190325 2003 moon ballad
Moon Ballad and Frankie Dettori win the 2003 Dubai World Cup Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: A horse with one of the beautiful names in the world, Moon Ballad, won the $6 million Dubai World Cup in 2003.

I believe choosing the name for a horse is as important as choosing a trainer or jockey to ride your horse.

Some owners are known to give their horses funny names, like Bucktooth or Clodhopper, others names they befit a champion, like American Pharoah or Citation.

That’s OK. But names such as Moon Ballad stick in the mind like a sweet song.


The first time I laid my eyes on him was when he ran in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge (G1), just 15 days before the Dubai World Cup. He looked great. Every inch a champion.

He won the Al Maktoum Challenge by six lengths, which set hip up nicely for a shot at the Dubai World Cup. No prizes for guessing, but he went on to demolish a classy field and win the $6 million contest in even more imposing fashion.

Harlan’s Holiday, the American raider trained by Todd Pletcher gave chase in vail, while 11/8 favourite, Nayef, ran on for third. It was an imperious performance.

Frankie Dettori, who was winning the race for the second time after the legendary Dubai Millennium in 2000, summed it up playfully when he said: “I had a feeling we could do it although when I’d had two winners earlier on in the night I was worried that I’d used up all my luck! He’s a truly wonderful horse and this is such a fantastic moment.”

When I asked Moon Ballad’s trainer Saeed Bin Surour to sum up his emotions after his third win in the great race, he needed just one word: "Happy."

Saeed has never been an extravagant person and his choice of words are rudimentary … If you were waiting for him to say something like, awesome, amazing, fantastic … you were going to be disappointed.

I was not. Moon Ballad had already become one of my favourite Dubai World Cup winners.