WITH Sheikh Mohammed in attendance, trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick provided their boss with a big winner when Rebel’s Romance won the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic by two lengths for the Godolphin team.

The race was also notable for the disappointing performance of the favourite Auguste Rodin, who trailed in last of the 12 runners for the Ballydoyle/Coolmore axis.

In what developed into a tactical contest in which very few horses were involved, the hardy Rebel’s Romance raced in second spot behind the Wayne Lordan-ridden Point Lonsdale. Japanese stalwart Shahryar was a close third and this trio were clear of the pack rounding the home bend.

Rebel’s Romance appeared to be travelling the best and swiftly kicked clear over the final furlong and a half. Shahryar clung on for second, a length ahead of star Japanese filly Liberty Island.

Winner of the UAE Derby on dirt at this fixture in 2021, Rebel’s Romance (by Dubawi) developed into a star stayer on turf in 2022, winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf. However, he lost his way in 2023 before getting back in the winner’s enclosure in December at Kempton, where he defeated Elegant Man, who franked the form at Newcastle on Good Friday.

More recently, Rebel’s Romance won a Group 3 race in Qatar, a race which saw Buick adopt front-running tactics on the six-year-old for the first time.

However, punters were not convinced and allowed the horse go off at 25/1 last Saturday.

“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.”

Appleby said: “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.”

The John and Thady Gosden-trained Emily Upjohn finished a respectable fifth, prompting jockey Kieran Shoemark to say: “She ran a massive race. She settled firstly, that was the main thing. Unfortunately, at halfway I was caught in a pocket on the rail and there was another race developing ahead of us. They got first run on us.

“When the splits came, she was very game through the line. I was just more encouraged by the way she seems to have grown up. She was a write-off in the King George, so she showed some maturity today by settling. Hopefully, she’s got another big season ahead of her.”

Aidan O’Brien said of Auguste Rodin: “It was a bit of a non-event, really. The race just developed into halves so we just want to put a line through the race really.

“Ryan just said he felt he wasn’t happy where he was or anything. They just never activated at all so it was a bit of a non-event. It was just one of them where it didn’t happen.”