American Horses Depart for Dubai

By Jason Ford)
Fourteen of the United States' best older horses have departed on flights from Los Angeles and Florida for the world's richest racing meeting later this month, the Dubai Racing Club confirmed Saturday.

Assuming all get invites to run on the big night, it will be the strongest U.S. representation yet for the World Cup racing card.

The raiding party is headed by Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Pleasantly Perfect, trained by Richard Mandella, and Bobby Frankel's multiple grade I winner Medaglio d'Oro. A powerful quartet for the March 27 World Cup (UAE-I) itself is completed by Doug O'Neill's Fleetstreet Dancer, winner of the Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) last year and Domestic Dispute, recent winner of the Strub Stakes (gr. II) for Paddy Gallagher.

The American's have won the world's richest race on three previous occasions – Cigar (1996), Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001). Americans like their chances to make it four this year with no obvious Godolphin candidate to thwart them.

The only race the Americans are likely to field a stronger numerical team is in the Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) over six furlongs, a race the Americans won from 2000-2002, before Paddy Rudkin's State City ended their dominance last year.

Heading the challenge this year is no less than Cajun Beat, winner of the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) last year and likely to be a strong favorite for trainer Steve Margolis.

He is joined by Todd Pletcher's grade I winner Harmony Lodge and Myra Mora's grade II winner Tour of the Cat. Also expected for the Golden Shaheen are Julio Canani's Tsigane and grade II-placed Our New Recruit, trained by John Sadler, the winner of four races. Harmony Lodge's stable companion Alke, a grade III winner, could contest the same race, though a tilt at the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) is also being considered.

The others on the planes include Sheema Classic (UAE-I) hopeful Hard Buck, winner of the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) recently for Ken McPeek but who was well beaten in last year's UAE Derby.

Neil Drysdale's Sarafan, a multiple stakes-winning son of Lear Fan whose best effort was probably his second in the 2002 Japan Cup (Jpn-I), is being aimed at the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I).

Bob Baffert's During, recent winner of the Swaps Stakes (gr. II), and O'Neill's Indiana Derby (gr. III) winner Excessivepleasure both have the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) as their target.