Sadly, Discreet Cat was to trail in a disappointing last as Invasor made a bold attempt to live up to his "best horse in the world" tag while he was made to work hard to put away Premium Tap at Nad al Sheba race course on Saturday.
Third behind Invasor in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), the John Kimmel-conditioned Premium Tap tried to make all under Kent Desormeaux and soon saw off Forty Licks who tried to take him on in the early stages. Now owned by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the 5-year-old son of Pleasant Tap led entering the straight with Invasor going well and stalking him.
With Fernando Jara taking a cheeky look round at the top of the straight on Invasor, probably looking for Frankie Dettori and Discreet Cat, it just looked a matter of time before he took the 5-year-old son of recently deceased Candy Stripes to the front. However, Kimmel’s horse kept finding more on the rail and it was only at about the furlong pole that Jara was able to get his horse’s head in front. Even then, his rival battled back but had no answer in the final stages. In his usual fashion, Invasor edged away late to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
“He is obviously one of the best horses I have owned and he is my second winner of this race after Almutawakel in 1999," Sheikh Hamdan said. "I have been lucky to have some nice horses around the world and it is great for the United Arab Emirates that we can own such horses.
“To win this race, in Dubai, is brilliant and Kiaran McLaughlin and Fernando Jara are a great team with this horse.”
McLaughlin, who was champion trainer in the UAE three times before returning full time to the States, added: “It has always been a dream to win this race for the Maktoums – obviously the Kentucky Derby is dearest to my heart but this race is a close second. I always knew this horse was special and that was a very good, brave effort.
“I was a bit worried as the second kept fighting back.”
McLaughlin said Invasor may run in the Suburban Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park this summer. Invasor won last year's Suburban.
Jara said, “This is an exceptional horse and I was always confident. It is a brilliant night.”
Discreet Cat, undefeated in six previous starts, fell out to trail the field of seven soon after the start. Frankie Dettori swung the brilliant colt out approaching the straight for an anticipated late charge. But the son of Forestry, unraced since winning the Cigar Mile (gr. I) in November, never mounted an attack. It was Discreet Cat's first attempt at the 10-furlong distance.
“He was never traveling and was beaten before the turn,” Dettori said.
Discreet Cat, owned by Dubai's leader Sheikh Mohammed, finished 23 lengths behind the winner. Still, the sheik could be seen in the grandstand beaming as Invasor finished first and fans shredded their programs and tossed them skyward.
Sheikh Hamdan is Sheik Mohammed's older brother.
Jara said he thought it'd be Discreet Cat dueling with him down the stretch instead of Premium Tap. "I looked for him but he was never there," Jara said.
Sheikh Hamdan said it meant a lot to win in his hometown with the crowd waving the flag of United Arab Emirates.
"For the horses it's best to win in the United States, but for me it's best to win here in Dubai," Sheikh Hamdan said as his horse was doused with a bucket of water and washed down.
Of the runner-up, Desormeaux said: “He was so brave and just kept fighting and fighting. That Invasor is some horse because my fellow is very good. He has given his all and it was only well inside the closing stages that he faltered. It was very exciting and a great race.”
Bullish Luck, ridden by Brett Prebble, took third for trainer Tony Cruz, 10 lengths behind Premium Tap. Vermilion finished fourth, followed by Forty Licks, Kandidat and Discreet Cat.
Invasor, who began his career in Uruguay, has now won 11 of 12 lifetime starts, including his last six consecutively. Saturday night's victory, worth $3.6 million, pushed the bay horse's earnings to $7,804,070. In taking Horse of the Year honors in the U.S. last year, he also won three three other grade I races besides the Breeders' Cup Classic. Last month, Invasor won the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in his tune-up for Saturday's effort.