France's Corine Barande-Barbe became the first female trainer to win a Thoroughbred race on Dubai World Cup night when Cirrus des Aigles staved off favored St Nicholas Abbey by a neck in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic Presented By Longines (UAE-I) March 31 at Meydan Racecourse.
Ridden for the first time by Olivier Peslier, the 6-year-old gelding globetrotter Cirrus des Aigles won for the 14th time in a 41-race career. The French-bred son of Even Top out of the unraced Taille de Guepe, by Septieme Ciel, is owned by Jean Claude Alain Dupouy and Xavier Niel. He was bred by Yvon Lelimouzin and Benoit Deschamps.
Cirrus des Aigles, the second choice at odds of 7-2 in the North American pool, defeated nine rivals in the Sheema Classic while running the about 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:31.30. That was more than a half-second off the 2:31.84 mark established by Rewilding in this race a year ago.
The winner sat just off a slow tempo from pacesetter Bold Silvano in second for most of the race under a chilly Peslier before taking over heading into the long final straight. Cirrus des Aigles opened a two-length lead near the 200-meter mark, then dug in late as 9-5 pick St Nicholas Abby closed in approaching the wire.
“We didn’t go very fast but I knew I was on a horse that has a lot of speed so I went with the leader early on," Peslier said. "There was hardly any pace so I just let him go on and he finished really well. I could see St Nicholas Abbey coming and I knew it was going to be tight and he just held on.”
Irish invader St Nicholas Abby, winner of the 2011 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), was a clear second by 3 1/2 lengths over the late-closing Jakkalberry after racing near the rear of the pack for most of the journey.
“They went very slow," said Joseph O'Brien, who rode St Nicholas Abbey for his father, trainer Aidan o"Brien. "He was giving them a start and the post came too soon.”
Treasure Beach was fourth after racing close up to the leaders. He was followed by Mahbooba, Beaten Up, Cavalryman, Songcraft, Shimraan, and a distanced Bold Silvano.
Barande-Barbe, who turned 54 a day before the race, expressed complete confidence in Cirrus des Aigles. The bay defeated leading World Cup contender So You Think in last fall's Qipco Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot and was ranked third in the international Timeform rankings behind only Frankel and Black Cavier.
“I knew he would win – I said so in the morning!" exclaimed Barande-Barbe, who maintains a 35-horse stable based in Chantilly. "My horse is just marvelous and it was my birthday yesterday. This is a big moment for me; it is a dream which keeps getting better and better. I was confident and I always knew Olivier would do the right thing. If the pace was not fast then he would go from the front and if it was fast then he could sit behind."
Cirrus des Aigles won for just the second time in eight starts at the distance, although he has four seconds at 12 furlongs as well. He had one prior start in 2012, finishing second in a Chantilly allowance event at 1 3/16 miles on a synthetic track March 3, and was making his debut at Meydan.
Last year, Cirrus des Aigles won five of 11 starts with four seconds, completing the year with a fifth-place finish in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin Dec. 11.
“The horse likes to fight. If there is a horse in front of him he likes to pass it and if a horse comes from behind then it pushes him on,” Barande-Barbe said.
“There was no question about the distance as he won on the bridle by 10 lengths over this trip in Deauville and was second to Sarafina over the distance when we rode him from the front. This is similar to winning the Champion Stakes and the horse seems to like big racecourses.”
The victory by the nine-time stakes winner more than doubled Cirrus des Aigles' bankroll to $5,600,774.