The Dubai World Cup program Saturday at Meydan Racecourse again has attracted some of the world's top equine stars, including the winner of the Melbourne Cup and prospective Japanese superstar Almond Eye. Thunder Snow will defend his title in the $12 million World Cup itself.
Competitors from around the world are assembled for the 24th edition of the rich and prestigious meeting.
The climax of the evening's card is the $12 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline. The local heavyweights, defending champion Thunder Snow and North America, are set to continue their contentious rivalry with four other UAE-based runners in the mix. The international challenge is formidable with Audible, Yoshida, Gunnevera, Seeking the Soul and Pavel flying the American flag. South Korean horse Dolkong has been in the mix throughout the Carnival and Japan's K T Brave joins the fray.
Pace could be key in the World Cup as the favorite, North America, may have do battle with Capezzano, the winner of the Maktoum Challenge Round III, right out of the gate. Both were impressive winners in their last starts over the Meydan course but a pace duel could open the gates for the rest of the crew.
The $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at 2,400 meters, or about 1 1/2 miles, has three solid Japanese contenders in Cheval Grand, Suave Richard and Rey de Oro. Old Persian, Racing History and Cross Counter comprise the Godolphin contingent. Aidan O'Brien brings Hunting Horn and Magic Wand from the Ballydoyle yard in Ireland and David Simcock will saddle Desert Encounter for Ireland. A formidable lineup, indeed.
The $6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf is 1,800 meters or about 1 1/8 miles and features one of the brightest stars of the evening -- Japan's sparkling 4-year-old filly, Almond Eye. Almond Eye, a daughter of Lord Kanaloa, has smashed the competition at home, toying with older male rivals in winning last fall's Grade 1 Japan Cup. She also is the latest in a long line of Japanese contenders for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe -- a status that will be tested in this, her first overseas assignment.
While Almond Eye does catch the eye, her competition in the Dubai Turf comes from all corners, from South Africa to Australia, Ireland and France. Fellow Japanese competitors Vivlos and Deirdre are no pushovers, either. Wooton, Dream Castle and Mountain Hunter, all representing Godolphin, are the UAE entries.
The $2.5 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen is always a target for Americans -- 1,200 meters, or 6 furlongs, on the dirt. Accordingly, half of the prospective 10-horse field arrives from American climes. Imperial Hint, Promises Fulfilled, X Y Jet and Switzerland will face an international squad representing Japan, Bahrain, Ireland and Hong Kong. The likely favorite and last year's narrowly beaten third, Roy H, was scratched midweek because of a foot abscess.
The $2 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, 1,200 meters on the grass straightaway, finds Stormy Liberal looking to improve on his second-place showing in 2018. The two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, trained by Peter Miller, has finished second twice since last November's Breeders' Cup and faces a fearsome rival in Godolphin's Blue Point, winner of last year's Group 1 King's Stand at Royal Ascot and already a two-time winner this season at Meydan. Also in the field are Caribu Club, who edged Stormy Liberal in their last race at Santa Anita, and hopefuls from Hong Kong, Australia, France and England.
The $1.5 million Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup, 3,200 meters or about 2 miles on the turf, appears on paper to be a question of which Godolphin horse do you prefer -- Cross Counter, who makes his first start since an historic victory in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup last November, or Ispolini, who has two impressive wins at Meydan during the season. Trainer Charlie Appleby said Thursday Cross Counter is ready to run off the layoff. Among the others, Call the Wind comes from Freddie Head's yard in France with a win in last fall's Group 1 Prix du Cadran and a recent tightener under his belt.
The $1.5 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile on the dirt features last year's winner, Heavy Metal, against a star of this season's Dubai Carnival, Muntazah. The latter, a 6-year-old Dubawi gelding racing for Sheik Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, comes off dominating victories in the Group 3 Firebreak and the Grade 3 Burj Nahaar and looks at a peak of prime. A potential obstacle is Coal Front, a 5-year-old son of Stay Thirsty who comes from the United States after winning the Grade III Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Jose Ortiz rides that one for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Dubai program also includes a major prep for the Kentucky Derby, the Group 2 UAE Derby, addressed separately in the Kentucky Derby preview (which see).