Godolphin star Thunder Snow will again have to overcome a wide draw if he is to successfully defend his crown Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday.
The five-year-old provided trainer Saeed bin Suroor with a record eighth victory in the Emirates Airline-sponsored showpiece 12 months ago, before going on to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
He will be expected to strip fitter for his comeback run when second in round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge and bids to become the first horse in history to win the Dubai World Cup more than once.
Christophe Soumillon’s mount does not Appear ideally placed after drawing stall 12 of 13 – but he was widest of all in gate 10 last year.
Other leading fancies Capezzano and North America will break from stalls two and three respectively.
North America trainer Satish Seemar said: “This year we have gone up a little bit but three is a safe draw for him, and we were hoping like to get three to five for him, or even six.
“He’s done nothing wrong this season. He’s very good and fresh, just like we saw in leg one of the Al Maktoum Challenge. He’s a very impressive horse.
“He likes to be fresh and worked out perfectly.”
The Charlie Appleby-trained Old Persian is the likely favourite for the Dubai Sheema Classic under William Buick – and has drawn stall two.
Bin Suroor’s Racing History (four) also carries the Godolphin colours, while Aidan O’Brien saddles Magic Wand (three) and Hunting Horn (five).
David Simcock’s Desert Encounter drew the highest stall in eight.
Almond Eye is very much the star attraction in the DP World-sponsored Dubai Turf and is drawn in the middle in stall seven.
Sakae Kunieda’s four-year-old is unbeaten in five starts including top-level triumphs in the Japanese 1000 Guineas, the Japanese Oaks and the Shuka Sho, before beating the boys in November’s Japan Cup.
Connections have already identified this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp as her long-term objective – setting up a potentially mouth-watering clash with John Gosden’s dual Arc heroine Enable.
However, racegoers may not have to wait until October to see the star fillies lock horns, with Kunieda on Wednesday raising the possibility of Almond Eye first travelling to York this summer.
He said: “I hope to continue in international races – the Arc de Triomphe is the target.”
Almond Eye will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire, who said: “What she did last year – what she accomplished – was nearly perfect. I can’t find a weak point for her.
“She’s got the potential for that (Arc). She’s got stamina and she’s an easy ride.
“There’s a good programme for her in Europe and to challenge in the Arc. Running against horses like Enable and Sea Of Class would be a great challenge.”
Almond Eye’s 12 rivals on Saturday include Bin Suroor’s Dream Castle (stall two), O’Brien’s I Can Fly (eight) and the John Gosden-trained Without Parole (12).
Appleby’s Divine Image (six), O’Brien’s Van Beethoven (11) and Jahbath (two) from William Haggas’ yard all feature in the UAE Derby, while Appleby’s Blue Point (eight) is the long odds-on favourite for the Al Quoz Sprint – in which he will face O’Brien’s Lost Treasure (three) and Richard Fahey’s star sprinter Sands Of Mali (two).
Appleby has a particularly strong hand in the Dubai Gold Cup, with Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter (nine) joined by stablemate Ispolini (six).
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