World's richest race has wide-open 14-horse field
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 2:59 PM
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The Dubai World Cup boasts 14 horses from five countries in what looks to be a wide-open field competing in the world's richest race.
The showcase event Saturday at Meydan Racecourse tops an eight-race program with $26.25 million in prize money. The World Cup carries a $10 million purse.
The race has several intriguing story lines, with three horses from disaster-ravaged Japan, and three from Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed's Godolphin stables, which hasn't won the race since 2006.
Then there's Gitano Hernando, owned by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused of running the mostly Muslim republic in southern Russia like his personal fiefdom.
Three U.S.-based horses are in the field, led by three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, who finished fourth in last year's World Cup and has earned more than $5 million. The others are Fly Down and Richard's Kid.
But it's England-based Twice Over who is listed as the 2-1 by the Daily Racing Form. A disappointing 10th in last year's World Cup, the 6-year-old horse was brought to Dubai much earlier this year and won the $300,000 Al Maktoum Challenge this month.
"We thought he had a really great chance last year but things didn't go his way," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Racing, which owns Twice Over.
"We saw the other horses that ran well in the Dubai World Cup had been out here and had time out here. We thought maybe that is the key. So far, we are very happy with how the horse has progressed physically and on the track."
Gio Ponti is the 6-1 second choice. He won the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last year and finished second to Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile in November, but is making his first start of 2011.
Gio Ponti's assistant trainer Christoph Lorieul said the horse has looked much stronger than he did last year during the final series of workouts this week.
"It's a big challenge this year because he hasn't had a run," Lorieul said. "Last year, we came into this race with one run under his belt, whereas he wasn't ready for it this time around. We've just brought him to the race with works only and I hope it works."
Of the Japan-based horses, Buena Vista - with Ryan Moore aboard - could have the best chance. Chosen horse of the year in Japan in 2010, the 5-year-old mare remains a fans favorite and has the credentials after finishing second in Dubai last year in the Sheema Classic.