Eastern Anthem came from the back of the pack and stuck a nose in front at the wire to take the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) at 18-1 in a thrilling, three-way photo finish March 28 at Nad Al Sheba.
Ridden by apprentice jockey Ahmed Ajtebi, who pulled another World Cup upset one race earlier aboard Gladiatorus in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I), Eastern Anthem was last in a field of 16 for much of the Sheema Classic, which was run at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. The son of Singspiel finally found his best stride entering the long straightaway and began to mow down rivals from the center of the track.
In deep stretch, Eastern Anthem came onto nearly even terms with Purple Moon, who was near the hedge, and Spanish Moon, who was between horses. Eastern Anthem had more momentum than his two rivals and was the first put his head down at the wire. Spanish Moon finished runner-up, just in front of Purple Moon.
"I had to get him switched off at the back and when I pulled out he really went for me," Atjebi said. "I thought at the furlong pole that I might get there but with Ryan Moore and Jamie Spencer upsides me, you never know. It was a great finish and this has topped up my Duty Free celebrations."
Bred in Ireland by Darley and out of the Zinaad mare Kazzia, Eastern Anthem entered the Sheema off a neck victory in the CBD Financial Services Handicap Feb. 19 at Nad Al Sheeba. The 5-year-old horse was sixth in his only prior group stakes effort, which came last summer in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes (UAE-III). He is now 5-2-2 from 10 lifetime starts for owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum.
The winning trainer was Mubarak bin Shafya, who took over conditioning duties from Saeed bin Suroor before his 2009 season began. Shafya also saddled Gladiatorus.
Eastern Anthem paid $39.20 and $11.80, and topped an exacta (2-4) worth $320.70.