DUBAI: The Dubai World Cup is now in its 26th year, but this running might be one of the best ever. The $12 million feature race has a field of 11, six of which are Grade 1 winners. One of them, the favorite Life Is Good, has only been beaten once.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends the four-year-old over from the US where he’s won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Pegasus World Cup on his last two starts. That’s the best form on offer and he’s drawn an advantageous post in one.
“I’m very happy with him, his weight looks good, I think he handled the ship in perfectly,” said Pletcher of Life Is Good, who will run over 2,000 meters for the first time on Saturday. “The Pegasus was his first time at a mile and an eighth and he handled that well, so we’ve focused on just some good, stamina-building breezes and strong gallop outs. He does everything so willingly; he likes doing it, enjoys his job, and all his work has been super good.”
Life Is Good won’t find his opposition easy to roll over, however, as they include fellow Group 1 winner Hot Rod Charlie, who warmed up for this with a smooth win in the G2 Maktoum Challenge Round 2 here last time. That proved he handled the track and the Doug O’Neill trainee is a worthy second choice in the race. Up against them are two more Americans, Country Grammer and Midnight Bourbon, plus Aero Trem, trained in Uruguay by Antonio Cintra, and last year’s third Magny Cours, trained in France by Andre Fabre.
And that’s just the World Cup. The supporting nine races also have extremely strong fields and they include the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic. Contenders for this include Godolphin’s quirky Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir, who trainer Charlie Appleby says is hard to predict.
“The biggest danger to Yibir is himself,” said the British Champion Trainer. “He could pull like a train and do everything the wrong (way) round, or he could do what he did in America, when he pulled but they went a good gallop and still it’s credit to the horse and to William (Buick, jockey) that they won the race.”
Yibir faces a strong field which includes Japanese Derby winner Shahryar, as well as Authority, good winner of the Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi last time out.
Appleby runs five on the card and also has a huge chance with the unbeaten Manobo, who will be hot favorite for the G2 Gold Cup, as well as in the G1 Al-Quoz Sprint, in which he runs Man Of Promise, Creative Force and Naval Crown. Man Of Promise, the chosen ride of Buick, was a devastating four-and-three-quarter length winner over course and distance last time out.
The other big turf race is the $5 million Dubai Turf, over 1,800 meters, in which defending champion Lord North looks up against it with Japanese star Schnell Meister in the race, as well as dual Pegasus Turf winner Colonel Liam, another trained by Pletcher.
The G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen has been won by America on 14 occasions and they have strong chances of doing so again with Dr. Schivel and Drain The Clock who clash in the 1,200-meter contest, along with last year’s second Red Le Zele for Japan.
The first two races on the card, the G1 Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians and the G2 Godolphin Mile, have both attracted their defending champions. Deryan looks up against a tough opponent in the locally trained RB Rich Lyke Me in the opener, while Secret Ambition has his Bhupat Seemar-trained stablemate Al-Nefud as his main rival in the Mile.
Seemar also runs three in the G2 UAE Derby, with Bendoog the pick of his trio. He is up against an international cast which includes Quality Boone, Irwin and Kiefer from Uruguay as well as G1 winner Pinehurst, trained in the US by Bob Baffert.