Rejuvenated Rebel's Romance waltzes to Sheema Classic success

Team Godolphin strike in the Group 1 Sheema Classic.

REBEL'S ROMANCE winning the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
REBEL'S ROMANCE winning the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Picture: Neville Hopwood/Getty Images

On a day when powerhouses Godolphin were yet to strike in their own backyard, Rebel's Romance ensured His Highness Sheikh Mohammed would not leave Dubai World Cup night empty-handed when springing something of a surprise in the Group 1 Sheema Classic.

With a twelve-strong field stacked with quality and former Group 1 winners that included the likes of dual Derby hero Auguste Rodin, Japanese champion Liberty Island and multiple top-level winner Emily Upjohn, Rebel's Romance was seemingly up against it despite landing a Group 3 prize at Doha last month.

Point Lonsdale cut out much of the running throughout the twelve-furlong contest, but the pace was fairly pedestrian, a factor William Buick was certainly alert to onboard Rebel's Romance as kept close tabs on the leader from the outset.

Japanese raider Liberty Island looked well-positioned just off the leading pair in third but as the front three turned for home, Buick kicked his mount into a clear advantage with a furlong and a half to travel. Liberty Island attempted to peg back the leader entering the final furlong, but the bird had flown, and Rebel's Romance stretched away for a commanding two-length success.

Shahryar would get the better of compatriot Liberty Island in the battle for the silver medal, but neither could match the turn of foot shown by the runaway winner, who was adding a fourth top-level victory to his CV that already features German Derby and Breeders' Cup Turf.

Last year's Epsom Derby hero Auguste Rodin was sent off the well-backed 11/8 favourite to make a winning reappearance, but the son of Deep Impact never looked like getting involved and he trailed home a distant last under Ryan Moore.

"He'd won a Breeders' Cup Turf and four Group 1's, yet he was 20-1, which showed just how deep a race it was," said winning trainer Charlie Appleby. "William told me he had a plan, but I told him not to tell me, then I couldn't roast him if it went wrong!"

"We were confident the right thing to do was go forward and heading down the back, I felt confident because I knew the fractions weren't strong.

"William knows this track so well and did everything right.

"To have a winner tonight, on what has been a really international night, to get one on the board for Godolphin and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed is very pleasing."

He added: "It was our last throw of the darts, but we were confident he was in as good a place as we could get him. He went to Kempton and then had a great ride in Qatar from William.

"He has travelled a lot, but we were confident he was at his best. Plan A was to go forward to give the horse the best chance to run his best race.

"This whole night is a huge space in the racing calendar that everyone will aim for. You've got to look after these horses and make sure you don't give them one race too many.

"We toyed with the Champions & Chater Cup in Hong Kong next, but we will enjoy today, and he deserves a bit of a rest."

Buick, who was landing the Sheema Classic for a record fifth time, said: "He showed in Qatar what a versatile horse he is."

"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."

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