John Messara of Arrowfield, Barry Irwin of Team Valor and jockey Joel Rosario receive the Dubai World Cup
John Messara of Arrowfield, Barry Irwin of Team Valor and jockey Joel Rosario receive the Dubai World Cup

Animal Kingdom’s owners John Messara of Arrowfield Stud and Barry Irwin of Team Valor International

with winning jockey Joel Rosario receiving the Dubai World Cup

(Photo : Sport360)

“That’s five from six, which sounds more like a Dale Steyn

bowling return than a regular Summerhill tipping sheet.”

Let me confess, these columns are not known for any particular science in predicting the outcome of a horse race. We’re far too sentimental to be good tipsters, but occasionally we get it right. In our ramblings in the lead up to the weekend, we went out on a limb and named a few fancies.

You might argue that Shea Shea was a certainty in the $1million Al Quoz Sprint (Gr.1) in Dubai, but there’s no such thing on a world stage, particularly in an international field where the talents of the protagonists are beyond comparison. Nor could you have anticipated that he’d smash a course record which just three weeks before, he’d made his own. The son of former Summerhill sire, National Emblem, deservedly heads for Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes (Gr.1), where the world might just be treated to one of the great sprinting contests of all-time. Black Caviar is 24 from 24 as matters stand, and while she’s earned her rating as the second best horse on the planet, her connections will be the first to acknowledge that she took down a tame field in England last year. It would take a brave man to suggest that Shea Shea has her measure, but Australia is no longer the breeding ground for the out-and-out blinding speed it used to be. Increasingly, the influence of shuttle stallions has blunted the profile of the aptitudes for which Australian thoroughbreds were once famous, and whatever the outcome, on the evidence of his exertions in Dubai, Shea Shea will be a worthy foe for one of the best sprinters the world has known.

In hindsight, a seven-for-seven record tells us that anyone betting against Soft Falling Rain in the Godolphin Mile on Saturday, needed a shrink. Yet in its 18 renewals, the $1million race has never been won by a three-year-old, and that tells you something. Besides, he was drawn on the rank outside and that’s where he remained well into the finishing stretch. Pressed four and five wide for the duration of the race, the colt galloped right to the line, and he takes an unblemished record to Royal Ascot as well. The Beck family have produced some crackers in their time at Highlands and Maine Chance, but this fellow might be the pinnacle of their endeavours.

There’s not much more we can say about Mike de Kock as a racehorse trainer. As one of the greatest exponents of the art the world has known, we’ve come to expect these things from him. But even then, you’d not have stretched your anticipation to two track records, and a cracking second from The Apache in the $5million Duty Free. There have been some remarkable performances by some remarkable horses over the Dubai turf in the past two decades, and yet here we are, with the fastest 1000 and 1600 metres ever. Add to that Golden Sword’s 2000 metre still-standing record, and you’d have to believe he gives them wings.

You might have said there was no genius in picking Animal Kingdom for the $10million Dubai World Cup, and here we’d have to admit to some sentiment. He belongs to two old mates, Arrowfield’s John Messara and Team Valor’s Barry Irwin, so we might have tagged him anyway. We were on hand for his big day in America’s biggest horse race, the Kentucky Derby, though, and that and his “prep” for Dubai was enough for us. Remember too, that when we fingered him, he was only the fourth choice on the betting boards, shortening a bit when Monterosso defected at the last minute.

How many mares get two Group winners at the same race meeting? It’s happened before, but it’s not your everyday occurrence. While we were in Australia a fortnight back, Helsinge had the lofty distinction of having two Group One winners on the same weekend, though at different venues. Both are exceptional: Black Caviar is already a household name, and her younger brother, All Too Hard, is on his way to becoming one. He is already the best three-year-old in Australasia, and he might just be as good as they get anywhere in the world.

That shouldn’t detract though, from Bridget Oppenheimer’s spectacular achievement on Saturday. Not only was the winner of the Harry Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes (Gr.1)Slumdogmillionaire, appropriately bred at her nursery, Mauritzfontein, but so too, was the sublime victress of the SA Fillies Classic (Gr.1), Cherry On The Top and the gusty winner of the Jacaranda Handicap (Gr.3)Cherry On The Cake. The best measure of a great mare is one capable of getting good horses no matter her mates, and the Oaks-winning Carolina Cherry has done just that. This is a family affair: the Triple Crown aspirant who might just be the best South African-bred filly we’ve seen in decades, is a daughter of Mary Slack’s Tiger Ridge, while Cherry On The Cake is by the sadly deceased Strike Smartly, sire too, of Slumdogmillionaire. The family traces to Sir Mordaunt Milner’s great foundation producer, Miss Therese, dam of the Kannemeyer-trained Guineas winner, Man Of Property.

Revisit our column, Classics And Clues on Friday last, and you’ll find “Slumdog” and the “Cherry” in the mix as well. That’s five from six, which sounds more like a Dale Steyn bowling return than a regular Summerhill tipping sheet. Without in any way wanting to diminish your faith in our picking abilities, we have to confess that Tellina was our choice for the Colt’s Classic. Thank goodness we got that one wrong!