DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Thirteen horses were entered Monday in the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup, while the other eight stakes races on Saturday’s program were drawn with post positions assigned as final preparations ramped up for the richest race card on the planet.
If there was a surprise among the entries for the World Cup itself, it was the lack of defection from a list of probable runners released last week. Rumors had been afoot that defending champion Monterosso would not be entered, but he was one of four Godolphin horses among the provisional entries for the World Cup, contested at about one and one-quarter miles over the all-weather Tapeta surface at Meydan. The other Godolphin entrants are African Story, Capponi, and Hunter’s Light. The U.S.-based World Cup team – the best sent since the World Cup moved from Nad Al Sheba to Meydan in 2010 – consists of Animal Kingdom, Dullahan, and Royal Delta. Post positions for the World Cup will be assigned at a special draw Wednesday afternoon.
Dullahan remained in the quarantine barn Monday morning after having worked over the Tapeta on Sunday, but Royal Delta and Animal Kingdom went to the main track for routine gallops. Royal Delta, two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, earned praise from her handlers for the way she went about her business Monday. Mylor Rider, a stable foreman for trainer Bill Mott, traveled with Royal Delta for her ninth-place World Cup finish last year, and said Royal Delta had settled in nicely since arriving in Dubai last week.
“Her first day out she was okay, the second day was better, and today was the best yet,” Rider said. “She knows the situation from having been here before, but she craves routine.”
Mott is expected to arrive later Tuesday in Dubai, while Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom’s trainer, was due in Monday night. Animal Kingdom will be the first Kentucky Derby winner to race in Dubai since Silver Charm, who won the World Cup in 1998 and finished sixth in 1999.
The other World Cup entrants are the French horse Meandre; Planteur, who was third to Monterosso last year; Red Cadeaux, whose preferred trip appears to be at least one and one-half miles; and Kassiano, Treasure Beach, and Side Glance.
Ten of the World Cup entrants have earned at least $1 million, and a total of 32 million-dollar earners were entered in the eight Thoroughbred stakes to be run Saturday night. The richest of them is Gentildonna, the 4-year-old filly who is being hailed as one of the best Japanese horses in years on the strength of a narrow win over top-class Orfevre in the Nov. 25 Japan Cup. Gentildonna, the only 3-year-old filly to win the Japan Cup, has earned more than $8.5 million while winning seven of her nine starts, and she heads a prospective field of 11 entered in the $5 million Sheema Classic.
Gentildonna on Monday made her first racetrack appearance since shipping to Dubai, and evidently has a temperament equal to her talent. While two other Japanese shippers, Taisei Legend (Godolphin Mile) and Keiai Leone (UAE Derby) worked up a heavy sweat just walking from the quarantine barn to the racetrack, Gentildonna never turned a hair, coming back dry even after going through a brisk one-lap Tapeta gallop during which she left her two companions nearly a quarter-mile behind. Gentildonna briefly visited the turf course following her exercise, apparently just getting a feel for the surface in advance of a scheduled turf breeze Tuesday.
Gentildonna drew post 8 for the Sheema Classic, a turf race over about one and one-half miles. Her chief opponents appear to be St Nicholas Abbey, third last year in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and second in the Sheema Classic, and the French mare Shareta, a two-time Group 1 winner in 2012 who most recently finished fifth in the BC Turf.
Shareta was among a group of French horses out on the track for the first time Monday morning, going through light exercise while getting accustomed to new surroundings. St Nicholas Abbey and trainer Aidan O’Brien’s other four horses entered on the card will, as usual, be the last of the international shippers to get to Dubai, with arrival scheduled for Tuesday night and just one day of light training Friday. O’Brien’s other entrants are Reply in the Golden Shaheen, Lines of Battle in the UAE Derby, Imperial Monarch in the Dubai Gold Cup, and Starspangledbanner in the Al Quoz Sprint.
Little Mike, who drew post 4 and will be ridden for the first time by Gary Stevens, is the only American among 14 horses entered in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, a turf race at about one and one-eighth miles. Like stablemate Dullahan, Little Mike walked in the quarantine barn Monday after a Sunday workout, his on turf. Little Mike was thought to have been a candidate for both the Duty Free and the Sheema Classic after a somewhat disappointing Tapeta experiment March 9 in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, in which Little Mike finished eighth, but owner Carlo Vaccarezza on Monday said that Little Mike, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, had not received an invitation to compete in the Sheema Classic.
Little Mike is the likely pacesetter in the Duty Free, which drew a deep field that includes viable contenders like Trade Storm, Sajjhaa, The Apache, Mushreq, and the New Zealand-based star Ocean Park, winner of the 2012 Cox Plate in Australia.
The $2 million Golden Shaheen is the only World Cup race a U.S.-based horse has won since the move from Nad Al Sheba to Meydan, and two capable American runners, Trinniberg and Private Zone, were among 13 entrants Monday. Trinniberg, set to make his synthetic-surface debut in his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, worked about three furlongs on Tapeta early Monday, a breeze that wasn’t timed by Dubai racing officials.
“He looks good,” said trainer Shivananda Parbhoo. “I like how he travels. He’s very light on this surface, and his action is not high. I think he’s liking this track.”
Trinniberg, a probable pacesetter, will break from post 3 in the six-furlong Golden Shaheen. Private Zone, one of the top sprinters on the West Coast the last several months, drew well in post 12, with Mental, the leading Dubai main-track sprinter this winter, in post 10. Irish shipper Gordon Lord Byron drew post 2, and defending champion Krypton Factor was drawn in post 13.
The $1 million Al Quoz Sprint, a straight-course five-furlong turf dash, drew a field of 16, with likely favorite Shea Shea breaking from post 7. Varsity and Great Attack, the two U.S. horses in the race, drew posts 6 and 13, respectively. Sole Power and Mr Big, both win threats, drew favorable outside posts, but top Hong Kong sprinter Eagle Regiment drew poorly in post 1.
The $2 million UAE Derby, which offers 190 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, drew a field of 12, including U.S. shippers Dice Flavor (post 5) and He’s Had Enough (post 12). Godolphin’s three entrants include Secret Number, unbeaten in his two starts and winner of the Al Bastakiya at Meydan on March 9.
The Dubai Gold Cup, a two-mile turf race, has Saturday’s shortest field, at 10, while the Godolphin Mile, which kicks off the Thoroughbred portion of the card, might have Saturday’s most inscrutable field. The race drew a field of 16 among which at least a half-dozen could be accorded a reasonable chance. Moonwalk in Paris, a leading contender for Godolphin, drew poorly in post 15.
Monday’s weather here was partly cloudy and cool, with a high temperature in the low 80s, but the mercury will begin rising Friday, with Saturday’s high temperature forecast to be in the low 90s. Sunset on Saturday is at 6:34 p.m., while the first Thoroughbred race on the card goes at 5:10 and the World Cup at 10:05.