Victoire Pisa won a race which culminated in a virtual stampede close home – sweat, whips and dirt flying everywhere - as the first five home could have been covered by a desert rug. The four year old won for trainer Katsuhiko Sumii, jockey Marco Dimuro, but most of all for some sort of poetic justice.
For the second year running it was payback too for jockeyship of the utmost daring. The pace set by Transcend and Shinji Fujita (which would have its own reward in second place and a Japanese forecast) was slow enough to raise a titter.
Stopwatches were almost put away to be replaced by the turning pages of a calendar. The only rider seemingly disturbed by this was Demuro who circled the entire field down the back straight and then invited one of his 13 rivals to do the same. That they could was testament to the Italian’s shrewdness and the unbound courage of the colt beneath him.
It was a beautiful victory and a beautiful story, appropriately enough emerging from a most gorgeous collection of horseflesh. Under the floodlights, the sky now clear after the grey pall that had formed earlier in the day melted away, the 14 runners simply mesmerized in their appearance. Cape Blanco, the Irish horse making his seasonal debut, looked as though he had not been brushed but polished; Richard’s Kid without quibble took the best-turned-out award and Buena Vista was as flashy physically as she was in livery, kitted out in canary headgear and matching reins.
The prospect of the mare further establishing that Japan is also the land of the rising daughter looked most live, but the narrative was to prove that the most fancied of her land’s triple entry was to fare the worst.
When the stalls opened there was no great rush to arms until Transcend almost apologetically found himself in front. After a brief masquerade of front-running the leader slowly applied the handbrake, causing choking in the field in behind. It was at this early point that the aspirations of the put-upon Fly Down virtually evaporated.
There were ominous signs too for the favourite – Henry Cecil’s Twice Over – who had performed below par in this race 12 months ago. Once again, the imposing six year old came out slowly from a bad draw. Once again he was buffeted towards the outside. And, once again, these opening exertions sapped him to such an extent that the business end of the field simply ran away from him in the closing stages.
Mirco Demuro did not leave his partnership to the vagaries of the behaviour of those around him. He created his own destiny. Maybe destiny was on his side anyway. “He hit his head at the stalls so he was slow to begin,” the jockey reported. “But maybe it was lucky because there was a slow pace on the backstretch so I could find a good position close to the leader. He didn’t use much energy to get there.”
At around halfway came that first, last and decisive serious move of the race. Victoire Pisa took a lead everyone else seemed to consider poison to their prospects. When he entered the straight, Pisa looked as though he could be easily toppled and he might have been had he had to expand serious battery strength in reaching the front. But he had more to give. He had an afterburner.
By the time the field of hares realized this particular tortoise was a rather speedy version of his breed the trap had been sprung. Transcend, who had performed a diluted version of the winner’s trick, managed to cling on to the runner-up spot.
The immensely promising Monterosso finished best of those caught on the back foot to finish third for his Godolphin masters who had recorded a treble earlier in the evening. Cape Blanco showed he possessed more than handsome looks by grinding it out for fourth, while Gio Ponti flattered for a stride or two in the straight before fading into fifth. Twice Over was ninth.
Up front – in the teeth of the storm – Victoire Pisa was nailing his place in history. “It was a really tight finish,” Demuro said. “We were hoping to do well, but to win was amazing.”
So it was. It was a sweet 16th Dubai World Cup not only for horse, jockey and connections, but also for a nation and anyone who even resembles a romantic.