Saturday 25 March sees the 22nd running of the grand finale of Dubai’s racing season, the $10 million Dubai World Cup. While the Dubai World Cup is undoubtedly the main attraction, there are a further seven outstanding thoroughbred races to enjoy beforehand, no fewer than four of which are G1 contests.
The Darley stallions are well represented across the card, with plenty of exciting runners to look forward to.
The opening race is the G2 Godolphin Mile and Dubawi’s son North America will be seeking to make it five wins on the trot at Meydan, including his most recent victory in the G3 Firebreak. Also coming into the race off the back of a recent winning streak is Heavy Metal (Exceed And Excel), winner of the G3 Burj Nahaar earlier this month. Stormadal (Shamardal), Le Bernardin (Bernardini) and Fitzgerald (Elusive Quality) complete the Darley-sired entrants in the curtain-raiser of the evening.
Next is the turn of the stayers, who will tackle two miles on the turf in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup. Last year’s winner Vazirabad (Manduro) will aim to reverse the form with Godolphin’s Beautiful Romance (New Approach), who was simply superb when landing the G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy on 23 February. Third that day was Dubawi’s seasoned campaigner Sheikhzayedroad, who will be aiming to add a seventh Black type win to his remarkable record. Teofilo is doublehanded in this race, as previous G1 winner Quest For More takes on Basateen.
The G2 UAE Derby is the first qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby and favourite to take the nine-and-a-half-furlong contest is Helmet’s outstanding son Thunder Snow. He became the first G1 winner for his young sire when landing the Criterium International late last year and returned with a bang in February when romping to a five-and-three-quarter-length victory in the UAE 2,000 Guineas. He has since been nominated for the US Triple Crown, so could well be bound for the States should the race go his way on Saturday. Godolphin have two further runners in Fly At Dawn (Discreet Cat) and Top Score (Hard Spun), with both arguably having each way chances. Hard Spun’s daughter Nomorerichblondes is one of two fillies set to take on the colts.
The first G1 contest of the evening is the Al Quoz Sprint, and Iffraaj’s smart son Jungle Cat will aim to add his first win at the highest level having won over the same course and distance on Super Saturday.
The sprint action then switches to the dirt and Exceed And Excel’s son Morawij flies the flag for the Darley stallions in the six-furlong contest, having annexed the Jebel Ali Sprint and G3 Mahaab Al Shimaal already this season.
The G1 Dubai Turf sees the seasonal reappearance of Iffraaj’s G1 Prix Jacques le Marois winner Ribchester. He will be taking on the impeccably-bred Zarak (Dubawi ex Zarkava), last seen winning the G3 Dubai Millennium Stakes.
The penultimate race is the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, won in sensational style last year by Postponed (Dubawi), who also took the G1 Coronation Cup and G1 Juddmonte International in 2016. He was beaten just a neck by fellow contender Prize Money (Authorized) on his seasonal reappearance in the G2 Dubai City of Gold. 2015 Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs, by late Darley stallion Halling, missed most of last year due to a fractured pelvis, but returned to the racecourse with a very creditable third in the G1 Champion Stakes at Ascot in the autumn and is reported to be in good form ahead of his 2017 debut. Earnshaw (Medaglia d’Oro) completes the Darley-sired quartet in the $6 million contest.
While the hot favourite to take the Dubai World Cup - and justifiably so - is world-beater Arrogate, the race isn’t over until it’s over and there are three Darley-sired runners bidding for glory. Mubtaahij (Dubawi) won the UAE Derby by an astounding eight lengths two years ago and was runner-up in last year’s Dubai World Cup. He is joined by his progressive paternal half-brother Move Up, bidding to become trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s eighth winner of the race. Special Fighter (Teofilo) won the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 en route to fourth in the Dubai World Cup last year and will once again be aiming to put up a big performance on the night.