A F Mathmoon (left), ridden by jockey Dane O’Neill and trained by Musabah Al Muhairi wins the Dubai Kahayla Classic race at Meydan racecourse on Dubai World Cup day. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: AF Mathmoon, owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, and ridden by Dane O’Neill won the $1 million Kahayla Classic race for the Purebred Arabians at the Dubai World Cup meeting on Saturday.

AF Mathmoon brushed aside the challenge from Qatar’s TM Thunder Struck ridden by Olivier Peslier to win by a neck. Thakif, owned by Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, led the charge for most part of the race and staved off the challenge from the pre-race favourite Handassa to finish third — 1.25 lengths behind.

“To make such a start is simply amazing. But on the other hand, it was our mistake to remove the blinkers from Handassa. I’m sure he could have done much better if he had his blinkers on,” said a jubilant Shaikh Hamdan.

Thakif’s jockey Silvertre De Sousa chose to lead the field from the start and even managed to steal considerable ground upfront. However, with 200m to go, Thakif clearly started showing signs that he was running out of steam. Despite De Sousa’s best efforts, it hung badly to the right of the railings and lost on crucial time and distance. Thereafter, the battle for top spot was left between AF Mathmoon and TM Thunder Struck and the former had enough leg to get first across the line.

A delighted O’Neill, speaking about the showing, said: “We had a nice break, I didn’t want to rush him because it was his first time over the distance. We landed into a nice position just behind the leaders without having to do too much. The race panned out beautifully and when we turned in the straight, I thought I’d definitely be second. When the other horse (Thakif) ducked out it opened up the door for AF Mathmoon and he tried really hard.”

So much was expected off Handassa after his debut on Super Saturday, the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup early this month, where he was an impressive winner by 8.5 lengths. However, despite looking majestic in the paddock, he failed to deliver when it mattered most. Jockey Paul Hanagan, who chose to stay with the middle of the pack, just couldn’t get a clear break. By the time he started to push Handassa, it was a bit too late and had to settle for a disappointing fourth.

“It just didn’t work out the way I wanted. He wasn’t the best away at the start and soon as he got crowded, he was hard to get going again. He ran well considering that,” said a dejected looking Hanagan.

It was a huge shot in the arm of UAE’s top-notch Purebred Arabian owner-breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, who bred AF Mathmoon, was all smiles and felt that the victory was a strong ‘statement to the world.’

“Thank God, thank God, thank God we have proved to the world that it is possible to breed horses locally and this is such a fantastic start for us. I have been in this business for more than 20 years and I have been waiting in huge expectation for this day. This is the day I can say dreams come true.”

Shaikh Hamdan’s third entry, Versac PY, who was a runner-up in the 2013 Kahayla Classic, was fifth — three lengths behind.

Despite the result, Versac PY’s jockey Adrie De Vries was of the view that the race went as per his expectations, saying, “I had a good trip. I was settled where I wanted to be in fifth or sixth. I had the perfect run and he just kept going.”