Godolphin Racing's Moon Ballad took advantage of his brilliant speed to capture the $6 million Dubai World Cup in front-running style Saturday night at Nad Al Sheba, giving the Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum-owned stable and jockey Frankie Dettori three victories on the rich card.
Harlan's Holiday ran a gallant race to be second, but found himself comprehensively beaten by Moon Ballad.
The scintillating performance from the winner drew comparisons from Dettori to his awesome 2000 World Cup success on Dubai Millennium.
Drawn on the outside in gate 11, next to Harlan's Holiday, Dettori pounced Moon Ballad into an early lead that he did not relinquish.
The leading fancy Nayef plugged on to finish a length back in third, while Grandera took fourth by a short head from State Shinto. The winning time for the 1 1/4-mile World Cup was 2:00.48.
Dettori was in triumphant tactical form as he set the agenda from the front. He gave Moon Ballad a breather turning into the straight, and with 400 meters to go it was clear how much they had in hand. That was the point when Dettori turned on the power for a memorable five-length victory.
An ecstatic Dettori, winning his third race of the night and a second Group 1, said: "I got the same feeling as I had when riding Dubai Millennium because when I turned for home, I couldn't see the other horses. All that I could hear was the crowd cheering.
"I knew then that we were going to win as he had plenty left and was enjoying it. When we were drawn 11 I knew it would be ideal as we would be able to do our own thing and it worked perfectly."
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said Moon Ballad's ultimate aim will be the Breeders' Cup Classic, a race Godolphin has never won.
"He has made a lot of improvement from three to four – mentally and physically," Crisford said.
Harlan's Holiday had stalked Moon Ballad throughout but jockey John Velazquez never looked truly comfortable and could not find any extra when it mattered.
"He ran a great race and we are very pleased with him. He was beaten by a better horse on the night," Velazquez said.
"You have to be happy with second. The winner is a very good racehorse and it is no disgrace to be beaten by him," added trainer Todd Pletcher. "I'm delighted with his effort – he's been beaten by a very good horse. He has certainly proved he could travel. We'll get him back and see how he is and give him a bit of a break."
The Whitney Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga is Harlan's Holiday's next probable target this summer, although he is more likely to be retired to stud than have another crack at the World Cup next year.
Pletcher added: "It has been a wonderful experience and a tremendous event. The organization has been fantastic and I am really glad we came. I'd be keen to come back if we had the right horse."
Dettori and Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor also won the $1 million Godolphin Mile with Firebreak, who held off fast-closing Grey Memo, the defending champion, by a half-length, to begin the day. They teamed again with impressive Sulamani for victory in the $2 million Sheema Classic about two hours before the eighth running of the World Cup.
Dettori chose Moon Ballad over Grandera, the other highly-praised Godolphin starter in the 11-horse World Cup field.
Moon Ballad, a 4-year-old Irish-bred chestnut son of Singspiel, became the first son of a Dubai World Cup winner to take the planet's richest horse race. Singspiel won the 1997 running.
It was the fifth victory for the Dubai-based Godolphin team in the World Cup. Besides Singspiel, it also won with Almutawakel (1999), Dubai Millenium (2000), Street Cry (2002).
Moon Ballad won the Maktoum Challenge round 2 at Nad Al Sheba in his last start on Feb. 13 by a six-length margin, Dettori employing similar tactics that day. His first Group I triumph, worth $3.6 million, gives him five wins in 10 career starts (with three seconds and a third) and career earnings of $4.3 million.
In U.S. wagering, Moon Ballad went off at 3-1 and paid $8.80, $4.20 and $3. Starlight Stable's Harlan's Holiday, with John Velazquez riding, returned $3.80 and $3.20. Nayef, with Richard Hills aboard for owner Hamden al Maktoum, issued a $3 show payoff.World Cup Day Results