Racing: Dubai lures top riders and Classic contenders

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MICHAEL ROBERTS has his first opportunity to impress his new employer, Sheikh Mohammed, when he leads a European side in today's International Jockeys' Challenge in Dubai.

The British champion partners Thierry Jarnet of France to take on Kent Desormeaux and Gary Stevens (United States), Michael Clarke and Ken Russell (Australia) and Yutake Take and Yukio Okabe (Japan).

Roberts also hopes to meet the Sheikh for the first time. 'I have no big questions to ask him, but when you talk horses, there's always plenty to discuss,' he said.

Several of the Maktoum brothers' potential Classic contenders will be running out of Dubai this season. These include Blush Rambler, trained by Michael Stoute last year, who is being prepared for the 2,000 Guineas or French equivalent by Richard Conway, an American.

More horses may enjoy such a preparation next year, as Sheikh Hamdan is considering setting up a yard in Dubai next season. 'I've been asked to look at upcoming young trainers and I have some in mind,' the Sheikh's racing manager, Angus Gold, said.