Dubai: After a start-to-finish affair in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (Group 1), the Emirati trainer and jockey combination of Mubarak Bin Shafya and Ahmad Ajtebi registered a last-to-first win on Eastern Anthem in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic to complete a memorable double of the world's two richest turf races.
Ajtebi, who blew a kiss to the crowd before waving at the finish of the DDF, did, however, have to spend a few agonising moments before Eastern Anthem got the judge's vote by the narrowest of margins.
The jockey brought Eastern Anthem from the outside and even as the two Moons (Spanish Moon and Purple Moon) battled it out, the Emirati brought his horse into the fight and they all finished in a line.
Then the photo-finish was flashed on the large screen and almost everyone was on their feet cheering Ajtebi and the man who saddled Eastern Anthem - Bin Shafya.
The Sheema Classic now has 11 trainers who have won the race over the last 11 runs, and the sheer quality of runners who were beaten by Eastern Anthem – Spanish Moon, Purple Moon and the globe-trotting Youmzain in fourth – confirmed what a great victory was achieved by the sensational pair of Bin Shafya and Ajtebi.
Winning owner Dubai Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was all smiles while His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai – the man who spotted Ajtebi when he was a camel jockey and made him switch to flat-racing – lifted his hand in triumph!
"He (Ajtebi) is a very good jockey when he has the right horse," Shaikh Mohammad told Dubai Racing Channel, commenting on Ajtebi's feat.
The Emirati jockey, who did not want to comment until the judges' verdict was out, was ecstatic.
"I am speechless. I used the whip with the left hand towards the end of the race [and it worked]. I got him in his stride. Everybody was seeing the race from the side [so I don't know whether it could be seen that I won], but from my side I think it was clear I won. But I just waited," said Ajtebi, who turned professional midway through the current season.
"I am happy for all those who supported me and special thanks to Bin Shafya," Ajtebi added.
The legendary Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of the second-placed Spanish Moon said,
"We've had our successes here, but we haven't been here for a few years so it was nice to be back. He's a very progressive horse and I was hoping for him to be in the running."
Race 6. Dubai Sheema Classic (Group 1)
Sponsored by Nakheel
Distance: 2,400m (12f)
1. EASTERN ANTHEM (trained by Mubarak Bin Shafya) ridden by Ahmad Ajtebi
2. SPANISH MOON (Sir Michael Stoute) Ryan Moore
3. PURPLE MOON (Luca Cumani) Jamie Spencer
4. YOUMZAIN (Mick Channon) Richard Hills.
Also ran: Deem, Doctor Dino, Front House, King Of Rome, Kirklees, Lady Marian, Macarthur, Marsh Side, Quijano, Red Rocks, The Bogberry, Youmzain
Distances: Nose, Short Head, 2.25L
Time: 2min 31.84 secs.
Winner owned by Dubai Crown Prince Shaikh Haman Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and trained in Dubai.