Front-running Well Armed, under a snug hold by jockey Aaron Gryder, cut loose at the head of the straight and romped to a record 14-length victory in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 28, the final race to be run at Nad al Sheba.
On a main track that was favoring speed throughout the evening, WinStar Farm's homebred son of Tiznow was never threatened as he rolled to victory for trainer Eoin Harty at U.S. odds of 9-1. Well Armed was in a similar position at Nad al Sheba in last year's World Cup on the turn for home, but wound up third, beaten eight lengths by Curlin.
"He did the same thing last year and got collared," Harty noted afterward. "But I was watching the other horses and they were struggling, so I felt pretty good."
Indeed. Albertus Maximus, considered the top American hope coming in, was keen early but lacked a response over the final quarter mile while finishing sixth. Race favorite Asiatic Boy, last year's World Cup runner-up, raced at the back all the way and was 12th. Instead, it was 60-1 Brazilian shot Gloria de Campeao who finished second by more than four lengths, with off-the-board South African hope Paris Perfect in third.
“This horse really showed everyone in the world how good he is,” Gryder said, then asked: “Who was second?”
Breaking from barrier 7 in the field of 14, Well Armed went straight to the front, Gryder able to angle the 6-year-old gelding to the inside where he set a steady pace with My Indy and Albertus Maxiumus stalking. Well Armed, with his high cruising speed was in control with his ears pricked while still under a hold until Gryder went to work on him in the straight. With less than a furlong to run, Gryder took a look over his right shoulder and seeing no danger, patted his charge on the neck for a job well done.
Well Armed completed the about 1 1/4-mile distance in 2:01.01.
The French raider Gloria de Campeao, close to the pace early while tucked in behind the winner along the inside into the straight, was hard ridden to overtake Vodka for second but was never close to catching Well Armed. Paris Perfect, mid-pack in the straight for Bernard Faydherbe, finished best of the rest for third.
Earning his seventh victory in 23 lifetime starts, Well Armed won for the first time since taking the Goodwod Stakes (gr. I) at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meet Sept. 27. The $3.6 million winning purse increased the bay's lifetime earnings to $5,179,803.
The victory was nearly double Curlin’s 7 3/4-length win last year, the previous record winning distance.
Trainer Harty has a strong connection with the UAE, having been hired by Godolphin to train their 2-year-olds in the U.S. in 2000. He also spent two years readying the juveniles in Dubai.
Harty developed Street Cry, who went on to win the 2003 Dubai World Cup, but was thrilled to repeat the feat in his own name this time.
“It’s the biggest win of the career," Harty said. "I owe a lot to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who got me started and plucked me from a relative obscurity.
“This horse chipped a bone in the UAE Derby and then he fractured his pelvis and the vets wanted to put him down. Two years on he’s won the richest race in the world.”
Donn Handicap (gr. I) winner Albertus Maximus and Asiatic Boy were the disappointments.
“He was fighting me," said Alan Garcia, who rode Albertus Maximus. "I can’t really explain it right now. Last time I rode him in the Donn he was a totally different horse.”
Asiatic Boy’s rider, Johnny Murtagh, commented, "He is a horse who needs to get organized early on and we got shuffled back. After that we were flat to the boards and always struggling.”
The Argentina-bred Muller finished fourth, followed by My Indy, Albertus Maximus, Snaafy, Casino Drive, Happy Boy, Muhannak, Arson Squad, Asiatic Boy, Joe Louis and Anak Nakal, who trailed all the way.
The 2009 renewal provided a perfect bookend for the World Cup at Nad al Sheba, which was won in its first running in 1996 by American great Cigar. This was was the final event for the Nad al Sheba course, which will be demolished to make way for the $1.25 billion Meydan racing complex.