The 2012 Group 1 US$10million Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline, the world's most valuable horse race, looks wide open with the maximum field of 14 declared for the 2,000m all-weather feature.
American trainer Bill Mott won the inaugural running with Cigar back in 1996 and looks to make history again when saddling Royal Delta, last year's Group 1 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and seeking to become the first filly or mare to win this race.
Mott had first choice at Wednesday's draw and elected for stall seven meaning his filly is ideally berthed in the centre. Sold for US$8.5million after her Breeders' Cup win, she appears to hold decent claims to recoup a large chunk of that purchase price.
The second American challenger, Game On Dude, is to be ridden by Chantal Sutherland who becomes the first woman to ride in the race. Trainer Bob Baffert is seeking his third win in the race having already won with Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).
Runner-up in last year's Group 1 Breeders' Cup Classic, Game On Dude is an habitual front-runner so the widest stall of all (14) looks far from ideal and Sutherland will need to be at her very best if they are to win.
American challengers have won the race on eight previous occasions (Cigar 1996, Silver Charm 1998, Captain Steve 2001, Pleasantly Perfect 2004, Roses in May 2005, Invasor 2007, Curlin 2008, Well Armed 2009) whereas the Japanese opened their account last year when Transcend chased home compatriot Victoire Pisa and they have three runners this year. Transcend bids to go one better this year but arrives having been well beaten in his prep race, the Group 1 February Stakes, which he won last year.
Eishin Flash is a quality performer who found only the remarkable Orfevre too good on his most recent start in the Group 1 Arima Kinen (Grand Prix). That was on Christmas Day but he has looked in good form on the gallops this week and should run well.
Eishin Flash does not win as often as you would like though for one of his ability but that is not an accusation you could aim at their third runner, Smart Falcon, who has not been beaten since the autumn of 2010. He is seeking a tenth consecutive victory and is transferring his dirt form to the all-weather looks a major threat.
The international favourite is So You Think, now trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, for whom he has won three Group 1 contests having previously won in Group 1 company on five occasions in Australia.
This will be his first race on the all-weather but he ran well for a long way when behind Game On Dude at the Breeders' Cup and the Meydan surface should suit him better than the dirt at Churchill Downs on that occasion.
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor is the most successful trainer in the history of the race having saddled five winners (Almutawakel 1999, Dubai Millennium 2000, Street Cry 2002, Moon Ballad 2003 and Electrocutionist 2006). He has two hopes this year with Frankie Dettori riding Prince Bishop who was tenth in this race last year. He did win a Meydan handicap impressively in January but has since been fifth and third in Al Maktoum Challenges II (Group 2) and III (Group 1) respectively.
Round II was won by stable companion Mendip who will be ridden by Silvestre De Sousa on Saturday. All his best form has been on the all-weather but he was well beaten in Round III when he may have hurt himself before the race.
That third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge was won by Capponi, trained by fellow Godolphin handler Mahmoud Al Zarooni with Ahmed Ajtebi in the saddle as he is again. Arguably the most improved horse in the UAE throughout the Dubai World Cup Carnival, Capponi has been first past the post on his last three starts and appears to remain very much on an upward curve.
Al Zarooni has not saddled the winner of this race yet but has only saddled two runners previously, both of whom have finished third, including Monterosso last year.
On his first run since, he was fourth behind Capponi on Super Saturday when surely in need of the outing and he should run well again under Mickael Barzalona who has ridden him in all four of his UAE outings.
South African Mike de Kock has not won the race yet but has gone close with Asiatic Boy, Lizard's Desire and Victory Moon all being placed in the race.
This year he relies on Master Of Hounds who has been drawn in stall one. Runner-up in last year's Group 2 UAE Derby, sponsored by The Saeed and Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, when trained by Aidan O'Brien, he was placed on his first three 2012 starts for his new trainer before winning the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday. He would need a career best to repeat that victory here.
Marco Botti trains Planteur and connections were delighted when he received the final invitation to the race. A genuine Group 1 performer in Europe, he is having his first start for Botti and initial run on an all-weather surface. He rates a genuinely interesting contender for a talented young trainer.
Doug Watson may have saddled two runners in this race before but Silver Pond would have to be his best chance to date after an excellent local debut when beating all bar Capponi on Super Saturday.
That was his first start on the all-weather and first outing of the year and he is expected to have improved considerably for the run.Trained in Germany, Zazou has a new owner on the eve on the race. The mount of Olivier Peslier, he won a Dubai World Cup trial at Chantilly to prove his liking for synthetic surfaces and looked in great shape, under Peslier, on the track at the Breakfast With The Stars event on Thursday.
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