03/25/2017 4:19PM

Jack Hobbs relishes soft turf in Sheema Classic

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Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
William Buick reacts after Jack Hobbs wins the $6 million Sheema Classic.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Jack Hobbs’s 4-year-old season began last April with a cracked pelvis suffered in the running of the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket. His 5-year-old campaign got off to a much more auspicious beginning Saturday night at Meydan Racecourse, where Jack Hobbs decisively won the Group 1, $6 million Sheema Classic.

Under William Buick, Jack Hobbs tracked Highland Reel and Postponed into the homestretch and easily outkicked both of them, winning by 2 1/4 lengths as the 4-year-old filly Seventh Heaven closed along the inside to finish second. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Postponed in third, as pacesetting Highland Reel had no stretch punch and faded to last of seven.

Highland Reel’s jockey, Ryan Moore, said his mount disliked a wet turf course labeled yielding by course officials, but Jack Hobbs relished the going.

“His sire is Halling, and I trained him too,” said John Gosden, who trains the winner for Godolphin and partners. “He liked a course like this, and so does this horse.”

Gosden raced Jack Hobbs in blinkers for the first time in the Sheema, and the equipment change did its job, though Gosden noted that Jack Hobbs had gotten a little headstrong at points on the backstretch while racing tight just behind Highland Reel and inside Postponed.

“He’s dreamy,” Gosden said. “At Ascot, he spends all his time looking at the top of the grandstand seeing who’s in the boxes. He won’t focus, and I brought him out here in the lights, I pumped them on and did a work, and he just worked sensationally away from his lead horse. I thought, ‘I’m going to leave these on.’ He’s like a kid in a school room looking out the window.”

Postponed, last year’s Shaheen winner, quickly took up a position just behind and outside Highland Reel, who was maneuvered well out into the course as the field headed to the backstretch, the inside of which had been chewed up by the horses in the Dubai Turf. Running positions stayed basically unchanged around the far turn, but at the end of it Highland Reel went wider still, leaving a path for Jack Hobbs to come through. He quickly took the lead from a one-paced Postponed, and was in the clear even when Buick finally asked him with less than 300 meters to run.

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“It was an open race in the stretch, and everyone had a chance,” Gosden said. “William waited -- it’s a very long straight here -- and then he went. He’s a fine horse, and it’s been a very long road back.”

Seventh Heaven, who had last out finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, probably didn’t love the wet turf and ran well enough to get second. Postponed might not have cared for the going either, but also, at age 6, might not be the same horse he was winning this race a year ago.

 “I was traveling well in the right spot, but he didn’t let down like he can on that ground,” said jockey Andrea Atzeni.

Jack Hobbs, by Halling and out of Swain’s Girl, by Swain, finished second to Golden Horn in the 2015 Epsom Derby, then won the Irish Derby by five lengths. Most of his 4-year-old year was lost to the non-displaced hairline fracture of his pelvis, but Jack Hobbs returned in time to finish a strong third behind Almanzoor and Found in the Champion Stakes.

Jack Hobbs ended 2016 on a high note, and has started his 2017 campaign even more sweetly.