Cirrus des Aigles Scores One for the French in Dubai Sheema Classic

Cirrus des Aigles again thrust French trainer Corine Barande-Barbe to the forefront of the world’s racing focus as he battled his way to success in the Group 1 US$5,000,000 Dubai Sheema Classic, presented by Longines.

Under the dazzling floodlights of the imposing Meydan Grandstand, Oliver Peslier’s mount stretched for the wire as Breeders’ Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey chased him home, but the Irish raider could get no closer than a neck in second place.

Cirrus des Aigles is by far and away the star of Barbe’s small 35-horse string based in Chantilly and he gave the 54-year-old – who only celebrated her birthday yesterday – the most valuable success of her career.

The six-year-old was beaten into second during his prep race in France but had previously shown his true worth last autumn when landing the Champion Stakes on the inaugural QIPCO Champions’ day at Ascot.

Barbe said: “I knew he would win – I said so in the morning! My horse is just marvellous and it was my birthday yesterday. This is a big moment for me – it is a dream which keeps getting better and better. I was confident and I always knew Olivier would do the right thing. If the pace was not fast then he would go from the front and if it was fast then he could sit behind. Olivier let him go as the horse knows about racing and it is a big deal to win this race. If the pace had been strong then the horse would have finished.”

Peslier’s mount tussled with Bold Silvano for the early lead and was always placed to the head of affairs before showing a Corinthian spirit to hold off St Nicholas Abbey.

“The horse likes to fight. If there is a horse in front of him he likes to pass it and if a horse comes from behind then it pushes him on,” Barbe added.

“There was no question about the distance as he won on the bridle by 10 lengths over this trip in Deauville and was second to Sarafina over the distance when we rode him from the front. This is similar to winning the Champion Stakes and the horse seems to like big racecourses!”

Peslier added: “We didn’t go very fast but I knew I was on a horse that has a lot of speed so I went with the leader early on. There was hardly any pace so I just let him go on and he finished really well. I could see St Nicholas Abbey coming and I knew it was going to be tight and he just held on.”

Joseph O’Brien was aboard St Nicholas Abbey for his father, Aidan, and rode a patient race before thundering down the home run to take second.

The jockey said: “They went very slow. He was giving them a start and the post came too soon.”

Jakkalberry was a further three and a half lengths adrift in third place while St Nicholas Abbey’s stablemate Treasure Beach taking fourth.