Racing: Nayef's class can keep Dubai prize in the family

By Richard Edmondson
Saturday 29 March 2003 01:00

Thus far this week it has been a most unrecognisable Dubai World Cup meeting. Prompted entirely by the nearby struggle between other nations, the triumphalism of the occasion has all but been buried in the dunes.

There are not as many visiting spectators in the Emirates this spring and those who have come to watch the lavish ceremony at today's richest ever single card meeting, offering prizemoney totalling $15.25m (£9.7m), will be disappointed. That part of proceedings, with its military connotations, has been rubbed out.

Nevertheless, once the racing itself starts, first under the sun and then the stars, Nad Al Sheba will be indistinguishable from any other World Cup meeting. The main race has a familiar shape, with Godolphin well equipped to fight off the visitors and register a fourth victory for the home side.

Even if they are denied by the favourite, the sole British-trained runner in Nayef, it will hardly be a ruinous result as the handsome colt is owned by one of the boys, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Nayef has been pointed towards today since the time the sparklers were out. His trainer, Marcus Tregoning, wanted to take in this race 12 months ago, but the Maktoums were well covered in the main contest with Sakhee and Street Cry. He was compensated by winning the Dubai Sheema Classic over a mile and a half, a trip Nayef manages, though he is probably better over today's 10 furlongs.

Godolphin's Moon Ballad and Grandera have both won their trials at Nad Al Sheba, but Frankie Dettori has decided to partner the former, last season's Derby third. The second string should not necessarily be marked down, as Street Cry showed last year. Almutawakel was not the most fancied Godolphin shot in 1999 either. Grandera is admittedly nutty as a fruitcake, but he does have his moments. It is up to Jamie Spencer to conjure another one.

There are representatives also from France and the United States. This is the swansong for Elie Lellouche's Aquarelliste, whose next appointment is with Sadler's Wells. The best of the Americans are not here but Harlan's Holiday, who was seventh when favourite for the Kentucky Derby, is. Both will get a good view as Nayef (5.40) launches what may be a quite dramatic season.

This year's Kentucky Derby is once again the Captain Ahab quest of Sheikh Mohammed. He will have a face as long as a dish-dash if Inamorato, the prime Godolphin candidate for Churchill Downs in May, does not continue the team's unbeaten run in the world's richest Derby, the UAE version.

In the Dubai Sheema Classic we will be able to determine how much the talented Sulamani has progressed from last season. The former French colt does not have to step up much from the form of his win in the Prix du Jockey Club and runner-up position in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

There is however the danger from Ange Gabriel (3.30) the coming horse in France and such an improver that the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in high summer is being considered as a legitimate target. He is worth a chance to hack away at the beanstalk.

The Dubai Duty Free should see some spreading of the wealth as South Africa's Ipi Tombe (4.50), who is on her way to the United States, has a bulletproof look. Similarly, American sources believe that defeat is not an option for Captain Squire (4.10) in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments