Fourth Sheema Classic Strike For Godolphin

$6 million Gr1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic

Rebel’s Romance emerged a clear-cut winner to maintain an excellent run for Godolphin in the $6 million Gr1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan on Saturday.

In what developed into a tactical contest in which very few horses were involved, the hardy six-year-old was handing HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s operation its fourth victory in the 2410m turf classic since 2017, with Jack Hobbs, Hawkbill and Old Persian striking in consecutive years.

William Buick guides RebelsRomance to a really eyecatching victory (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

It was a record fifth win in the race for jockey William Buick, who was able to keep it pretty simple. Point Lonsdale bounced into the lead from the outset and dictated a steady pace as Buick tailed him in second, with Shahryar following at a respectable distance.

With 600m remaining, that trio had a sizeable advantage from the chasing pack and Rebel’s Romance appeared to be travelling the best, swiftly kicking clear over the final 300m and ultimately passing the post two lengths in front.

Shahryar clung on for second with keenly-anticipated fellow Japanese challenger Liberty Island doing best of the closers in third. Derby winner Auguste Rodin was always to the rear and finished last.

Rebel’s Romance, a winner of the UAE Derby at this fixture in 2021 as well as the following year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, had been returning to an approximation of his best for trainer Charlie Appleby over the last few months and had warmed up for his Meydan challenge by winning a Group 3 race in Qatar. He won in a time of 2:26.72.

“He showed in Qatar what a versatile horse he is,” said Buick. “His best form has usually been when he’s held up but in Qatar I tried something new. I was keen today to adopt a similar tactic and I got a lovely slipstream from the leader.

“He’s a very good horse on his day and he showed that today. I’m absolutely delighted; he’s a great horse and I’m so glad he’s back to his best.”

Reflecting on the importance of Godolphin registering a win on the biggest night day of the year in Dubai racing, Buick said: “You know His Highness wants to see the best horses come to Dubai and the best horses are here. These races are incredibly hard to win so of course I’m incredibly happy.

Enjoy the replay:

“It’s great for the team, great for everybody. It’s great to be here and it’s great to ride a winner. It’s an amazing training performance and a great job by the whole team. I’m in the fortunate position to be able to ride these horses.”

Appleby had been out of luck with three earlier runners, with Star Of Mystery doing best when chasing home California Spangle in the Gr1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m).

“It was our last roll of the dice for today,” said Appleby. “We went into the race as a long shot which shows the depth of the race. We had a bumpy road last year, went to Kempton to bring up his confidence and then Qatar to bring him back to where we wanted him to be.

“Full credit to the team, especially the logistical team as he went back to the UK from Qatar and then out here. The plan was to go forward and William knows the track and horse very well. Most importantly, delighted for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the entire team at Godolphin.”

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