03/27/2009 11:00PM

Well Armed runs off by 14 in World Cup


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Well Armed had all the ammunition a horse needed Saturday night in Dubai - speed. Breaking like a Quarter Horse, Well Armed took a clear lead one stride into the 2009 Dubai World Cup, and none of his 13 rivals ever got any closer. Racing on a dirt track that favored front-runners throughout the evening, Well Armed turned in a tour de force on the final night of racing at Nad Al Sheba, winning the $6 million Dubai World Cup by an amazing 14 lengths.

"It's a storybook ending," said Bill Casner, who co-owns WinStar Farm and Well Armed with Kenny Troutt. "I've had so much faith in this horse. I thought he could win the race last year."

Well Armed returned $21 in the United States, and the exacta with runner-up Gloria de Campeao, 60-1, paid $1,059.40. Paris Perfect, 99-1, was third. Asiatic Boy, the 2-1 World Cup favorite, was never a factor, while 5-2 second choice Albertus Maximus raced within early striking position of Well Armed before tiring.

Last year, Well Armed ran smack into Curlin, who easily passed him in the stretch and went on to win by more than seven lengths. Now that Well Armed doubled that win margin this year, some may rush to put Well Armed in the same league as the 2008 winner, but the 2009 World Cup spoke as much to the lack of opposition as to Well Armed's dominance. The other 13 horses in the race wound up spread all over the track, with 10 beaten at least 20 lengths, and Well Armed's time for the 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) was 2:01.01. That was just the eighth-fastest in 14 editions of the race, and the Nad Al Sheba track was not playing slow Saturday: Earlier in the card, the Godolphin Mile had gone in a solid 1:36.82 for about a mile, and the Golden Shaheen was timed in a snappy 1:08.93 for about six furlongs.

But, while Curlin comparisons seem like a stretch, Well Armed was totally dominant on this night. Making just his fifth start on dirt, Well Armed scored his second win on the surface. While he is a five-time winner over synthetic tracks, trainer Eoin Harty said without hesitation that Well Armed is a better horse on dirt. And having speed was a major plus over a track that had been groomed to protect it against forecast rain that never came in more than a passing shower Saturday evening.

"I really tried to sharpen him up the last couple days," said Harty, who called this by far the biggest win of his career. "I thought that was our best advantage."

It was an advantage fully utilized by jockey Aaron Gryder, who also hit a career zenith Saturday evening. Asked if he had ever broken from the gate so quickly, Gryder said: "Not in a mile-and-a-quarter race. That put us a length up right there without having to use any energy."

Behind Gryder and Well Armed, others, like Asiatic Boy, were having more difficulty.

"He broke a bit awkwardly, and he's a horse that needs to get organized right away," said jockey Johnny Murtagh.

The race turned into a disaster for Asiatic Boy, who had outfinished Well Armed for second last year. In between horses while wide on the turn, Asiatic Boy wound up in the parking lot turning for home and checked in 12th.

Things were only a little better for another U.S. invader, Albertus Maximus. Racing a few paths off the fence, and in the first flight behind Well Armed, Albertus Maximus ran with his head turned sideways and was rank.

"He was trying to get out the whole way," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "In his one race for us" - a win in the Donn Handicap - "he did everything right. This time, he did nothing right."

Albertus Maximus wound up sixth, which was two places better than the Japanese horse Casino Drive, who was briefly prominent and faded. Arson Squad had serious issues racing inside on the backstretch, and anything that tried to rally wide stopped badly in the stretch. But up front, it was all Well Armed.

"I was up in front, but I was watching those shadows behind me," Gryder said. "I allowed him to run a little more around the turn, and then those shadows were gone."

And so was Well Armed.