Godolphin Racing's African Story was guided off the inside at the head of the straight to overtake pacesetter Mukhadram en route to a comfortable victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline March 29 at Meydan.
Sheikh Mohammed, who owns Godolphin, earned his seventh win in the 19-year history of the world's richest horse race as the Meydan grandstand erupted in cheers for the ruling Maktoum family's success.
"We did it, the whole team, not just me," sad winning jockey Silvestre De Sousa. "It's just a team effort. We had some hard luck earlier [being blanked previously on the card], but he [African Story] saved the night."
African Story, winning by 2 ½ lengths at odds of 17-1 In North American pari-mutuel pools presented by AmWest, was timed in 2:01.61 for the 1 ¼-mile distance over Meydan's Tapeta Footings main track. Mukhadram was a clear second for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, while Godolphin's Charlie Appleby-trained Cat O'Mountain got up for third over Side Glance.
Ron the Greek, multiple Grade 1 winner in the United States now competing for Saudi ownership, stalked the early pace from his far outside post in the field of 16 before fading to finish 12th. There were no American-based horses in this year's World Cup renewal.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the Darley British homebred African Story ran fifth behind the victorious U.S.-trained Animal Kingdom in last year's World Cup. The lightly raced 7-year-old son of Pivotal won the Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Etisalat in 2012. His latest victory was his seventh in 18 lifetime starts.
"This is our sixth win in the race and it has been a long time in coming," said bin Suroor. "There has been a lot of pressure from a lot of people, but I thought two years ago this was the right horse for this race," said bin Suroor, who has claimed six of Godolphin's World Cup victories. "In my heart I thought this horse could win; he is something really special and I told Sheikh Mohammed this two years ago.
"This is a big thrill and I dedicate this win to my mother and I will give her my golden whip."
African Story was overlooked in the wagering after an eighth-place finish in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 over the course at the World Cup distance March 8. That race was won by Prince Bishop, who also captured the second round of the Maktoum Challenge one month earlier by 1 ¼ lengths over African Story, who was second in his first try since the 2013 World Cup.
Irish-bred Military Attack was the 3-1 favorite in AmWest's wagering pool off his easy win in the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin Feb. 23, with Ron The the Greek at 6-1. The Aidan O'Brien-trained morning line favorite Ruler of the World was sent off at odds of 7-1, as was fellow Irish-bred Prince Bishop.
South African runner Sanshaawes, an 8-1 shot, reared in the starting barrier just before the start and was briefly caught over the gate. He was backed out of his stall and inspected for damage by a veterinarian before being reloaded, briefly delaying the break.
Prince Bishop, leaving from the inside post, broke slowly to trail the field several lengths as outsider Mukhadram, ridden by Paul Hanagan, quickly assumed the lead and took command over Japan's Hokko Tarumae, Ruler of the World, and African Story. Mukhadram got the opening half mile while taking command in a reasonable :49.9 seconds as Ron the Greek joined the first flight on the extreme outside.
There was little change in the order among the leaders as they made their way through the course. African Story, able to save ground in second for most of the journey, angled out for the drive and overtook Mukhadram with 200 meters to run after a brief tussle. The winner had no danger as he strove for the wire impressively for De Sousa.
"It turned into a perfect race for me as I only had one horse in front of me," said De Sousa, successful in his third World Cup attempt. "I knew I had to get past him quick and it was a big relief when I went clear.
"African Story has good track form having won the Godolphin Mile two years ago. He traveled well and quickened great and I am over the moon."
Military Attack was never able to mount a challenge from the back half of the pack while finishing 10th. Ron the Greek was 12th, while Ruler of the World also weakened about 600 meters out to finish 13th.
African Story earned his first victory since taking the Emirates Holiday Burj Nahaar at Meydan by 2 ¼ lengths three weeks before last year's World Cup. The chestnut gelding, out of the stakes-placed Gone West mare Blixen. African Story's second dam is Danish, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Invitational Challenge Cup.
Under equal weights of 126 pounds, he paid $36.80 and $12.60 for win/place, and topped a whopping $1,509.60 with 30-1 Mukhadram, who returned $16.60. Cat O'Mountain produced another big payoff of $22.60.
Side Glance was followed by Akeed Mofeed, 2013 World Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux, Sanshaawes, Vancouverite, Prince Bishop, Military Attack, Belshazzar, Ron the Greek, Ruler of the World, Hillstar, Surfer, and Hokko Tarumae.