All eyes will be on the desert on Saturday as Meydan hosts another great renewal of the Dubai World Cup.
Created through the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai World Cup provides a truly global stage upon which the best horses in the world come to compete every year.
The US$30m race day is held at Meydan Racecourse on the last Saturday in March and the showpiece in undoubtedly the US$10m Dubai World Cup, won in 2017 by Arrogate.
Bob Baffert’s even money favourite for the race, West Coast was given a less-than-favourable draw for Saturday’s big race.
The four-year-old colt was drawn on the outside in stall 9 out on 10 at the official post-position ceremony on Wednesday.
Second in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream, Baffert’s runner will need all the help he can get from his pilot Javier Castellano to negotiate his way past all his rivals drawn on the inside of him.
TALISMANIC (nap) presents a great opportunity for Andre Fabre to finally add his name to the Dubai World Cup roll of honour list.
The Frenchman runs Talismanic, the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf winner and based upon jockey bookings and cap colours he appears to be the first choice of the two Godolphin runners in the race.
Talismanic was runner up to the Aidan O’Brien-trained Highland Reel in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase back in December, then was given a prep race at Chantilly earlier this month where he beat stablemate Cloth Of Stars.
Talismanic tackles Meydan's dirt track for the first time but connections are confident he will covert to it well.
Thunder Snow, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, is their other runner in the 10-horse field.
Thunder Snow went to the United States for the Kentucky Derby last year, and although his bucking bronco act eliminated him at the start, he later won the 2017 Prix Jean Prat on turf in France, and has been running well on the dirt this winter at Meydan.
Thunder Snow certainly has decent credentials to be competitive in this race. He won both the UAE 2000 Guineas and the UAE Derby last year. He was runner-up twice and won the middle leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge in his three starts at Meydan but the only bugbear in this contest is his wide draw.
The former Godolphin inmate North America ran six times in England when trained by Charlie Appleby. Since then he has been moved to the Middle East and is now trained by Satish Seemar, the handler at the Zabeel Stables.
Arriving there in the summer of 2016, North America racked up four wins on the trot at Meydan Racecourse.
The six-year-old gelding comes into the reckoning after winning the Dubai World Cup prep race, the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge, in a track record time. In his past three outings he has improved on every start, from third on his reappearance, and then runner up to Thunder Snow before avenging that defeat to beat that very same horse by seven-lengths.
It would be somewhat of a fairytale is Gunnevera and trainer Antonio Sano were to lift the esteemed Dubai World Cup trophy.
Gunnevera heads into the $10 million Dubai World Cup off a third-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup. The four-year-old colt has finished behind West Coast in the past three starts and will be hoping to turn that form around with him on foreign soil.
The chestnut runner has won five of his 15 starts including a victory in the Group 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes last March.
Japanese raider Awardee brings along plenty of experience but has not won at this level.
A six-race winning streak from September 2015 to November 2016 has been followed up by failing to trouble the judge in his last eight starts. He has however finished runner-up in two Grade 1’s in that time.
Furia Cruzada finished second-last in the race won by Arrogate twelve months ago but her connections are hoping for a better showing this year.
She finished fourth to Thunder Snow and was an impressive runner-up to Promising Run, only going down by a short head. On Super Saturday, Furia Cruzada finished third behind North America and Thunder Snow in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
To date the females in this race have failed to break the male stronghold and her odds appear to reflect that herculean task.
Bob Baffert’s other runner Mubtaahij was runner-up behind California Chrome in 2016 and fourth to Arrogate last year. It will be a case of third time lucky for Baffert’s six-year-old who also has the favourite West Coast in the line-up.
The six-year-old Forever Unbridled will be attempting to become the first female winner in the 23-year history of the race. To date, To The Victory (Jpn) has been closest when second to Captain Steve in 2001.
Pavel has shown promise since his debut as a three-year-old in July of 2017 at Santa Anita Park.
He proved his class last September registering a win in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx scoring by six lengths. A subsequent third in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park cemented his credentials and his passport to Dubai.
Connections will be hoping to at least get in the frame to cover their expenses.
Even money for an unfavourably drawn horse is always a risky betting proposition and many people will be looking for a longer priced alternative.
Master French trainer Andre Fabre is well overdue adding this race to his illustrious C.V and Talisman is the each-way play in the race.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*