03/28/2009 12:00AM

Gladiatorus upsets Duty Free on front end


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates Nad Al Sheba-loving front-runner Gladiatorus opened a big early lead and easily held on to win the $5 million Dubai Duty Free on Saturday for local apprentice rider Ahmad Ajtebi and Dubai-based trainer Mubarak bin Shafya. Shafya is in his first year training Thoroughbreds after conditioning endurance horses in Dubai.

Ajtebi, a former camel jockey, won by far the biggest race of his career, and did so in flashy fashion, rating Gladiatorus just enough to have plenty left for the long Nad Al Sheba stretch. Gladiatorus, who raced in Italy at 2 before a long layoff, set a course record over 7 1/2 furlongs this winter in his first start since being purchased by local ownership. He won for the third time this winter in Dubai, and did so in his first start beyond one mile.

Presvis, who broke from post 16 and quickly dropped back to last, flew home to finish second, followed by longshot Alexandros and the Australian invader Niconero. Americans Kip Deville and Hyperbaric were non-factors, as was the case with last year s winner, Archipenko.

Gladiatorus paid $30.40 to win and sparked a $584.60 exacta.