A cosmopolitan gathering of horses from seven different countries will contest the $US10 million ($A10.83 million) Emirates Dubai World Cup at Meydan.
A maximum 16-runner field has assembled for one of the most open events in the 19-year history of the world’s richest race.
Ruler Of The World, trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, vies for favouritism in Saturday’s 2000-metre contest with Hong Kong runners Military Attack and Akeed Mofeed.
Local hopes centre around three horses owned by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.
The sheikh’s Godolphin enterprise is represented by Vancouverite and Cat O’Mountain, from Charlie Appleby’s stable, and African Story.
The latter is trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, who saddles a second runner in Prince Bishop. Bin Suroor has won the Dubai World Cup five times, most recently with Moon Ballad in 2002.
“I feel good about our chances,” Bin Suroor said. “My horses have trained well in the build-up to the race. I expect both of them to be prominent in the early stages and they can both accelerate.”
British hopes rest with Red Cadeaux, Hillstar, Side Glance and Mukhadram, who is owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s brother, Sheikh Hamdan. Red Cadeaux and Side Glance finished second and fourth respectively in last year’s race behind Anilam Kingdom.
“Red Cadeaux likes the warm weather here in Dubai,” trainer Ed Dunlop said.
“It looks like anyone’s race and if you offered me second place again, I would take it.”
Hong Kong’s record is poor but John Moore, the Australian who trains in Hong Kong, believes Military Attack has what it takes.
“I was delighted when my horse ended up in stall eight (at Wednesday’s Post Position draw),” Moore said.
“He is tactically versatile so we can wait and see how the race unfolds around us before we make our move.”
Japan fields a pair of runners in Hokko Tarumae and Belshazzar, the latter winner of the prestigious Japan Cup Dirt in December.
Belshazzar’s trainer, Kunihide Matsuda, was delighted to get stall two. “It will be a victory draw for us,” Matsuda said.
Completing the cast are Ron The Greek, representing Saudi Arabia, and Shanshaawes, from South Africa. Yet despite the international flavour, there is no United States-trained runner for the first time since the World Cup was inaugurated in 1996.
The synthetic racing surface installed at Meydan has seen US dominance – established when the event was run on dirt – wane considerably since the racecourse laid down a Tapeta surface four years ago.
And Australia, another prominent racing nation, has no representative at all.