Anyone who attended last year's Dubai World Cup meeting will struggle to forget the uplifting impact of South African trainer Mike de Kock and his merry band of owners.
De Kock rocked up to Nad Al Sheba with two runners -- and both won; Ipe Tombe's Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) and Victory Moon's UAE Derby (UAE-II) successes creating scenes of unbridled joy and enthusiasm.
The good news for this year's racegoers is that De Kock is back, with Victory Moon, owned by the Mad Syndicate, bidding to create even more history for South African continent by lifting the World Cup itself.
Although the 4-year-old has built up a sequence of three smooth successes at Nad Al Sheba already this year, he still has something to prove after a relatively disappointing attempt at three group 1 European prizes last summer.
But 10 furlongs and this dirt surface will be ideal for Victory Moon, according to De Kock, a man of bristling confidence .
"I think his run in the Eclipse, when he finished two-and-a-half lengths behind Falbrav showed his quality. He ran badly twice at Ascot and I don't think he liked that track. But I firmly believe he is of a world standard and I think the Eclipse showed it. Falbrav was probably the best turf horse in the world last year. And we were a little unlucky, he could have finished fourth," he said. "The horse loves it here, he's at home, and I think 10 furlongs is his game. He's a finisher, and as you have seen in his races, he's a very tough horse. Even when he has got into trouble he has got out and won. He's very gutsy."
Having won the World Cup four times with Almutawakel in 1999, Dubai Millennium in 2000, Street Cry in 2002 and Moon Ballad last year, Godolphin's challenge this time around seems noticeably light, with the formerly American raced Grand Hombre their sole challenger.
He's a horse with something to prove, leaping into group 1 level having not run since finishing second in last year's Indiana Derby (gr. II).
"Grand Hombre will give a very good account of himself -- maybe next year we'll have a better one," Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said. "We have some very ambitious plans for him in North America during the summer."
His big race jockey Frankie Dettori gave warning of a fact-finding mission, saying: "I am getting to know him. He is never a flashy worker at home , so I am hoping he'll surprise me in the race. For sure they don't come any better than Medaglia d'Oro and Pleasantly Perfect. It is going to be very tough."
Tough, it will be. But a prize of $6 million is never going to come easy.