Laurel River winning-1711827283263
Laurel River, ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, on way to a stunning win in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday. The Bhupat Seemar-trained six-year-old finished 8.5 lengths ahead for the biggest margin in the race's history. Image Credit: Source: Dubai Racing Club

Dubai: American sprinter Laurel River produced a stunning run to win the $12 million 2,400-metre Dubai World Cup by a whopping eight and half lengths in the highlight of the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan on Saturday night.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

The six-year-old shot into the lead at the 600-metre marker and never let his rivals to catch up in a dominating display under jockey Tadhg O’Shea. After the final turn, the Bhupat Seemar-trained horse kept increasing the distance to leave last year’s winner Ushba Tesoro of Japan, ridden by Yuga Kawada, a distance second, while another American horse and Saudi Cup winner Senor Buscador finished third.

“I have to pinch myself,” said an euphoric O’Shea immediately after winning the $12 million Group 1 race on dirt. “Back in the day when late Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum brought me into this wonderful country in 2001, I didn’t think 23 years later I will be winning the world’s richest race. All this would not be possible without the team and Bhupat Seemar.”

Sh mo-1711827285084
Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hamdan along with Sheikhs and other dignitaries attend the $30 million Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan on Saturday. Image Credit: Source: Dubai Media Office X

Speaking on the occasion, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said: “The 28th Dubai World Cup is a testament to the UAE’s dedication to uniting the world through the pursuit of excellence. Since its inception in 1996, the Dubai World Cup has played a key role in raising Dubai’s status as a global sporting hub and a leader in the equestrian industry. The participation of the world’s top-rated horses, and renowned jockeys and trainers from across the globe reflects Dubai’s stature in the international horse racing landscape.”

Strengthening Dubai's premier status

The Dubai World Cup not only celebrates the best in horse racing but also revitalises the special bond shared among enthusiasts worldwide, marking another bright spot in the UAE’s rich history and heritage of equestrian excellence, Sheikh Mohammed said. He further stressed that the UAE and Dubai continue to promote close cooperation and sharing of expertise between regional and global horse racing communities to raise sporting achievements. He commended the Dubai Racing Club and Meydan Racecourse teams for their efforts in delivering another remarkable global event, further strengthening Dubai’s status as a premier international sporting destination.

“Today, horse racing enthusiasts from the East and West and from the South to the North of the world met in Dubai in one of the richest and most prestigious horse races in the world ... We congratulate the owner of the horse Laurel River, who won the most expensive rounds of the Dubai World Cup for Horses ... and we are happy with this annual gathering that brings together the best and fastest horses. The world in Dubai ...” Sheikh Mohammed posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Winning by a record margin 

Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, attended the race along with Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, First Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group; Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council; several dignitaries, and some of the world’s most prominent horse owners and trainers. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed presented the winners’ trophy to the owners of Laurel River.

Laurel River, who finished seventh behind Mouheeb in the Group 3 Al Shindhaga Sprint, Presented by Longines in his lung opener in Dubai in January, came into the big race on the back of another compelling win in the 1,600-metre Burj Nahaar, sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo, at the same course. The six-year-old found an extra gear to complete the extended trip with ease.

Laurel River broke the old winning margin of six lengths set by Dubai Millennium in 2000 at Nad Al Sheba. He covered the distance in 2:21.31.

“I’m still coming to terms with what’s happened. I think it’ll probably sink in in another day or two,” trainer Bhupat Seemar said. “It’s absolutely amazing.”

Sheikh Hamdan world cup-1711827288088
Sheikh Hamdan presenting the World Cup trophy to the connections of Laurel River. Image Credit: Source: Dubai Media Office

Laurel River was previously trained by Bob Baffert until owner Juddmonte Farms transferred the six-year-old from the US to Dubai-based trainer Seemar last summer.

Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Derma Sotogake finished sixth. Defunded was seventh. Newgate, trained by Baffert, was ninth.

Strong field of 119 elite horses

A strong field 119 of the world’s elite horses from 15 countries competed across nine races with a total prize money of $30.5 million, including $12 million for the main card, the Dubai World Cup.

An elite group of the world’s horses that participated in the international evening include 33 winners of Group 1 races in major world championships, in addition to five horses who won titles in the Dubai World Cup last season.

This is the second edition of the cup, which is held to coincide with Ramadan, after last year’s edition in 2023.

Thunder Snow's record

The Dubai World Cup was launched in 1996 by Sheikh Mohammed and Cigar won the maiden race, while Ushba Tesoro bagged the last race in 2023. Ushba Tesoro, under Yuga Kawada bagged the Dubai World Cup, only the second horse to achieve that feat for Japan after Victoire Pisa, ridden by Mirco Demuro, won the coveted prize in 2011.

Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor’s Thunder Snow is the only horse to win the Dubai World Cup twice, in 2018 and 2019.

— With inputs from agencies