Meydan magic from Equinox in Sheema Classic
Equinox justified his status as the best turf horse in the world, smashing the Meydan mile-and-a-half track record in landing the $6million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic.
Christophe Lemaire’s mount did it the hard way, his white face leading all the way and stretching to a scintillating three-and-a-half-length victory.
The Tetsuya Kimura-trained colt, a son of Japanese sire Kitasan Black, had won the Tenno Sho in Tokyo in October and was having his first run since landing the Arima Kinen on Christmas Day.
But that pair of Group One successes paled into insignificance as Lemaire’s charge cruised on the front end, tracked by the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mostahdaf under Jim Crowley.
Lemaire always had any move covered, though, and he kicked clear with two furlongs to run and, eased down, lowered the track record by over a second.
Ralph Beckett’s Irish Derby winner Westover, who had got warm beforehand, made up some ground and finished with a flourish, but the bird had long since flown. Zagrey stayed on to pip Mostahdaf for third, but this was all about the brilliance of the winner.
Kimura said: “I have never seen such a strong horse and I am surprised as well.
“I really appreciated it that the Dubai Racing Club have invited us and I really appreciate it.
“I didn’t think about the tactics. My concern was just to get my horse in the best condition.
“He was just brilliant when he came into my yard as a two-year-old. I am not sure where he will run next.”
Lemaire first won the Sheema Classic in 2006 aboard Heart’s Cry at Nad Al Sheeba and his latest success proved poignant.
He said: “He is a fantastic horse. He is getting better race after race. Today he was a little bit fresh and keen, but OK, I rode the best horse and I had no fear to make the pace.
“I am so happy for connections. It has been a long time since I won the Sheema Classic. The last time was with Heart’s Cry and he passed away two weeks ago, so I am very grateful to this horse. Today, it is a nice tribute to him.
“Race after race he is going up on my ranking and today was a great performance against these kind of horses at the top level. I’m really glad.”
He added: “There was no strategy, I rode him by myself.
“He was fresh and quite keen, so I decided to let him go, then I slowed it down.
“He was running good and so relaxed, then when I let him go he just stretched away. He’s a fantastic horse.”
Beckett was thrilled with Westover, and can look forward to a big season ahead.
He said: “We just got beaten by a very, very good horse. He appears to be the best around, so to finish second to him is everything we could have hoped for.
“The Coronation Cup is a possible target, but I wouldn’t rule out dropping him back to 10 furlongs for an Eclipse or a Tattersalls Gold Cup.”