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Youthful bliss lifts spirits on night of horror and high drama; David Carr in Dubai reflects on the sobering as well as the uplifting events at Meydan on Saturday.

HOW fitting that a Frenchman should be the hero of the hour. It truly was the best of times and the worst of times on a Dickens of a Saturday evening.

A Tale of Two Cities contrasts the glories of the 1789 revolution, the joy of the storming of the Bastille and the glorious overthrowing of hated oppressors with the gruesome atrocities of what followed, the frightening power of the mob, the horror of madame la guillotine.

Meydan gave us its own abomination in the fate of poor, poor Fox Hunt, a progressive stayer, a German St Leger winner who looked sure to reach even greater heights. On Saturday, however, he was horribly, fatally injured at the top of the straight on the first circuit of the Dubai Gold Cup. The authorities were quickly on top of events and got things exactly right by declaring the race void in the back stretch, as there was no way the field could get past the unfortunate stayer without the risk of carnage.

Yet who could blame anyone in the huge stands opposite, having seen an honest, salt-of-the-earth battler flailing agonisingly for life, had they allowed themselves to wonder whether it wasn't just the Dubai Gold Cup that should be stopped but all races.

What can the justification be for following a sport whose dark side means that such awful things can and will happen? What could possibly make the game worth it? The answer, for those of us who believe there is one, came on the very same track before the night was out.

It was there in the joyous zest with which Cityscape bounded clear during a remarkable coming-of-age romp in the Dubai Duty Free. Victory was greeted in stunned surprise by trainer Roger Charlton, who had hoped he'd be in the first six, and with exhilaration by young jockey James Doyle on "the best day of my life".

More youthful joy came from Mickael Barzalona, only 20 yet already the winner of both the world's most famous Flat race and the most valuable.

Just as on Pour Moi in the Derby last June, he was driven by impetuosity of youth and Gallic showmanship to stand up in the saddle and punch the air before Monterosso crossed the line in the World Cup, although his excitement was fully justified after getting everything spot-on in a race that is often a tactical nightmare.

Barzalona was the scene-stealer but the script had been prepared by trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni, who nursed the winner back to top form after a long spell off with colic and also grabbed second with Capponi. Al Zarooni is in only his third season with Godolphin and his stable tour in Friday's Racing Post made clear that winning the World Cup could be just the start of a glittering year.

To hear the engagingly educated and excited trainer talk through his team was to know that he will be winning plenty of races with them.

That will go down well in these parts. There was no doubting the enthusiasm of the locals as a sea of white dishdashas swamped Barzalona, Al Zarooni and, of course, Sheikh Mohammed in scenes reminiscent of the delirious winner's enclosure after Monty's Pass's National.

This was no crude celebration of punting success, simply a group high on the infectious joy of victory in a horse race. And all doubtless brought up short once again when the Gold Cup was restaged, with Bronze Cannon and Godolphin's own Grand Vent both fatally injured. Yet the emotional drama that makes the sport worth a candle shone even in that ill-starred event.

IT WAS there in the way Richard Hills briefly threatened to write a fairytale ending to his riding career only for Zanzamar to fade back into third. In the way he was hugged on his return by his twin Michael, mouthing a tearful "I thought you were going to f****** do it" - younger brother Charlie filming him all the while.

A rollercoaster 24 hours for the O'Brien family too. Even Aidan cannot control the weather - his plane could not land on Friday evening and had to divert to another emirate, meaning that he, Annemarie and the children did not arrive in Dubai until the morning.

But it was worth it as Daddy Long Legs's UAE Derby gave him his first win on World Cup night and encouraged hopes that he might make an even bigger breakthrough at Churchill Downs next month.

All of O'Brien's other runners made the frame bar Await The Dawn, whose groom knows better than most about the triumphs and disasters of racing.

The five-year-old was led up by Champion Hurdle-winning jockey Dean Gallagher, now working at Ballydoyle after riding more than 600 winners in a career he brought to an end three years ago, a few days after a chaser died in his arms following a fall at Auteuil.

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Mickael Barzalona celebrates with Sheikh Mohammed and Mahmood Al Zarooni after their World Cup triumph
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Apr 2, 2012
Words:834
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