Fortune for cream of Sheba

Dubai is to stage racing's richest event.
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The Independent Online
Dubai has been exporting racing excellence to the world for almost two decades, but now the world may go to Dubai instead following yesterday's announcement that a new race there will be the richest anywhere on the globe.

The Dubai World Cup, a 10-furlong event for four-year-olds upwards, will be run at 1500 GMT at Nad al Sheba racecourse on 27 March, with total prize money of pounds 2.5m. Fourteen runners will be selected by an international panel of senior handicappers.

"This is a magnificent boost to international racing," Tristram Ricketts, chairman of the British Horseracing Board, said yesterday. "The opportunity to see some of the best older horses from all parts of the world competing for the huge prize money is mouth-watering."

There is also plenty of cash on offer at Sandown today, though we must thank the sponsorship of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club - or rather, the punters who pour millions of dollars into the colony's tote pool - for an excellent card. What, you wonder, might a reciprocal gesture at Happy Valley involve? The British Horseracing Board Selling Handicap, perhaps. First prize, a bowl of prawn crackers.

Gratitude is also in order from Britain's bookmakers, given the trappy nature of today's feature event, the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club Handicap. Seventeen go to post, the betting is 6-1 the field, so many punters may simply ask, "what's Reg got in it?"

Reg Akehurst's record in valuable handicaps needs little further repetition - in fact, he won this event last year with Knowth - and today he saddles Aljazzaf, runner-up to Burooj in the race before the Derby at Epsom last month. It would take all the fun out of it, though, if Akehurst won every time, and Aljazzaf, who might prefer an extra couple of furlongs today, has been cautiously priced by the layers at around 6-1.

Realities, who won the Hunt Cup at Ascot just over a fortnight ago, has also been well supported for today's race, despite top weight, doubts over whether he will stay today's 10 furlongs and the fact that he is much more accustomed to a straight track. However, Guy Harwood, his trainer, is concerned by only one of those points.

"I think he'll handle the track without any problem and he's a couple of pounds better than he will be in the new handicap marks," Harwood said yesterday. "It's just a question of whether he'll get the trip. He ran in this race last year and didn't run particularly well, but he wasn't as well as he is now. I think he's in just as good a shape as he was at Ascot, and if he runs to that form they'll all have him to beat."

Realities is certainly worth considering at 9-1, but a better bet at similar odds may be COUNTRY STAR (nap 3.05), whose four-race career seems to have been pointing towards this event for many months. An untroubled fourth on his seasonal reappearance, he has just 7st 12lb to carry and Henry Candy, his trainer, is almost as shrewd as Akehurst when he has the right raw material.

Mick Kinane, who will partner Realities, may succeed instead on Khamseh (next best 2.30), who lost her maiden status only a fortnight ago but would not be travelling so far south if Bill Watts did not think he would recover his petrol money.

Unconditional Love, who runs in the Listed sprint for juveniles, is another northern raider who must be respected. She was just out of the frame in the Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot but may only make the market for Mubhij (4.05), who went one place better in the Norfolk Stakes at the same meeting.

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