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 few weeks, we will pay tribute to each of the previous Dubai World Cup winners. Today, we rewind to 2008 when Curlin won the Dubai World Cup by a huge margin of almost eight lengths.
Ironically, even before any of the traditional lead-up races to the Dubai World Cup, universal consensus was that the Dubai World Cup winner had already been seen in action and that subsequent performances would only provide the clue as to who would be second best. American trainer Steve Asmussen decided on a marked variation to any previous Dubai World Cups by bringing his star Curlin to Dubai in early February and running him in a handicap at Nad Al Sheba. Asmussen wanted a month between runs as well as the opportunity to run over the course and distance of the Dubai World Cup and the Jaguar Trophy fitted the bill perfectly, a handicap for horses rated 100 & over. Curlin won that race by a couple of lengths.
By bringing Curlin to Dubai, Steve Asmussen also bypassed other preferred lead-ups in the USA such as the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park and the Santa Anita Handicap. The Donn Handicap along with the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge had proven to be a reliable a guide to the Dubai World Cup (previous winners being Cigar (1986), Captain Steve (2001) and Invasor (2007).
However, A.P. Arrow, second in the Donn Handicap, made the trip as did other Americans Great Hunter and Well Armed, the latter the winner of the San Antonio Handicap, the race that launched Pleasantly Perfect to Dubai World Cup success in 2005. Premium Tap, second to Invasor in 2007, returned from Saudi Arabia as did the Japanese dirt star Vermilion, fourth the previous year. All three winners of the Maktoum Challenge series paid up however first round winner Happy Boy, purchased by Godolphin following that event, succumbed to a minor injury and was withdrawn. Mike de Kock’s Lucky Find and Godolphin’s Jalil remained in the hunt.
Jalil’s performance in the third round gave the belief that if any horse was to cause an upset, then it would be him. However, not many believed there would be an upset and Curlin went to the barriers one of the shortest favourites in the race’s history. And any thoughts of an upset were quickly laid to rest as the horse settled just behind the leaders, the race immediately in the control of his rider Robby Albarado. Well Armed took them along at a good tempo with Asiatic Boy and Curlin behind them, Premium Tap had a tendency to over-race after being bumped at the start and when the pressure was applied his early exertions took their toll. Albarado controlled the race on Curlin and shortly after straightening, the horse was allowed more rein and he easily went to the front from Well Armed and Asiatic Boy , quickly putting the race beyond doubt, being eased down to win by just under eight lengths.
In winning, Curlin became the fourth horse to complete the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Dubai World Cup double. Curlin returned to America to collect a Grade 1 treble of the Stephen Foster Handicap, Woodward Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup but couldn’t repeat his Breeders’ Cup Classic success when fourth behind Raven’s Pass. Curlin finished with a career tally of 11 wins from 16 starts including over US$10 million in earnings.
Dubai Racing Club Press Release
Photo: Curlin, (Dubai Racing Club)