Nine Group 1 winners from eight countries are set to face the starter on Saturday in one of the most competitive renewals of the world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates.
The 19th running of the Group 1 US$10m showpiece boasts a maximum field of 16. Among them is the Epsom Derby winner, Ruler Of The World (IRE). The Aidan O'Brien-trained star is only the second winner of the UK's premier race to try his hand in the Dubai World Cup.
Connections will be hoping Ruler Of The World can fair better than the 1998 Epsom Derby winner, High-Rise, who failed to beat a rival in the 1999 Dubai World Cup.
The four-year-old will now sport the colours of Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani's Al Shaqab Racing following the last-minute purchase of a 50 per cent interest in the colt by the Qatari racing operation.
On Wednesday, Harry Herbert, racing advisor to Al Shaqab Racing, drew stall 12 for their latest investment. “It is really exciting to be involved with such a nice horse and at such a great meeting. We would have preferred a lower draw but his jockey, Joseph O'Brien, is a master at getting a good racing position and we will discuss it with his father, the trainer Aidan.”
Godolphin stalwart, Saeed bin Suroor, has saddled the winner of the Dubai World Cup on five previous occasions. Three of those winners (Dubai Millemmium Moon Ballad and Electrocutionist) had previously won the concluding Group 1 third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, over the same course and distance, albeit on the Nad Al Shiba dirt track.
His Prince Bishop (IRE) won that race on Super Saturday three weeks ago and Kieren Fallon, unbeaten on the horse in three starts, retains the partnership. They were drawn one on Super Saturday and have the lowest draw again here.
Stable companion, African Story (GB), was only eighth in that Super Saturday race but chased home the same rival in the Group 2 middle round of the Al Maktoum Challenge over 1900m on their previous starts.
Bin Suroor said: “We have always really liked Prince Bishop and he has thrived this year. He has a good draw and we expect a big run.
“African Story lost his chance at the start last time when he banged his head. He is better than that and was a closing fifth in this last year having won the Godolphin Mile in 2012.”
Fellow Godolphin handler, Charlie Appleby, preparing for his debut World Cup meeting, also saddles two with stable jockey, Mickael Barzalona, choosing to ride Cat O'Mountain (USA).
That leaves William Buick to ride Vancouverite (GB) and Appleby said: “The draw has not been kind to Cat O'Mountain and Mickael is particularly disappointed. We will have to ride him for luck and hope some gaps appear in the straight.
“Vancouverite ran well on turf on Super Saturday over 1800m, and will appreciate this extra 200m and the switch to the all-weather should not be an issue.
“I am really looking forward to running them both.”
When Prince Bishop won over course and distance on Super Saturday, he was chased home by the Mike De Kock-trained Sanshaawes (SAF), himself just ahead of Surfer (USA), trained by Satish Seemar.
South African De Kock has yet to win this race but his charge is well drawn in five and the trainer said: “We had a poor draw last time so a good one here can only help. He has improved throughout the Dubai World Cup Carnival but will need to do so again in a tough renewal.”
Of Surfer's draw in ten Seemar said: “That is actually one of the better draws this horse has had. We would have preferred lower but it could have been worse.”
Akeed Mofeed (GB) and Military Attack (IRE) both represent Hong Kong and fared well in the draw. The latter is in stall eight, to the delight of his trainer, John Moore who said: “That is the one we wanted – eight is considered lucky in Hong Kong.”
Richard Gibson trains Akeed Mofeed, drawn four.
“By the time I drew all the wide gates had gone so the pressure was off. We are very happy with four.”
The UK has four representatives, including Hillstar (GB), trained by Sir Michael Stoute who is looking for a big race double having won the 1997 Dubai World Cup with Singspiel for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
His name was the last to emerge at the draw when stall seven was the only one remaining.
Fellow UK challengers, Red Cadeaux (GB), trained by Ed Dunlop and the Andrew Balding-trained Side Glance (GB), were second and fourth in this race 12 months ago.
HH Sheikh Hamdan has seen his famous blue and white silks carried to Dubai World Cup victory twice before and he owns the fourth runner from England, the William Haggas-trained Mukhadram (GB), who has been ridden in trackwork this week by Sheikh Hamdan's former first jockey, the now-retired, Richard Hills. He was improving last season and, if adapting to the Meydan Racecourse all-weather surface, is an interesting runner.
Sheikh Hamdan said: “The surface is an unknown for him. Richard Hills took him to Kempton on a similar surface and he seemed to handle it but we will only find out on Saturday if he really copes with it.”
He is drawn in 13 and a disappointed Haggas said: “We would have preferred a lower draw certainly and the surface is a big question mark. We will find out on Saturday whether he handles it.”
Seeking a second win in the race after the victory of Victoire Pisa in 2011, Japan have two runners, in the shape of Belshazzar (JPN) and Hokko Tarumae (JPN).
The hopes of a first Saudi Arabian-trained winner were severely diminished yesterday when their Ron The Greek (USA), a former US-based horse was drawn widest of all in 16.
“I could hear a sigh of relief from the other connections when I drew 16,” said his trainer, Frenchman, Nicholas Bachalard. “It was not what we wanted but we will have to get together and try and devise a plan to overcome the draw.”
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