POSTPONED suffered a surprise defeat as Prize Money claimed top honours in the Dubai City Of Gold at Meydan.
The Roger Varian-trained Postponed ran out an emphatic winner of the Group 2 contest 12 months ago on what was his first start since leaving Luca Cumani.
That victory ignited a stellar campaign for the son of Dubawi as he went on to land the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Coronation Cup and the Juddmonte International before being beaten into fifth place when a hot favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Making his first appearance since that reverse at Chantilly, Postponed was unsurprisingly a warm order as the 2/5 favourite and travelled well for much of the mile-and-a-half journey under Andrea Atzeni.
However, having been drawn widest of all in stall 10, he was caught in a pocket rounding the home turn and Prize Money's rider Adrie de Vries cleverly prevented Atzeni from switching wide.
While Prize Money set sail for home, Postponed fought for racing room and although eventually finding top gear after moving through a gap on the rail, it was all too late as Saeed bin Suroor's 4/1 shot clung on gamely.
Charlie Appleby's Emotionless was third.
Varian is expecting his stable star to raise his game for his defence of the Sheema Classic on March 25.
He said: "It was a messy race and I think he just ran a bit rusty on what was his first run for five months. He didn't look as sharp as he was for this race last year. Having said that, with a clear run I think he'd have won, even if he wouldn't have been as impressive as a lot of people might have expected.
"We're disappointed to get beaten, but not discouraged. Tonight wasn't his big gig, that will come in three weeks' time. We left a bit to work on and I'm sure he'll improve."
Atzeni conjured a late run out of Roger Charlton's Decorated Knight to claim the Group 1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan.
A narrow winner of the Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield last month and successful in Leopardstown's Meld Stakes last summer, Decorated Knight was the 2/1 favourite stepped up to the highest level for the first time in his career.
The son of Galileo was still a long way back rounding the home turn, but once in clear daylight, he fairly motored home to get up and beat Folkswood in the shadow of the post by a neck.