Twice Over is the raging hot favourite for $10 million Emirates Dubai World Cup at Meydan tonight looking to deliver the 16th annual instalment of the world’s richest race to Great Britain.
A major threat may be launched from a familiar rival though with Cape Blanco representing the Emerald Isle.
Also obviously never to be dismissed is three-time champion Gio Ponti.
Both chances drew centre barriers and look like the biggest challengers to Twice Over which drew much wider in the 14 horse 2000m event.
The Dubai World Cup is one of eight races making up the $26.25 million program which has horses and connections from around the world including the UAE, USA, Japan, England, Ireland, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Chechnya.
Twice over is a back to back winner on the Champions Stakes in England and will come to Dubai for the second time after a lacklustre 10th at this meeting last year.
He has the distinct advantage of legendary trainer Henry Cecil who has employed a new preparation strategy to give his runner the biggest chance possible of claiming the world’s richest race.
“I thought he would win last year,” Cecil said.
“He did get a bad bump and couldn’t get in. Whether that was the reason, I don’t know.”
He’s hoping the vastly more mature six-year-old will have learnt from last year’s run and be a better horse for the trip.
“He’s definitely better than he was last year, and he’s definitely in great form. He’s got a great chance. I’m very hopeful.”
Last year’s preparation saw Twice Over entered in the race after four months off the track and arrived in Dubai just before the race.
This year they arrived early and had a run on Dubai soil to give themselves the maximum time possible to acclimatise to the desert conditions.
“We thought last year, after seeing the horses that had already been in Dubai run so well, that we’d try that route,” Juddmonte racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said.
CapeCecil is hoping the change will have Twice Over primed for a big run.
“I think the difference this year compared to last is that he’s adapted to life over here. He’s more balanced and has benefited from training on the track regularly. I’ve kept all his training to the main track, rather than the training track or the turf – he’s just a happy horse,” he said.
His jockey, Tom Queally, reiterated these words and is hoping his bank account is a little bigger come tomorrow morning.
“I do actually think we’ve got his preparation spot on. His win in the Maktoum Challenge earlier this month was everything, and a little more, than we’d been hoping for,” he said.
“Of course, we’re drawn out wide again in 12, and we’ll just have to find a way to the inner. It’s better than 14, but you’d love to be drawn in the middle. Someone has to be in 12, and it just happens to be us. I just need to get him on an even keel and then he’ll be happy. He’s best when he’s happy.”
The American chance Gio Ponti ran fourth in 2010 but comes into this one without a race this year.
The six-year-old last raced in November when second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs.
Ramon Dominguez will ride for trainer Christophe Clement.
“Everything is great,” said Clement.
“He is very sound and very happy. There’s not much I can do now – I don’t do the running, he does. We are confident and hope for the best.”
Cape Blanco tasted victory twice in Group 1 company last year with victories in the Irish Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes.
The four-year-old makes his 2011 debut in the Dubai World Cup but does have a good first-up record winning the Totesport Dante Stakes in his first race last year.
The Godolphin stable has won the Dubai World Cup five times already but this will be a very tough task for their three runners Poet’s Voice, Monterosso and Prince Bishop.
All three runners are four-year-old colts sired by Dubawi, son of the Godolphin’s best ever horse Dubai Millennium which fittingly won this race in 2000.
Poet’s Voice is their best chance this year which one the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot after being back as far as last place.
He’s been in Dubai for a while, just missing out on the line on March 3rd in the Group 2 Jebel Hatta.
“Poet’s Voice has matured and looks more relaxed this year and I think the mile and a quarter of the Dubai World Cup will suit him. He has had one run already here in Dubai and did well that day,” said Al Suroor.
“I think Poet’s Voice will be fine switching to a different surface, Tapeta. He shows plenty of speed and draw number 10 will be no problem for him. I am looking for a good run from him.”
Monterosso won his first start under new trainer Mahmoon Al Zarooni.
“He’s a really fast horse and has both stamina and speed so I think he can take a good position in the race. If he likes the surface on Saturday, he will be thereabouts,” said Mickael Barzalona, who takes the ride again.
Prince Bishop has won four of eight starts and will be ridden for the first time Ahmed Ajtebi in the 2011 Dubai World Cup.
“I like Prince Bishop and think he is improving while it looks like he handles Tapeta well,” Bin Suroor said.
Mike de Kock will train two runners in Musir and Golden Sword.
Musir won four straight races in Dubai last season, including a victory in the UAE Derby.
Golden Sword meanwhile will have to overcome the far outside barrier but has an excellent record this season, with two wins and a second from three starts at Meydan.
For the Japanese jockey Ryan Moore hope Buena Vista, the races only filly, can be a ray of light for the Japanese people after all the devastation they’ve been through and continue to go through.
“For the Japanese people who are now having a difficult time, I would like to say that the racing is my answer. What is going on is very terrible, and I suppose horse racing can lift them,” he said.
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