IT was a chilling moment that South African jockey Kevin Shea will never forget as long as he lives, one that threatens to haunt him for the rest of his riding career.

In a graphic report for The Telegraph, J A McGrath reports: ‘It was the split second Shea thought he had won the world’s richest race, the $10US million Dubai World Cup, only to learn minutes later that he had been beaten a nose in one of the closes finishes ever seen.

Shea discovered that his mount Lizard’s Desire had failed by the narrowest official margin to nail the front-running, French-trained Gloria de Campeao, ridden by Tiago Pereira, some time after the horses had pulled up and were returning to the unsaddling enclosure.

In a driving finish, Gloria de Campeao, a well-established international performer trained by Pascal Bary, kept finding more and more for his rider, first fighting off the challenge of Godolphin’s Allybar, and then repelling the determined, late lunge of the South African Lizard’s Desire. It was the difference of $4 million (£2.6 million) for connections.

This was the 15th running of the Dubai World Cup, and the first at the incredibly lavish Meydan racecourse, which features a grandstand one kilometre in length. An estimated 50,000 turned out for the occasion, which marked the start of a new era in racing in this part of the world.

Purists will argue that Gloria de Campeao lacked the status to give the race the endorsement it required without the appearance of established stars from the United States, and the proximity of Lizard’s Desire, an East Cape Derby winner from South Africa, may not have helped either. But that is to miss the point entirely.

This was the richest horse race ever run. It was fiercely competitive, so much so that riding tactics and jockeyship decided the outcome more so than in many other feature races around the world. When the field jumped off, jockeys were not giving an inch; usually there is give and take when horses are taking up a position, but they refused to budge.

Consequently, when Pereira slowed the pace in front as the field, those trapped on the outside were distinctly uncomfortable. Tom Queally tried desperately to get Twice Over slotted in but failed. This left the Henry Cecil-trained five-year-old racing too keenly, and when he was asked to quicken in the home straight, there was nothing left in the tank.

Kieren Fallon had Gitano Hernando travelling well on the inside rail throughout, but when it came time to come out, he was trapped and unable to extricate his mount. Shea had done a remarkable job scything his way through the field, getting the openings just when required, and in the last few strides he put his head down and threw everything at Lizard’s Desire.

When they flashed past the post, Shea had little idea whether he had managed to get up. It was only when rival jockey Ahmed Ajtebi put out his hand to offer congratulations and patted him on the back that he punched the air in celebration. Sadly for the admirable South African, it was short-lived.

In finishing second, Shea had been deprived of his share (usually rounded up to 10 per cent) of the $6 million (£4 million)prize, but took some solace in knowing that he would get a slice of the $2 million (£1.3 million) for second. Shea seemed to take it well, but when the dust has settled, both he and Lizard’s Desire’s trainer Mike de Kock will feel it badly.

Other highlights on this attractive international card of racing were William Buick’s triumph in the Dubai Sheema Classic, aboard Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Dar Re Mi, on his first Group One experience for his new boss, trainer John Gosden, and the timely first success (with his first runner) as a licenced trainer for Mahmoud Al Zarooni, who was appointed second trainer to Godolphin only last Tuesday.

Buick gave an inspired display on Dar Re Mi, the filly who had been cruelly deprived of a Group One win in the Prix Vermeille in the stewards’ room at Longchamp last September. He won a duel with champion jockey Ryan Moore, aboard Spanish Moon (third), before withstanding the late flourish of Japanese filly Buena Vista, ridden by Olivier Peslier.