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Jockey Alex Solis enjoys his moment of glory after guiding Pleasantly Perfect to Dubai World Cup. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Dubai: History does repeat. Nine years after the great Cigar and Soul of the Matter were engaged in an epic battle in the Dubai World Cup (G1), two other American superstars set pulses racing when they waged a classic contest reminiscent of the historic inaugural race held at Nad Al Sheba racecourse in 1996.

Pleasantly Perfect, one of the leading dirt performers in the United States and Medaglia d’Oro, runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (G1) the previous year, were the protagonists in what was billed as rematch of the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

They came to Dubai with the reputation of being two of America’s best middle distance horses and did they live up to their lofty reputations.

There was something so similar in the build-up to the race in 2003 to the inaugural race.

The morning gallops at Nad Al Sheba were swarming with horse connections, photographers, media and a selection of hardcore racing fans, many who had flown in specifically for the race. Among there were a bunch of enthusiastic Japanese racegoers who had come to support their champion Admire Don and two other contenders Silent Deal and Regent Plus.

It was a wonderful atmosphere as we mingled and exchanged pleasantries with each other and I even attempted to say ‘ohayō gozaimasu’, Japanese for ‘good morning’ on the odd occasion. Most of the time, I was off the mark - leaving my new Oriental friends slightly confused.

But, it was all in the name of fun.

On the more serious side, we watched in awe as Pleasant Perfect and Medaglia d’Oro worked on the Nad Al Sheba track. Two imposing horses who looked larger than life from close quarters.

Richard Mandella, Pleasantly Perfect’s trainer who is a member of the US Racing Hall of Fame, was standing close by as was the late Booby Frankel, one of America’s most successful and respected trainers in the history of thoroughbred racing, who would one day inspire Prince Khalid Abdullah, the iconic owner/ breeder from Saudi Arabia to name a horse after him – Frankel.

Little did they know during those mornings, when we basked in the muted sunshine and soft, blowing winds at Nad al Sheba, that we were in for a thriller come the big day.

The 12-horse field who contested the Dubai World Cup was the most diverse with runners from South Africa, Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE joining the American duo. But the race was all about Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia D’Oro, with South Africa’s Victory Moon attempting to mix it with them.

Jerry Bailey was bidding for a fifth trophy aboard Medaglia D’Ore but was denied by Alex Solis and a very game Pleasantly Perfect. by ½ a length.

Frankel was thrilled to pieces with the result and would famously say: “I got this horse as a baby, he demanded time. I gave it to him and it paid off.”