Dubai: When trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre told media on Friday to disregard Cladocera as her health had not been perfect and to follow Dolniya instead, he was spot-on and we should all have listened. The French master’s four-year-old bay filly did not disappoint in Saturday’s Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan.
Many saw this as the top race of an ultra-competitive night in terms of pure quality. And when they jumped out, American challenger Main Sequence and Sheikhzayedroad both missed the kick. Just The Judge went to the front and took them along at a slowish early pace.
Christophe Soumillon saw this and took Dolniya up to third, sitting just behind One And Only as she needs a good pace to win off.
With 500 metres to go, little had changed in the order. But, as they entered the straight, within the blink of an eye Dolniya and Soumillon shot clear.
Flintshire, whom she beat last time in a prep race, followed, but the cuckoo had flown the nest. It was a great one-two for France and a famous victory. The Aga Khan was the winning owner and this was his second big winner at the track to date.
One And Only put in a brave run to finish third for Japan and Designs On Rome really ran on strongly to finish a creditable fourth, having been shuffled out earlier in the race.
Soumillon was fittingly ecstatic after, saying: “I was a bit scared with the draw with her because usually when the gates open she always stays in the gate for one or two seconds. Today I really prepared for this and she jumped very quickly. I was really surprised to be in front so quickly.
“Finally I was happy to follow the leader, I was cruising behind him all the way and I was also happy to see a horse on his outside stopping very early, so he gave me the chance to wait a bit more.
“When I arrived at the screen I saw Flintshire coming quite quick on my outside, but I gave her a few smacks and she reacted very well. I’m very happy with what she did today. I made a big effort with my weight to ride her so it’s good.”
Winning trainer De Royer-Dupre was more measured but equally delighted. “It is not a surprise as she was in very good condition, but it was very difficult to go against Flintshire because he is older and he knows him well,” he said.
“We had a good trip. She has a long action and she stayed ahead and alert. We know she is a bright filly, she’s a beautiful pedigree from the Aga Khan family of De La Mie, De La Cani, she has speed and she can stay. When she has a good race, she needs pace. She was in a good position and I was confident.”
He continued: “We have to think about what next later but I think she is much better on a very good ground like in Meydan than she could be on a soft ground and things have gone exceptionally well here.”
It was a second victory for France, who were enjoying a stellar evening at Meydan.
— The writer is a freelance journalist and horseracing expert