Checked twice in the final 250 meters, Japan's star mare Gentildonna showed just what she's made of March 29 in wearing down Cirrus des Aigles and winning the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines (UAE-I) in a course-record time at Meydan Racecourse (VIDEO).
With 2012 winner Cirrus des Aigles to her outside in a tightly bunched group in the straight, Gentildonna was pocketed with nowhere to run. As Cirrus des Aigles carried on to lead for Christophe Soumillon, Gentildonna was checked on his heels before a cool-headed Ryan Moore switched her out for running room in the final 100 meters. Once clear, the Deep Impact mare uncoiled a powerful turn of foot and burst past Cirrus des Aigles for a 1 1/2-length triumph.
After starting from the 12 hole, Gentildonna, runner-up last year to St Nicholas Abbey, was timed in 2:27.25 for the 2,410 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) on turf, shaving :0.25 off the previous course record. Along with Cirrus de Aigles, who broke from the widest post in the 15-horse field, she race in the rear of mid-division early. She advanced 600 meters out before finding trouble in the straight.
Gentildonna was the 3-1 second choice in North American pools hosted by AmWest Entertainment.
Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Magician, the 5-2 favorite, never mounted a challenge and finished sixth after settling at the back of the field early.
The race was marred in the early part by the death of trainer Mike de Kock's Mars, who careered off the course at the first run and crashed the outer rail, launching jockey Richard Hughes over. Prior to being loaded into an ambulance Hughes was seen sitting up on the course. Mars is believed to have died from a cardiac event.
Gentildonna, who made history in November as the first two-time winner of the Japan Cup (Jpn-I), joins Dar Re Mi (2010) and Sun Classique (2008) as female winners of the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Trained by Sei Ishizaka, Gentildonna has a 9-3-1 record from 15 career starts. Out of the Bertolini mare Donna Blini, she was Japan's 2012 Horse of the Year after winning the season's Triple Crown and her first Japan Cup.
Owner Shon Yoshida from Japan’s famous Northern Farm said he was not sure where Gentildonna would be heading next, but there were no thoughts of retiring her this year.