It was an overcast day, hot and sticky, in Dubai yesterday. The most serious sweating though will come from those who have to overcome the Godolphin battalions which came blazing into view just after dawn at Sheikh Mohammed's Al Quoz stables on the city outskirts.
The Godolphin horses always look good after a winter of pampering under the Gulf sun. Taking the sheets off the new models at Al Quoz has become an annual spring occasion, a mixture of beauty pageant and Red Square power exhibition.
It was certainly warmer than the Ballydoyle version at the Curragh on Sunday and no less impressive, and if there is one horse which is making the boys in blue struggle to contain their enthusiasm it is Inamorato, at this stage the leading Emirates player for the Kentucky Derby.
Before Churchill Downs though there is the small matter of the planet's richest race and card at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday. The draw for the big race, the Dubai World Cup, was conducted yesterday and the primary numbers concerned the favourite, Nayef, who got a perfect pitch, and the Godolphin pairing of Moon Ballad and Grandera, which did not.
Nayef, the only British-trained runner in the 11-strong field, will emerge from the No 7 box. "He is a horse I always look forward to riding and I just hope he runs as well as he did when he won the Sheema Classic last year," Richard Hills, who won the Dubai World Cup four years ago on Godolphin's Almutawakel, said.
The home team is pursuing a fourth win in the race following the victories of Dubai Millennium and Street Cry, but their prospects were slightly compromised when Moon Ballad and Grandera drew stalls 11 and nine respectively. Nevertheless, Dubai Millennium was similarly placed when he strode away with this race from the front three years ago and Moon Ballad, Godolphin's No 1 shot in the hands of Frankie Dettori, has a similar style of running.
Saeed Bin Suroor was not particularly despondent. "My horses both have good chances in the race," the trainer said. "Moon Ballad's form in Europe last year is really very good and he won his last race on dirt very well. Also, he is by Singspiel who won this race in 1997. He is a horse who has a lot of early speed and I do not think it will be a problem to come from the outside draw. With a good horse you can come from any position.
"Grandera should be able to get just behind the leaders. The important thing with him is that there must be a very fast pace to help him settle but I think there will be and I think he will run well."
It was confirmed that Dettori's handsome book of mounts would include Sulamani, whom the Italian partnered in a five-furlong canter yesterday, in the Dubai Sheema Classic. He will leave the main event to the proven dirt horses.
"We just feel that he is a better horse on turf and it is the sensible thing to stick to what we know he acts on," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said. "He was a very exciting horse last year but we haven't thought about a programme for him. It is very much one race at a time."
Among Sulamani's opponents will be Dano-Mast, the Danish horse who had snow on his hooves less than a month ago. The best horse Scandinavia has produced in 30 years has each-way prospects judged on his third in the Group One Hong Kong Cup in December.
Another participant is Kevin McAuliffe, once of Delamere Cottage Stables, Lambourn, but now trainer to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He has three runners on the card. "If somebody had told me this time last year that I would be in Dubai with three runners going for gold at the World Cup meeting," McAuliffe said, "I would have thought they were on something."
Crisford said that Godolphin has no plans to replace David Loder as trainer of their two-year-olds when he retires at the end of the season. "The plan is to send most of the yearlings to the trainers which the Sheikhs use now. They will then graduate to Godolphin if they are good enough," he said.Reuse content