II) on March 4, he came up a neck short to World Cup rival Red Desire after setting the pace.
“If he’s alone after he’s taken the lead and no one comes after him, it is so difficult to catch him," Bary said. "He wants to fight.”
Winner of the group I Singapore Airlines International Cup last May, Gloria de Campeao notched his ninth lifetime victory in 24 starts in the World Cup and boosted his earnings to $8,864,693.
The World Cup purse was increased from $6 million overall with the move from Nad al Sheba to its new home.