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The richest night in international racing, the Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates, is upon us this Saturday. Here, Ross Birkett, presenter on the Dubai Racing Channel, offers his run down of the likeliest winners of those big desert pots.
Godolphin Mile (1.10pm GMT)
As the name implies, the boys in blue dominate this race and have won the last four renewals but in a wide open affair, the trophy could be heading elsewhere this time.
Moonwalk in Paris is Godolphin’s main hope and he was impressive when overcoming trouble in running to win the Firebreak Stakes over C&D last month but then disappointed next time in the Burj Nahaar when looking far from willing. That display has put a big question mark over his head and it may be worth siding with a more reliable sort.
Step forward Surfer. He has been making, ahem, waves this term, having started out as a maiden, and comes here on the back of a fine fourth behind World Cup favourite Hunter’s Light last time. The drop back in trip will be no problem for this strong traveller and he could get the night off to a great start for the local lads.
He will have to beat South African wonder horse, Soft Falling Rain, and he’s a value price to do just that.
Dubai Gold Cup (1.45pm GMT)
Not a lot of strength in depth here and it should go the way of Imperial Monarch.
The Aidan O’Brien trained colt has only had five runs but one of those came in the G1 Grand Prix De Paris when he made all and held on gamely. Drawn one here, similar tactics could be employed by Ryan Moore with no other obvious pace in the race. With stamina assured through his stout pedigree, he could be hard to catch.
UAE Derby (2.25pm GMT)
After 13 runnings, only three trainers have won this race and all of them (De Kock, Bin Suroor and O’Brien) are represented here.
Secret Number and Shuruq both won their last starts well and could give Bin Suroor another win.
The former made a big impression when landing the Derby trial on only his second career start and comes here unbeaten. The extra distance will help and you can be guaranteed he’ll be spot on for the big day.
Al Quoz Sprint (3.05pm GMT)
It was hard not to be blown away by Shea Shea’s C&D win on Super Saturday when he broke the course record. He’ll take a lot of beating with more improvement expected.
However, second that day was Sole Power and the Trakus speed data from that run showed that he finished the final furlong in the same time as the winner, so, if jockey Johnny Murtagh can keep tabs on Mike De Kock’s speedball then we could have a race to savour.
One big factor on the straight 5f at Meydan is the draw. Every winner this season has come down the stands’ side which means you preferably want to be drawn high – an element that gives Sole Power (15) the edge over Shea Shea (7).
Golden Shaheen (3.45pm GMT)
The Americans love this race as it is a proper jump-and-run blitz.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint hero Trinniberg is all speed and will likely take the lead early from his good draw but he could go just a bit too quick with compatriot Private Zone likely to employ similar tactics.
A strong early pace will get a horse like Mental, who hit a flat spot mid-race when winning last time, into a bit of bother and could mean he meets trouble in running late on as the leaders tire and fall through the field.
Two horses at big prices who should be able to get a tow through the race and then pounce as the pace collapses are Reynaldothewizard and Balmont Mast. The former ran away with the trial for this three weeks ago but still seems to be a bit underestimated. He might not be after this.
Dubai Duty Free (4.40pm GMT)
Arguably the race of the night with nine individual Group One winners lining up here, and the one who could still be improving is Sajjhaa.
She is an unbeaten three from three since a hood was applied and beat a few of these on Super Saturday. She can get a bit stirred up in the preliminaries so it would be a concern if the 80,000 sell-out crowd at Meydan got to her.
Little Mike was a gutsy winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf but flopped in his prep on tapeta. The return to turf could see him back in the mix whilst there is a huge amount of confidence behind Ocean Park’s raid. Winner of the Cox Plate, where he beat Black Caviar’s little brother, All Too Hard, by a neck, he hasn’t quite backed that effort up in three starts since but things have clearly fallen right for him now.
Nevertheless, Sajjhaa is the one for me.
Dubai Sheema Classic (5.20pm GMT)
A real clash of the continents, this could be Gentildonna’s chance to explode onto the world stage.
By getting the better of the wayward Orfevre in a rough-and-tumble Japan Cup, becoming the first filly to do so in the process, she has, through a rough form-line, got the better of a few of these, including last year’s runner-up St Nicholas Abbey.
Melbourne Cup victor, Dunaden, absolutely thrives on international travel and has really caught my eye on the training track in the mornings. His form is some of the best on offer but I just hope Jamie Spencer, who is riding him for the first time, won’t get too far out of his ground.
Dubai World Cup (6.05pm GMT)
Love it or hate it, the Dubai World Cup is the world’s richest race and grabs the attentions of the globe. However, a recent lack of pace since the switch to Meydan has turned many fans off and the case could be similar this time around.
The Americans have had a miserly record since tapeta has been laid down but it hasn’t stopped them from having another crack in 2013. Seeing Royal Delta heading the market is a real head scratcher: she never went a yard in the race last year before getting hampered and an identical preparation hasn’t suggested she’s any better this time.
Previous form on the tapeta is a must and Hunter’s Light fits the bill. He has gone from strength to strength this Carnival; is unbeaten under Silvestre De Sousa; and, has drawn well in stall four. Perfect.
Godolphin don’t like it when foreigners take the world’s biggest prize from under their nose so expect a blue parade on Saturday.