It was refreshing, then, when Pascal Bary, after saddling the horse who won the richest race in the world, didn't dwell on money. "Just now," he said, "we don't speak about money, we just speak about the horse," the French trainer said. "It's just nice to be in Dubai with this horse."
Meydan, which features a Tapeta synthetic surface that's also in use at Golden Gate Fields and a track in Pennsylvania, cost more than a billion dollars to build. There's an obscene context to money in Dubai, where hundreds of Pakistani children don't go to school because their parents can't afford it, and where the real estate boom has tanked. Two of the biggest property developers in the country, whose debts to international banks run in the billions, were recently propped up by the government to stay afloat.
But if any of this sorry financial news gnawed at the consciences of the more than 50,000 who attended the races on World Cup day, it didn't show. Many in the crowd were visitors, the kind Dubai needs to revitalize its sagging economy. Elton John was there, primarily to give a concert afterwards. Lady Andrew Lloyd Webber was there, to watch her composer husband's mare, Dar Re Mi, add $3 million to his account by winning one of the chintzy races on the undercard.
John Gosden, who trains for the Lloyd Webbers, saddled Dar Re Mi, and how Gosden's consistently entertaining post-race quips are missed back in California, where he was formerly based. Talking about his new stable jockey, William Buick, Gosden said, "He's a chilly young lad, and he's got a lot of brains, which you can't say about a lot of trainers. . . or jockeys."
Counting Dar Re Mi, the second- and third-place finishers from both last year's Arc De Triomphe and the Breeders' Cup Turf were in the field. Presious Passion, second in the Breeders' Cup, ran, although he was through by the turn for home. Despite the $26 million in prize money, Presious Passion was joined by only nine other North American horses on the card, and one of them, Kinsale King, came from California to win a $2-million race. There's no price tag on irrelevance, which is what Dubai's biggest racing day was to most Americans this time. Gio Ponti, voted best on both grass and the main tracks in North America last year, figured to be the most serious threat from this group, but he was a non-threatening fourth in the $10-million race.
At least Gio Ponti's jockey knew fully well that he was beaten. Kevin Shea was so certain that Lizard's Desire had won that he raised his whip in mistaken triumph. "When I looked up, it was just after the line, and I was in front," Shea said. Tiago Pereira, Gloria de Campeano's rider, thought he had won, but when he looked to his right and saw Shea giving his best Statue of Liberty impersonation, he decided it would be better to wait for the official photo. Next time, Shea will, too.