Coolmore and partners' St Nicholas Abbey spoiled the international debut of sensational filly Gentildonna as he drew off in the stretch from the reigning Japanese Horse of the Year, winning the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines (UAE-I) in course record time on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) card March 30 at Meydan.
Making a change in racing strategy after a late-charging second to Cirrus Des Aigles in last year's race, St Nicholas Abbey tracked just behind pacesetter Shareta this year before taking control entering the stretch. He cruised clear to a 2 1/4-length triumph under Joseph O'Brien while lowering the turf course standard for 2,410 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) to 2:27.70.
"There didn't seem much pace on paper and (part-owner Derrick) Smith said maybe we should ride him a bit further forward and see what happens," Joseph O'Brien said of St Nicholas Abbey, the 3-1 second wagering choice. "This horse is very tough, very special, gives his best every day, relaxes, and finds plenty. It turns out you can ride him any way you want."
Gentildonna, who stalked from third, tried to overtake St Nicholas Abbey in the stretch but had to settle for second after a wide trip that compromised her chances in her first start outside of Japan. She was the even-money favorite in North American pools hosted by AmWest Entertainment.
"She ran very well and was in good form today," jockey Yusanari Iwata said of the Deep Impact filly. "She traveled wide and maybe that cost me a bit and that's why she couldn't catch the winner."
Qatari runner Very Nice Name finished third at 18-1 odds.
A 6-year-old Montjeu horse, St Nicholas Abbey was making his first start since finshing third to Little Mike in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), a race he captured in 2011 for trainer Aidan O'Brien. His Sheema Classic win was the second on the card for Coolmore and partners and Aidan O'Brien, who also captured the United Arab Emirates Derby Sponsored by Al Naboodah Group (UAE-II) with Lines Of Battle.
St Nicholas Abbey, who is out of the Sure Blade mare Leaping Water, has finished off the board only three times in 20 career starts. His record includes eight wins, with five at the grade/group I level, two seconds and seven thirds. He is a graduate from the Book 1 of the 2008 Tattersalls October yearling sale, where he was purchased out of the Oaks Farm Stables consignment for 200,000 guineas by Coolmore bloodstock adviser Demi O'Byrne.
Earlier on the card, Godolphin's Cavalryman burned to the lead in the stretch with an explosive move and won the marathon $1 million Dubai Gold Cup Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (UAE-III) by three lengths from stablemate Ahzeemah.
The 7-year-old Halling horse snapped a four-race winless stretch in an emphatic return to form in the 3,200-meter (about two-mile) turf test, completed in 3:25.31 at 7-2 odds.
A dawdling early pace had many in the 10-horse field pulling hard early as Irish raider Saddler's Rock, whose saddle slipped about six inches at the break, was allowed to take charge while Cavalryman relaxed off the pace.
Cavalryman raced in mid-division in the 10-horse field before jockey Silvestre De Sousa unleashed him down the stretch for a comfortable win.
French filly Verema rallied from the back of the field to finish third, a neck back behind Ahzeemah. French group I winner Imperial Monarch, a newcomer in the long-distance division, ran sixth as the 5-2 favorite after racing close to the early leaders but lacking a finishing kick. Saddler's Rock's finished seventh.
"I could not ride him in the last two furlongs," jockey Declan McDonogh said of Saddler's Rock. "I was in trouble most of the way round. It is a pity."
Cavalryman prepped for Meydan's marquee distance test with a third to Jakkalberry in the 2,410-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) Dubai City of Gold Sponsored by Emirates Skycargo (UAE-II) March 9 at Meydan. Among Europe's prominent 3-year-olds in 2009, he has excelled as a stayer after finishing seventh in the 2012 Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I). He kicked off his new career with a pair of long-distance stakes in England but disappointed in the Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I), finishing 12th, also run at 3,200 meters, last November.
Bred in England by Darley out of Silversword, by Highest Honor, Cavalryman has seven wins, including the 2009 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I), four seconds, and four thirds from 30 career starts.