Rebel’s Romance Swiftly Kicks for Sheema Classic Victory

March 31, 2024

Rebel’s Romance with Buick up sail to victory in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic. (Dubai Racing Club)

By Tom Peacock

MEYDANRebel’s Romance emerged a clear-cut winner to maintain an excellent run for Godolphin in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic.

In what developed into a tactical contest in which very few horses were involved, the hardy six-year-old was handing HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s operation its fourth victory in the 2410m turf classic since 2017, with Jack Hobbs, Hawkbill and Old Persian striking in consecutive years.

It was a record fifth win in the race for jockey William Buick, who was able to keep it pretty simple. Point Lonsdale bounced into the lead from the outset and dictated a steady pace as Buick tailed him in second, with Shahryar following at a respectable distance.

With 600m remaining, that trio had a sizeable advantage from the chasing pack and Rebel’s Romance appeared to be travelling the best, swiftly kicking clear over the final 300m and ultimately passing the post two lengths in front. 

Shahryar clung on for second with keenly anticipated fellow Japanese challenger Liberty Island doing best of the closers in third. Derby winner Auguste Rodin was always to the rear and finished last.

HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum receives the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic trophy. (Dubai Racing Club)
HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum receives the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic trophy. (Dubai Racing Club)

Rebel’s Romance, a winner of the UAE Derby at this fixture in 2021 as well as the following year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, had been returning to an approximation of his best for trainer Charlie Appleby over the last few months and had warmed up for his Meydan challenge by winning a Group 3 race in Qatar. He won in a time of 2:26.72.

“He showed in Qatar what a versatile horse he is,” said Buick. “His best form has usually been when he’s held up but in Qatar, I tried something new. I was keen today to adopt a similar tactic and I got a lovely slipstream from the leader.

“He’s a very good horse on his day and he showed that today. I’m absolutely delighted; he’s a great horse and I’m so glad he’s back to his best.”

Reflecting on the importance of Godolphin registering a win on the biggest night day of the year in Dubai racing, Buick said: “You know His Highness wants to see the best horses come to Dubai and the best horses are here. These races are incredibly hard to win so of course I’m incredibly happy.

“It’s great for the team, great for everybody. It’s great to be here and it’s great to ride a winner. It’s an amazing training performance and a great job by the whole team. I’m in the fortunate position to be able to ride these horses.”

Sheema Classic winner Rebel's Romance trainer Charlie Appleby (far left) and Jockey William Buick (middle right). (Dubai Racing Club)
Sheema Classic winner Rebel’s Romance trainer Charlie Appleby (far left) and Jockey William Buick (middle right). (Dubai Racing Club)

Appleby had been out of luck with three earlier runners, with Star Of Mystery doing best when chasing home California Spangle in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m).

“It was our last roll of the dice for today,” said Appleby. “We went into the race as a long shot which shows the depth of the race. We had a bumpy road last year, went to Kempton to bring up his confidence and then Qatar to bring him back to where we wanted him to be.

“Full credit to the team, especially the logistical team as he went back to the UK from Qatar and then out here. The plan was to go forward, and William knows the track and horse very well. Most importantly, delighted for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the entire team at Godolphin.”


Shahryar (2nd), jockey Cristian Demuro said: “He ran a perfect race. He travelled well and was always in good position. He was just beaten by the best horse on the day. The pace was okay, it gave my horse a chance to relax behind the winner.”

Liberty Island (3rd), trainer Mitsu Nakauchida said: “She was in perfect condition. I thought she sat in a good place, however, maybe the ground at Meydan didn’t suit her. She couldn’t show her turn of foot compared to what she does in Japan. I wanted to get a good result but couldn’t. I feel sorry for her connections and fans.”

Justin Palace (4th), jockey Joao Moreira said: “Very good run. He was a bit aggressive, even though the pace was genuine enough for him to get into his comfort zone. Finished off not too bad, very close to second and third, so I’m very proud of his performance.”

Emily Upjohn (5th), jockey Kieran Shoemark said: “She ran a massive race. She settled firstly, that was the main thing. Unfortunately, at halfway I was caught in a pocket on the rail and there was another race developing ahead of us. They got first run on us. When the splits came, she was very game through the line. I was just more encouraged by the way she seems to have grown up. She was a write off in the King George, so she showed some maturity today by settling. Hopefully, she’s got another big season ahead of her.”

Point Lonsdale (6th), jockey Wayne Lordan said: “He ran a lovely race. He is very genuine and he is a galloper so staying was always going to be his game. He had to step up on form and I think he ran a very good race.”

Junko (7th), jockey Maxime Guyon said: “The pace was okay and the horse went good. We tried our best.”

Stars On Earth (8th), jockey Frankie Dettori said: “She was leaning right throughout. I was angling out all the way.”

Simca Mille (9th), jockey James Doyle said: “Just outclassed.”

Sisfahan (10th), jockey Lukas Delozier said: “He’s done well because it was such a tough race but of course I’m a little bit disappointed, because he didn’t finish off the race today. He showed he needed a longer trip.”

Spirit Dancer (11th), jockey Oisin Orr said: “I was too far back. I was never at the races. I think I was just in the wrong position.”

Auguste Rodin (12th), trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “It was a bit of a non-event really. The race just developed into halves so we just want to put a line through the race really. Ryan just said he felt he wasn’t happy where he was or anything. They just never activated at all so it was a bit of a non-event. It was just one of them where it didn’t happen.” 

@jonathanstettin congrats on a great hit. Very nice job!!!

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