THE first Dubai World Cup at billion-dollar Meydan was landed by last year's runner-up Gloria De Campeao.
Representing French trainer Pascal Bary, the six-year-old - a 16-1 chance with British bookmakers - took the richest race the world has ever seen by a nose from 33-1 chance Lizard's Desire.
The latter's jockey Kevin Shea clearly thought he had won the $10 million contest after flying down the straight on the outside of Godolphin's Allybar (16-1), only a short head away in third between the first two and just ahead of Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Gio Ponti back in fourth.
Indeed, the finish was so close that Channel 4 had to end its Dubai broadcast before the official announcement of the winner. The three well-fancied British representatives finished out of the frame, with favourite Gitano Hernando sixth after meeting traffic problems after racing close to the rail in mid-division.
Twice Over ran wide throughout and failed to pick up in the closing stages and finishing only tenth of the 14 runners. Crowded House was ninth and, like Royal Ascot winner Vision D'Etat (12th) never looked like landing a telling blow.
Although he is now officially a French-trained in France, Gloria De Campeao is as much a representative of the South American bloodstock industry.
As he was bred in the southern hemisphere, the son of Impression does not turn seven until midsummer.
He raced in his native Brazil for two seasons before joining Bary in late 2007.
Gloria De Campeao was making his third World Cup appearance, having finished eighth to Curlin in 2008 before chasing home Well Armed at a respectful distance on the Nad Al Sheba dirt 12 months ago.
In Saturday's race, he was sent straight to the front in typical fashion by his top-flight Brazilian rider TJ (Tiago) Pereira, 33, who dictated matters ahead of rank outsider Amor De Pobre and Frankie Dettori on Mastery.
Gloria De Campeao's rivals up front cried enough as they turned for home and the pacemaker had just enough left to thwart the fast-finishing Lizard's Desire, who must have been in front a stride after the line.
Television pictures seemed to suggest Lizard's Desire had got up for Mike De Kock, and Allybar's rider Ahmed Ajtebi even congratulated the runner-up's rider Kevin Shea.
However, neither had managed to get past the gallant Gloria De Campeao when it mattered.
Pascal Bary: "great performance"
"It was a great performance," said Bary, who saddled Gloria De Campeao to win last year's Singapore International Airlines Cup on turf at Kranji. "The horse is so brave and once he is in front does not like to be passed.
"If he's alone after he's taken the lead and no one comes after him, it is so difficult to catch him. He wants to fight."
The winner carries the colours of Swedish owner Stefan Friborg's Estrela Energia - and the owner was exultant after the race.
"I don't have a word for it!" said Friborg, who has a select string of ex-Brazilian horses with Bary.
"It was fantastic," added the owner. "It was planned to go in the front - he is very tough. He enjoys to run and fight and he never gives up."
Gloria De Campeao had been beaten into second by Japanese filly Red Desire - 11th on Saturday - in the final round of the Maktoum Challenge on the Super Thursday trials card.
"The horse deserved that after a great run in this last year and he was very unlucky in the Maktoum Challenge," said winning rider Pereira.
"I thought I had won but as we past the post, I looked across and the second jockey was celebrating, so I thought I'd keep quiet and wait for the result.
"The horse settled in front and I dropped my hands 300 metres out and asked him to kick on. He was so brave and this is all just a dream - he is certainly helping my career!"
Kevin Shea admitted he thought he had won on the outsider Lizard's Desire.
"It's a very bitter pill to swallow, but I've got to swallow it," said the rider, who was also second on Bankable in the Duty Free.
"When I looked up it was just after the line and I was in front and I thought I'd got it. It's hard to take. The horse gave me everything but the winner got it soft up front.
"He has run the race of his life and been denied by the narrowest of margins. It is very disappointing to be beaten so narrowly but it was great to be involved in such an exciting race."
Third-placed Allybar represented new Godolphin trainer Mahmoud Al Zarooni.
His rider Ahmed Ajtebi said: "He has proved his last run was not the real him and bounced right back. A furlong out I thought we might win but he has just not quickened near the line."
Gio Ponti's rider Ramon Dominguez reckoned his mount was also compromised by the easy fractions.
"I had a great trip," he said. "I was very proud of how my horse ran.
"But they were setting a very modest pace in front of me and that really affected my horse. I wish there was a little more pace. They just didn't come back a whole lot."
Kieren Fallon was singing a similar tune on Gitano Hernando.
"They went no pace and consequently there were traffic problems and everything was blocking up in front of me," reported the rider.
"If they'd gone faster, the horses would have spread out more but on a tight track like this, you need some room."
Twice Over's jockey Tom Queally said he was never travelling well.
"He was hanging to the right most of the way," he said. "He got a slight bump on the first turn and he never was really travelling well after that. It was disappointing."