Desert Spectacle
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Steve Haskin

So, which country came out on top on the March 31 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) card, arguably the greatest international card ever assembled?

When you get right down to it, this wasn’t about dominance by any single country. On this enchanted night of unprecedented Thoroughbred racing and pageantry, there was only one winner: the entire racing world.

It was as if the fragments of every racing society across the globe fused together to form a single community of the horse. All we saw was a parade of magnificent steeds, and it didn’t seem to matter what country they were from.

To demonstrate just how solid a tapestry the Maktoums have woven, on the seven-race card, the horses who finished first, second, or third were bred in the United States, Argentina, Japan, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, France, and Saudi Arabia. Also competing on the card were horses bred in Germany, Brazil, Chile, and India.

The New Zealand-bred Vengeance Of Rain, winner of the Nakheel Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I), was trained in Hong Kong. Dubai-trained horses produced one win, two seconds, and one third. Its one winner, Asiatic Boy, who annihilated his opponents in the S&M al Naboodah Group UAE Derby (UAE-II), was bred in Argentina and was completing a sweep of the United Arab Emirates Triple Crown.

And where else could one see a Hong Kong Gold Cup (HK-I) winner defeat the winners of the English Derby (Eng-I), John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), and Preis von Europa (Ger-I), or a Japanese-trained and -bred colt defeat three American grade I winners, including one champion, as well as group I winners in France, South Africa, Australia, and India, and group II winners in England, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates?

And then, of course, we come to the remarkable Invasor, who along with Asiatic Boy, moved the breeding industry in Argentina to a new level and put all of South America on the global map, even though that continent has been producing champions in the United States for decades.

“South America provides excellent conditions for Thoroughbred breeding, as shown by the rise to prominence of Invasor and Asiatic Boy,” said Luis Costa Baleta, a prominent South American owner who resides in Uruguay. “Their victories in Dubai surely will make all the leaders of the international breeding industry focus on this part of the world as an alternative breeding site. The costs are lower than in the Northern Hemisphere, yet you still have a good chance of breeding top quality horses. I believe that the impact of Invasor being on top of the world will change the future of the South American breeding industry.”

Invasor, the Argentine-bred Uruguayan Triple Crown winner, has now won six consecutive grade/group I stakes since his only career defeat in last year’s UAE Derby. The son of Candy Stripes has sent the tiny country of Uruguay into a frenzy, as evidenced by the thousands of wildly cheering fans who watched his Dubai World Cup victory at various simulcasting facilities. He surprised fans and horsemen at Pimlico last year with his victory in the Pimlico Special (gr. I). He made believers of everyone at Belmont when he won the Suburban Handicap (gr. I). He thrilled the crowd at Saratoga with his dramatic nose victory in the Whitney (gr. I). He became a champion at Churchill Downs when he defeated the seemingly invincible Bernardini. He had the crowd at Gulfstream gasping when after clipping heels and stumbling at the quarter pole he squeezed through on the rail to win the Donn Handicap (gr. I). And finally, he was anointed Horse of the World when he avenged his only defeat by scoring a game victory in the world’s richest race.

His last seven grade/group I victories have come at seven different tracks on three different continents. On March 31, it was as if the Maktoum family presented the racing world with one of its greatest gifts, and it was Invasor who wrapped it into one magnificent package.

It was 11 years ago that the great Cigar pioneered what was to become the spectacle we saw March 31. As the emirate of Dubai has grown into the showplace of the Middle East, so has the Dubai World Cup card grown with it.

Edna St. Vincent Millay could have been speaking for the Maktoums when she wrote, “Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand."

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