The Dubai World Cup meeting celebrates its historic 25th anniversary on March 27, with six Group 1 races and three Group 2s, including one of the world’s premier races, the $12 million Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline.
Over the next week, we will pay tribute to each of the previous Dubai World Cup winners. Today, we rewind to 2014 when African Story won the Dubai World Cup under Silvestre De Sousa for Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor.
In 2013 Godolphin shocked the majority when they decided that African Story would bypass a defence of the Godolphin Mile and, instead, run in the Dubai World Cup.
African Story, appeared to have the Godolphin Mile at his mercy having won the race’s main lead-in, the Burj Nahaar easily on Super Saturday, however the stable proceeded with plans to run the horse in the Dubai World Cup.
The 1,600m was as far as he had ever been but there was no hesitation in sending him over 2,000m for the first time in the Dubai World Cup. The subsequent result hinted that they may have been rewarded more had they run him in the Godolphin Mile, he was never likely in the Dubai World Cup but made up very good ground in the final 300m to finish fifth.
While the stable went without the Godolphin Mile trophy, African Story showed that the distance would be no problem and thoughts of the 2014 Dubai World Cup were firmly put in place. He had the remainder of the year off and didn’t reappear at the races until the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge in February and he announced his credentials in the strongest of terms when turning in an outstanding effort when a fast finishing second to stablemate Prince Bishop.
Returning to Super Saturday for the third time, he missed out on a hat-trick of wins at the meeting and was slightly disappointing when he was always well back and never improved when eighth behind Prince Bishop.
The temptation to switch back to the Godolphin Mile was resisted and the path to the Dubai World Cup pursued. It was a decision well made. A full field of 16 from seven countries went to the start including the Derby winner Ruler Of The World, Hong Kong’s outstanding pair of Akeed Mofeed and Military Attack, Red Cadeaux and Side Glance, second and fourth respectively 12 months earlier as well as a very much in form Prince Bishop. African Story had become the forgotten horse following his disappointing effort in the main lead-up however trainer Saeed bin Suroor was adamant a better performance would be seen in the Dubai World Cup.
Ridden much more forward than his previous attempts beyond the 1,600m under jockey Silvestre de Sousa, African Story tracked the early leader Mukhadram and on the home turn the two horses had the race between them. Mukhadram was gallant as he fought however African Story had tracked him throughout and proved too good in the run to the line, with Mukhadram still good enough to beat all others by more than four lengths.
Another of Godolphin’s runners, Cat O’Mountain was third with Side Glance again fourth and Red Cadeaux in sixth.
The depth of African Story’s win here came with Mukhadram winning the Eclipse while others to win at Group level throughout the year were Hillstar, Cat O’Mountain and Ruler Of The World.
Like the previous year, African Story didn’t race at all following his Dubai World Cup success with the plan put in place to return the horse to Dubai for 2015 for a successful defence of his Dubai World Cup crown, where a win would have seen him not only become the first horse to successfully defend a Dubai World Cup crown but also to do it on two different surfaces with the decision made after the 2013-2014 season to switch the Meydan surface from all-weather back to dirt, the surface that was in place at Nad Al Sheba.
Dubai Racing Club Press Release
Photo: African Story, (Dubai Racing Club)