Frankie Dettori once again demonstrated why he is the man for the big occasion as he steered America’s raider Country Grammer to a stunning victory in the 26th running of the $12 (Dh44.08) million Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan Racecourse last evening.
Regarded as one of the finest jockeys ever to grace the sport, Dettori delivered a masterclass aboard the Bob Baffert-conditioned five-year-old for a compelling length and three-quarter victory over Hot Rod Charlie, the mount of Flavian Prat.
It was a magical fourth victory in the 2,000-metre contest for both trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Dettori.
Runner-up to Emblem Road in the Saudi Cup Country Grammer raced in the slipstream of longtime leader Life Is Good before making his move in the final furlong.
As expected, the Todd Pletcher-trained Life Is Good, who was sent off as the hot favourite to five his handler a first success in the race, set the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr., with Steve Asmussen’s charge Midnight Bourbon in close attendance.
Turning for home, Ortiz Jr asked Life Is Good the question even as Dettori got to work aboard Country Grammer. And the response was immediate, Baffert’s charge burst to the lead and stayed on strongly for a convincing victory.
Hot Rod Charlie stayed on for second for trainer Doug O’Neill with Prat, while Ryuji Okubo’s Chuwa Wizard, runner-up in last year’s race, was a further half-length behind in third.
Dettori, who first won the Dubai World Cup for Godolphin aboard the Dubai Millennium in 2000, said: “I have equalled Jerry Bailey now. All my other three wins came on the Nad Al Sheba track, so it’s nice to have a winner at Meydan.
“When the draw came out, I had just wanted to put him on the fence. At the half-mile, I couldn’t keep on with the front two but in the end, they came back to me. At the furlong pole, it was surreal as I knew I was going to win. It’s just unbelievable. It’s like a dream.”
Amr Zedan, co-owner of Country Grammar with WinStar Farm and Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, said: “I don’t have any voice left after that! It was a project – we picked the horse, and he has come here in the care of the best trainer in the world in Bob Baffert.
“Deep down in my gut I knew we had a shot. I have huge respect for all the others, especially Life Is Good who I know intimately as he used to train with Country Grammar when he was with Baffert.
“This win reminds me of the Medina Spirit. He was a champion, and these horses are all heart. I hope Medina Spirit is reinstalled as the Kentucky Derby winner; God willing. I can’t believe I’m sitting here, and my silks are here!
“I am just very thankful to the entire team and Frankie, who gave him a perfect ride. He is one of the best, if not the best. Results speak louder than words. A trainer of that calibre is bound to produce such results. I am just dedicating this race to him.”
Interestingly, Dettori was originally pencilled in to partner Real World for Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor, but lost the ride when Christophe Soumillon was called in late to replace him.
He called Baffert, who was also looking to book William Buick, and gave him the dream rider.
Jimmy Barnes, assistant trainer to Baffert, said: “It’s been a long trip, Frankie just rode him awesome. He couldn’t have done any better. The speed worked out just as we thought it would, he put him in a close enough spot that when he called upon him, he’s a true mile-and-a-quarter horse and it kicked in.
“I give a lot of credit to Bob for his ability to come back and perform, it’s what we do, we’re great off a lay-off. I’m just so excited. I was here when Arrogate won the Dubai World Cup, so this is my second with Bob and it is very, very special.”
O’Neill, trainer of runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, said: “He had a great run and congratulations to Bob for getting his horse ready the way he did. We’re super proud, Leandro Mora and all the guys have been here the whole time and they’ve done a great job.
“We wanted to win of course but we’re super proud and mid-race we were thinking it just wasn’t Charlie’s day. He then re-engaged and got up for a second, so it was a great night.”
Prat added: “We broke well, and I got myself into the rail. Then we were travelling well down the far side, and he then needed to dig in and we got a nice run down the lane.”
- Dubai World Cup 2022: Shahryar makes it a night to remember for Japan
- Dubai World Cup 2022: A cracker of Dubai Turf contest ends in dead heat
- Dubai World Cup 2022: Bhupat Seemar scales Swiss alps for Golden Shaheen
- Dubai World Cup 2022: Damian in the fast Lane aboard Crown Pride
Yuga Kawada, rider of third-placed Chuwa Wizard, said: “It was a good place. He was second last year and this year he was third, so it was a very strong race and a very good run. He matched last year’s performance today and we’re very happy.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr of Life Is Good, who finished fourth, said: “We led like we wanted. It was just the distance. The extra distance told.”
Midnight Bourbon jockey Jose Ortiz, who finished fifth, said: “We raced on the pace in second. I was disappointed with how he finished.”
Remorse jockey Tadhg O’Shea, who finished sixth, said: “Great credit to him for that run. He came under pressure a fair way out, but he kept responding to me.”
Hypothetical jockey Mickael Barzalona, who finished seventh, said: “I’m very happy with his run. He was still there at the turn, but in the end, he was beaten by better horses.”