Dubai: The cheers could not have been louder or more passionate as African Story swept to a victory as luminous as the dazzling lights on Meydan Racecourse to give Godolphin a seventh victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1).
Jockey Silvestre de Sousa stood up high in his stirrups, punching the air with his whip as he crossed the finish line two-and three-quarters of a length ahead of front-running Mukhadram, to trigger celebratory scenes reminiscent of Mickael Barzalona’s exuberant triumph aboard Monterosso two years ago.
The Darley-bred son of Pivotal is something of a cult hero at Meydan where he has won four times and the crowd erupted with joy at seeing their hero post the biggest win of his career.
As two-time British champion jockey Paul Hanagan, aboard the British-trained dual Group race winner Mukhadram, led the 16-strong field into the home stretch, the levels of anticipation were almost perceptible in the Meydan Grandstand.
African story was gaining on the leader with every stride but as both horses are owned by members of the Al Maktoum Family, it became evident that, either way, it was going to be a triumph for Dubai.
In the end, it was African Story who was doing the better work for De Sousa as he went past Mukhadram to win by two and three quarters of a length, with Godolphin’s Cat O’Mountain, ridden By Barzalona, taking third.
Britain’s Side Glance, fourth in this race 12 months ago, occupied the same berth after running a blinder for Jamie Spencer, the hero of the night with two wins.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who created the Godolphin stables in 1993, received the glittering trophy as cheers rent the air.
Records were tumbling at Meydan and African Story’s winning time of 2:01.61 seconds set a fourth new time for the meeting.
De Sousa, who was recording the biggest win of his career, let his emotions run wind and said: “It’s amazing! It’s our home track and our own horse.
“We did it. This is for the entire team, for Saeed [Bin Surour], the grooms, all of them. No doubt we had to wait the whole night for this but it has been worth it. It’s a team effort. We just saved the best for the last.
“He’s already won the Godolphin Mile, he’s just proven that he can step up in class. It was brilliant and it was a great reception.
“I knew the way he was travelling that he would have a bit of extra for me. He’s marvellous, it’s amazing, I’m absolutely delighted. I’m over the moon. I always thought I was in the right place to win the race.”
Bin Surour, winning a sixth Dubai World Cup, was delighted and said: It’s the second time he’s run in the World Cup.
“I always believed this horse could win a race like the Dubai World Cup and thank God he won it eventually. It’s great to see His Highness Shaikh Mohammad happy and I’m so happy he enjoyed it.
“I’m a six times winner now and I’m so happy. It is brilliant for African Story finally it’s the first winner for Godolphin after eight years of waiting, thank god.
“The reason we ran was always because we had that belief in him. Always thought this horse would win a big race. After the Godolphin Mile win two years ago I was full of belief in this horse that he could do something really good,” he added.
“It took a long time but the horse is unbelievable. Two years ago before he won that race he was unbelievable and I told the media all the time that he could win the World Cup.
“Always, even when he was a yearling he was always a beautiful animal. But when he was three he always improved with age after when we saw him win the Godolphin Mile two years ago I said one day this horse will win the Dubai World Cup.”
Race 9: Dubai World Cup (TB Group 1) Purse: $10,000,000 Dist: 2,000m Dirt:
1 African Story (S. Bun Surour) Silvestre De Sousa, 2 Mukhadram (W. Haggas) Paul Hanagan,, 3 Cat O’Mountain (C. Appleby) Mickael Barzalona, 4 Side Glance (A. Balding) Jamie Spencer
Also ran: Akeed Mofeed, Red Cadeaux, Sanshaawes, Vancouverite, Prince Bishop, Military Attack, Belshazzar, Ron The Greek, Ruler Of The World, Hillstar, Surfer, Hokko Tarumae
Winning distance: 2.75 lengths, 4.25, 0.75