Upgraded to Group 2 status this year, the 3200m Dubai Gold Cup is the first of the Dubai World Cup day turf races and has been dominated by the Godolphin trainers since it was first contested in 2009.
Saeed bin Suroor will be seeking a fourth win in the race and saddles Cavalryman, winner of the race last year and bidding to become the first dual winner of the most recent addition to the Dubai World Cup card.
The comfortable winner of the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy, over 2800m, on his seasonal return four weeks ago, he looks the one they all have to beat. However Bin Suroor’s chances of Group 2 glory in this race do not begin and end with Cavalryman.
Stable companion, Songcraft (IRE), won a 2400m handicap at the Dubai World Cup Carnival in February before an excellent second in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday, over the same trip.
Bin Suroor said: “Cavalryman won very nicely on his seasonal return four weeks ago and has been freshened up for this race. He won it last year so we know 3200m is fine and his last piece of work, last Saturday, was very good.
“Excellent Result has been running well and we hope the 3200m will suit him.”
Star Empire (SAF), second to Cavalryman in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy, was fifth in this race 12 months ago and it is hard to see an obvious reason why he should reverse form with Bin Suroor’s crack stayer.
Third in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy was Irish challenger Certerach (IRE), two places ahead of compatriot Simenon (IRE) who was noted staying on strongly under jockey, Ryan Moore.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Moore’s mount on that occasion has not won since Royal Ascot in June 2012 but has run some great races in defeat, including an excellent fourth in last year’s Melbourne Cup.
Mullins said: “The extra distance is in our favour but Cavalryman is going to be hard to beat.”
However, it looks significant that Moore rides Joshua Tree (IRE) in the race for Ed Dunlop while Pat Smullen comes in for the mount on Simenon.
Sixth in Super Saturday’s Group 1 concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, Joshua Tree and Moore won last year’s Group 1 Canadian International, a 2400m contest the horse had also won in 2010 and 2012.
Dabadiyan (IRE), like Certerach, is trained by Mick Halford with stable jockey, Shane Foley, electing to ride the former.
They are part of a very strong Irish contingent which also includes the John Oxx-trained Saddler’s Rock (IRE), seventh behind Cavalryman last year, when his saddle slipped, but only 11th behind that same rival four weeks ago.
Ernest Hemingway (IRE) is an interesting contender for Ireland’s Champion Trainer, Aidan O’Brien and this dual Group 3 winner looks the type his trainer does particularly well with in these staying races.
As well as the Godolphin duo of Cavalryman and Songcraft, Certerach and UK raider, Sheikhzayedroad (GB), both won at the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, while the Satish Seemar-trained Ralston Road (IRE) won on the all-weather at a Meydan Racecourse domestic meeting in December.
Godolphin’s Cavalryman bids for a repeat victory in the newly-upgraded Dubai Gold Cup.
Irish trainers enjoyed an excellent Dubai World Cup Carnival, with Mick Halford and David Marnane sharing seven winners between them and both will be well represented on Dubai World Cup night on Saturday.
Halford saddled four winners, one more than Marnane and they are among no less than six trainers with runners on the card with 18 from Ireland and at least one in every Thoroughbred race bar the Dubai Duty Free.
Champion Irish Trainer Aidan O’Brien has eight runners, the biggest team from the Emerald Isle, headed by last year’s Epsom Derby winner Ruler of The World likely to start among the favourites for the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup.
He bids to become the third European and first Irish-trained winner of the race.
Last year, O’Brien won the Group 1 Sheema Classic with the ill-fated St Nicholas Abbey and he has both Magician and Festive Cheer in this year’s renewal.
Half of his eight runners are in the UAE Derby, a race he won 12 months ago with Lines of Battle and in 2012 with Daddy Longlegs.
His main hope in this year’s renewal would appear to be Giovanni Boldini, a Listed winner last year and just denied at the Breeders’ Cup on his most recent outing.
Dubai Gold Cup hopeful Sir Ernest Hemingway completes O’Brien’s octet and is set to be one of no less than five runners from Ireland in the 3,200m contest, including Simenon, fourth in last year’s Melbourne Cup for leading National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins.
Fifth in the 2,800m Nad Al Sheba Trophy on his local debut, he looks certain to appreciate the extra 400m but his owner, Nick Peacock, sounds hopeful rather than confident, saying: “Cavalryman won that Nad Al Sheba Trophy well and won the Gold Cup last year so, in all honesty, he is going to be hard to beat.
"We are here for this race obviously, but I would be delighted if he was to finish second. We will aim him at Royal Ascot after Meydan.”
Certerach, one of Halford’s four Carnival winners, was third in that race when the John Oxx-trained Saddler’s Rock, another member of the Irish battalion, was only 11th.
Certerach’s stable companion, Dabadiyan, completes the Irish quintet in the longest race on the night.
Halford’s Russian Soul also won at the Carnival and is one of three for Ireland in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen, winner of the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint, over the same 1,200m Tapeta course and distance from compatriot Jamesie, who is again in opposition.
Halford’s stable jockey Shane Foley said: “The Carnival was brilliant and the horses just kept on running well. To have genuine contenders on World Cup night is very exciting.”
Marnane added: “Jamesie ran well on Super Saturday when, with a bit more luck, he would have been closer. He has been working well and should give a good account.”
The Ed Lynam-trained Balmont Mast, fifth in the Al Shindagha Sprint, was second in the Golden Shaheen last year and completes the Irish trio.
Stable companion Sole Power, twice a Group 1 winner, was fourth in the Al Quoz Sprint last year and was noted for staying on in the Meydan Sprint, over the same 1,000m on turf, on Super Saturday.
Marnane and Halford also clash in the Godolphin Mile with Halford’s Eastern Rules seeking a third 2014 victory at Meydan, but he would need to bounce back after a disappointing effort on Super Saturday.
Marnane’s Elleval also failed to fire at that World Cup meeting dress rehearsal but that was in the World Cup trial, the Group 1 third round of the Maktoum Challenge, and this drop to Group II company should suit.
On paper, this looks the strongest ever Dubai World Cup meeting raiding party from Ireland and they will certainly be hoping, if not expecting, to get on the scoreboard.
As always the $5 million Group 1 Dubai Duty Free is one of the strongest races on the Dubai World Cup card and 13 are set to face the starter in the 1800m turf feature.
Super Saturday’s Group 1 Jebel Hatta, over the same course and distance, was won by Vercingetorix, trained by South African, Mike De Kock who has won the race three times – including with Right Approach who famously dead-heated in the 2004 renewal.
Unbeaten after six career starts, De Kock’s charge has looked a potential superstar but his trainer urges a note of caution. He said: “We basically do not know how good he is or how much more he can improve.He is a lazy horse at home and, on the track, he wins his races with the minimum effort.
“Basically, Saturday is his toughest task to date and should answer a few questions. A lower draw would have been preferable but we are really looking forward to running him against the likes of The Fugue.”
Stable companion, Anaerobio, third in the Jebel Hatta three weeks ago, appears to have a fair bit to find.”
The UK are well represented as The Fugue, originally thought to be a Dubai World Cup candidate but switched to this contest last weekend, looks guaranteed to run a big race.
Trained by John Gosden for Andrew Lloyd-Webber, she is the mount of William Buick and therefore represents the same connections as Dar Re Mi, winner of the 2010 Dubai Sheema Classic.
Gosden said: “She had two easy days when she arrived and did a piece of steady work Thursday as she will Friday. I’m very happy with her. It was always the plan to keep her in training at five so hopefully she can vindicate that decision.”
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Dank also from the UK, a dual Group 1 winner in America last year, has reportedly settled in well and David Simcock, trainer of a third English challenger, Trade Storm is also happy with his charge.
He said: “He did his last serious work on Wednesday and went nicely. The turf has taken the rain very well and they were flicking the top off, but it was a sound, firm footing underneath.”
Tasaday (USA) and Hunter’s Light (IRE) both represent Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor. Favourite when disappointing in last year’s Dubai World Cup, Hunter’s Light is a Group 1 winner on both turf and all-weather.
His trainer said: “The 1800m is going to really suit him and we know he has improved a lot from his one previous run this season. He did a really pleasing piece of work on Sunday and I am very happy with him.”
Tasaday won her second 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival outing, the 2000m Dubai Millennium Stakes and her trainer said: “She showed a touch of class that day and will be fine over 1900m but it does look a strong renewal.”
Japan is particularly well represented with three runners, of whom Just A Way (JPN), looks the leading light.
He beat subsequent Japan Cup heroine and Dubai Sheema Classic hopeful, Gentildonna in last year’s Group 1 Tenno Sho and won his prep race nicely earlier this month.
His trainer, Naosuke Sugai said: “He had a nice, strong gallop on Wednesday and we were very pleased with him. We are very happy with our draw in two.
“All being well, he will run a very good race on Saturday as everything has gone to plan so far. Compatriot, Logotype (JPN), also galloped on Wednesday, pleasing his trainer, Ttsuyoshi Tanaka who said: “He did a lot of strong work before we left Japan and arrived in Dubai so we have not been too hard on him here. He has done everything asked of him comfortably and has enjoyed a good preparation.”
Tokei Halo (JPN) also represents his homeland, giving them a strong looking hand. Hong Kong’s Blazing Speed (GB), trained by Tony Cruz, has been pleasing his trainer and did his last fast piece of work on the all-weather surface on Wednesday.
Cruz said: “We are very pleased with him and things have gone smoothly. Wednesday’s gallop was his last serious one and he is fit and ready to race so it will just be light exercise between now and the race.” Mshawish (USA), from France, is another to have won at the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
Trained by Mikel Delzangles, he will be ridden by Frankie Dettori and looks well berthed in stall one.