Dubai: From the moment the gates flew open in the Godolphin Mile sponsored by Meydan Sobha, Anton Marcus was able to guide the two-time South African horse of the year Variety Club from the dreaded stall 15 to the front.
He improved somewhat from his recent defeat by Shuruq to spreadeagle the field and go on to record his 16th win in 22 races to date ahead of fellow South African, Soft Falling Rain and Flotilla in third.
Trainer Joey Ramsden has always spoken of his belief in his horse, and he vindicated this in a cool, front-running ride.
Meanwhile, while Marcus is not a household name, he certainly rode like one.
So impressive was his performance that he did not see another horse until after pulling up when he was joined by Soft Falling Rain, who ran another great race for Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.
The only horse to really challenge the two pacesetters was Flotilla, who finished with a wet sail under Christophe Lemaire.
Godolphin’s Shuruq was the disappointment of the race, as the Tapeta specialist never really got into serious contention.
Ramsden said: “Obviously we are delighted that we got such a soft lead, which helped tremendously and enabled Anton to overcome a very sticky draw.
This is the pinnacle of my career to come here and win. It’s a very long way from home and it’s very tough getting him out of the country and it’s five months of travelling, so you can only imagine how special it is to win here on the night. And for South Africa it’s a fantastic victory. They bred the first and the second [finishers], so how cool is that?”
Jockey Marcus said: “This win means so much to me. I want to thank the trainer for handing me the ride.
“Going into the race, I was a bit down and he came to me and told me not to worry but to just go for it as I had nothing to lose. I am happy I followed his advice.”
He added: “I was always going to make it a sly test of stamina. Obviously I like to think of him as my horse, but he belongs to the whole of South Africa.”
Derek Brookman, Racing Manager for owners Mrs I Jooste and Mr MJ Jooste, said: “This is a world champion. We’ve always said this horse is good enough and I think tonight they saw the real deal. He wasn’t himself last time out; he was sweating up a lot in the pre-race parade, but we were confident that he would bounce back tonight and thankfully he did. It was a great drive by Anton Marcus.
“[Trainer] Mike De Kock helped out a lot and it’s been a great South African team effort.”
— The author is a racing journalist, broadcaster and GM of Draiton Feed Commodities
Godolphin Mile (TB Group 1) Purse: $1,000,000 Dist: 1600m AW:
1. Variety Club (J Ramsden) Anton Marcus; 2. Soft Falling Rain (M de Kock) Paul Hanagan, 3. Flotialla (M Delzangles) Christophe Lemaire; 4. Gold City (S Seemar) Richard Mullen.
Also ran: Brightline, Limario, Elleval, Shurugq, Rastern Rules, Haatheq, Gabrial, Mull Of Killough, Glory Waits, Penitent, Capital Attraction.
Winning distances: 1 length, nose, 1.25.