Twenty-five years into the $12 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline and it is still tough to beat the race’s host.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, creator of the Dubai World Cup and ruler of Dubai, won the race for a record ninth time March 27 at Meydan when Mystic Guide powered to a 3 3/4-length victory. The 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt is a homebred that races for Godolphin, the racing and breeding operation of Sheikh Mohammed.
More than the home team could claim victory. So, too, could America — with Mystic Guide being trained in the U.S. by Mike Stidham and ridden by jockey Luis Saez. Mystic Guide became the 12th U.S. trainee to win the race.
Saez is no stranger to winning major races in the Middle East, having piloted Maximum Security across the finish line first in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup last year.
Saez had Mystic Guide perfectly spotted in Saturday’s race, as longshot Hypothetical and Cappezano showed the way. Mystic Guide did the rest.
He advanced into second entering the second of two turns and caught Hypothetical in early stretch before drawing away. The winner raced 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) in 2:01.61.
Japan’s Chuwa Wizard came from a tracking position to grab second, followed by the French-trained Magny Cours, another Kentucky-bred Godolphin homebred, in third. Hypothetical faded to fourth.
The Dubai World Cup was the first Group 1 success for Mystic Guide, second in last fall’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont Park in his only previous top-level appearance. Since that race and in his first start at age 4, he had decisively won last month’s Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park, a victory that led Saez to believe Mystic Guide was up to the task in the Dubai World Cup.
“Today, he proved he is the champion, and I know he’s gonna get better and better,” the rider said.
Saez was not alone in believing in Mystic Guide. He paid $5.50 as the favorite in parimutuel wagering offered in the United States.
The absence of prerace stars in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup — none of the top four finishers from last month’s Saudi Cup participated — also contributed to Mystic Guide’s favoritism.
One of those Saudi Cup top finishers, third-place Great Scot, had been scheduled to run, but he misbehaved in the preliminaries, dumping his rider and consequently scratched. Also scratched was Military Law, who got loose shortly before the start of the Dubai World Cup, running riderless for several minutes until apprehended.
Military Law’s actions caused the field to be unloaded and re-loaded. Along with what had unfolded earlier with Great Scot, the Dubai World Cup went off approximately 15 minutes behind schedule.
Saez admitted to being a little anxious from the delays, though he said his mount stayed cool.
“Yeah, I was a little bit scared, but he stayed relaxed, this guy,” he said. “At that point, the horse inside starting getting a little nervous — I was a little worried about him — but [Mystic Guide] did a great job.”
Asked in a post-race television interview how he felt to win one of the biggest races in the world in the Dubai World Cup, Saez replied, “That was my dream when I was a little kid. I can’t believe I’m here right now. This is the most beautiful thing for me.”
Mystic Guide’s victory in the Dubai World Cup was the first international Grade/Group 1 triumph for Mike Stidham, who began training in 1979. Mystic Guide was his first runner outside North America.
The trainer has scored four Grade 1 wins in the U.S., the most recent being Zipessa’s triumph in the 2017 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland.
“I’m so proud to be here on the 25th anniversary of the Dubai World Cup for Sheikh Mohammed, and the sky’s the limit for this horse,” Stidham said. “We’d love to come back next year.”
Saturday’s Dubai World Cup continued a memorable year for Godolphin, both abroad and domestically. Honored with an Eclipse Award as outstanding owner of 2020, Godolphin’s current U.S. stable further includes Grade 1 winners Maxfield and Essential Quality, the latter the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs May 1.