The Emirates Airline-sponsored $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) is set for the showdown between the two top-ranked horses on the planet after the nominations were released for the world’s richest race meeting Jan. 22.
The World Cup, the world’s richest race, has attracted a top-class field, including Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) winner Invasor and Cigar Mile (gr. I) hero Discreet Cat.
The $21 million card, which takes place at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on March 31, has attracted a record 1,340 nominations from 23 countries and features four group I races and two group II races for Thoroughbreds.
“To hopefully have the two best horses in the world compete at Nad Al Sheba for the world’s richest race has all the makings of a classic," said Frank Gabriel Jr., chief executive officer of the Dubai Racing Club. “The standard of entries for the other six races at the meeting is also of the highest order, and the countdown to what should be a truly spectacular meeting is well and truly on.
Owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stable, the American star Invasor topped the 2006 World Thoroughbred Rankings at 129, one pound ahead of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Bernardini and Godolphin’s Discreet Cat.
With Bernardini retired, Invasor and Discreet Cat hold court at the top of the list.
Invasor, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin -- a former champion in the UAE -- is in great form, according to Rick Nichols, Shadwell's general manager, who can’t wait for the clash with Discreet Cat.
“Bring it on, we have nothing to be scared of,” he said. “Discreet Cat has been very impressive, but Invasor is the world champion – and that’s official. Everyone thought he wouldn’t have a hope against Bernardini in the Breeders’ Cup, but we proved everyone wrong. Bernardini had never been eyeballed before, and our guy frightened him off. He loves a battle."
Invasor, who is ridden by young Fernando Jara, is to first run in Gulfstream Park's Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 3.
Invasor is America’s principal hope of making it a sixth victory in 12 runnings of the World Cup. The United States is also responsible for the third highest-ranked horse still in training, Lava Man, who is entered in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I).
The Dubai Duty Free, which along with the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I), is the second richest race in the world, has attracted Japanese star Admire Moon.
Japan struck twice at last year’s meeting thanks to Utopia’s win in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) and Heart’s Cry’s triumph in the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Admire Moon, who is also entered for the Dubai World Cup, will look to add to the record, having failed by just a nose to catch Pride in the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) in December.
Fellow Japanese raider Daiwa Major, winner of the Tenno Sho (Jpn-I), is also among the entries, as is Hong Kong's Bullish Luck, championof the Asian Mile Challenge series last year.
The English Derby (Eng-I) winner Sir Percy is entered for the Sheema Classic, sponsored by Nakheel Co. LLC, as is Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winner Delta Blues, another Japanese challenger .
The 2,400-meter contest has also attracted John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Red Rocks, representing Brian Meehan, trainer of last year’s Dubai Duty Free winner David Junior, while Hong Kong Vase (HK-I) winner Collier Hill will be looking to go one step better than his second in the race last year.
The $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) has the makings of a terrific sprint, with TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Thor’s Echo entered for new connections.
The 5-year-old was bought recently by Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum and has joined Satish Seemar, who currently leads the way in the UAE trainers’ standings this season.
The $2 million Godolphin Mile, sponsored by Etisalat, could see the reappearance of last year’s second and third, Win River Win and old favorite Jack Sullivan.
Last week’s impressive winners on the opening night of the Dubai International Racing Carnival, Asiatic Boy and Imperialista, could be invited for the $2 million UAE Derby (UAE-II), sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Holding LLC.