Animal Kingdom can rule the World
WHILE it seems to annoy traditionalists, the fact remains that elite Flat racing is an international sport and it will be seen in all its glory at today's Dubai World Cup.
So while the British calendar could make a more coherent start, nothing is nowadays going to supplant the world's most valuable race meeting in Meydan as the ideal curtain-raiser to a new campaign.
The £3.5m feature race over 10 furlongs crowns a card so magnetic that it has even thawed relations between its hosts, the Maktoum family, and their traditional rivals at Coolmore, who send runners from Ballydoyle for the third consecutive year.
At the same time, however, the cosmopolitan quality of the meeting has become somewhat diluted by the struggles of American horses since its transfer to the opulent new track at Meydan.
It would be highly apposite, then, if the Americans could stop the rot in the big one itself with Animal Kingdom (6.05). His owners plotted a highly adventurous path since his Kentucky Derby success two years ago – one that they hope will proceed to Royal Ascot in June.
Switched to turf for the Breeders' Cup Mile last November, and making his first appearance in nine months, Animal Kingdom ran a sensational race to split the top-class pair, Wide Dan and Excelebration. Moreover he barely came off the bridle, having been caught up in traffic on the home turn. This is a talented animal, adaptable to all surfaces, and a sound rehearsal at Gulfstream last month makes him look solid value, despite a wide draw, at 11/2.
The two Godolphin trainers field a strong home defence, with five runners between them. However, Hunter's Light looked exposed at Group Three standard less than a year ago and has charged his way to favouritism with his form at the International Carnival.
St Nicholas Abbey was arguably unlucky not to win the Sheema Classic for Aidan O'Brien last year but may have his work cut out against the Japanese filly Gentildonna (5.20).
It is good to see his Ballydoyle stablemate Imperial Monarch resurface for only his sixth career start earlier on the card, although two miles on firm ground represents new territory in every sense, and compatriot Saddler's Rock (1.45) – from the John Oxx yard – may represent better value.
O'Brien also saddles Lines Of Battle (2.25) in the UAE Derby, and he is entitled to improve at the longer trip after an experiment with blinkers backfired at the Breeders' Cup.
The Ballydoyle supremo is bidding to to improve on an already impressive record in this three-year-old contest.
Ballydoyle only returned to support the meeting very recently, with Master Of Hounds touched off in this three-year-olds only event in 2011, while Daddy Long Legs went a place better 12 months ago. Lines Of Battle, another with an American pedigree, won on the Polytrack at Dundalk before finishing seventh to stablemate George Vancouver in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
There is also a rare Meydan starter for Richard Hannon, who has plenty of Classic-generation colts to choose from.
The representative is Law Enforcement, which wound up his juvenile campaign with a Group One victory at San Siro in Milan. David Marnane's Elleval gives another Irish involvement, while Godolpin trainers Saeed bin Suroor and Mahmood Al Zarooni have two runners each.
Perhaps no English trainer in Dubai will be as excited as David Simcock, who has two legitimate chances in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes. But both French raiders look tempting at the prices, French Fifteen set to retrieve the lost promise of his 2,000 Guineas second last year and Giofra (4.40) already a proven operator on the international stage. (© Independent News Service)
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