Not to be too much of a homer, but the first thing I did when I saw the nominations for the Dubai World Cup was scan the list for those horses trained in the USA. Surprisingly, a look at the long list of horses nominated to the big race reads like a who’s who of American racing. Although, with a purse of ten million dollars, the Dubai World Cup is the world’s richest race, so maybe it should be no wonder then, despite being half away across the globe, that the riches of the Middle East will succeed in attracting some of our biggest stars. Topping the American-centric list are both of our reigning three-year-old champions, Royal Delta and Animal Kingdom.
Contested on Saturday, March 31, the 1 ¼ mile race will be run on Meydan Racecourse’s all-weather surface. Considering that both of our returning sophomore champions have won on synthetic surfaces, and also are proven at the distance, it makes sense that each of the connections seem eager and willing to take the big shot in Dubai.
Royal Delta was an overwhelming choice as the champion 3yo filly after a convincing win in the ten furlong Alabama in August, before ending her season with an impressive win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Since her last start the daughter of Empire Maker was sold at auction to Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables for $8.5 million. She has recently resumed training at Payson Park for trainer Bill Mott.
Not quite so confidently selected by the voters, but a champion nonetheless, Animal Kingdom was America’s top three-year-old through the Triple Crown season. The Kentucky Derby winner has not run since a horrid trip in the Belmont Stakes, but has been working well for trainer Graham Motion. The Team Valor charge may well make his first start back in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on February 11. If you are not sold that Animal Kingdom or Royal Delta can handle the best of the proven older horses, maybe you will favor a pair of older males from California.
Fresh off his Eclipse Award as Champion Older Male, Acclamation is an interesting nomination to the ten million dollar race. Perhaps more than any other horse currently in America, Acclamation is proven at the distance as demonstrated by his four graded stakes wins at a 1 ¼ miles or more. He also has a strong performance on a synthetic surface on his resume, with his exciting victory over Twirling Candy in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic last August.
Also nominated to the Dubai World Cup was a horse which Acclamation defeated in the Pacific Classic, and narrowly beat out for champion older male, Game On Dude. When last seen the gelded son of Awesome Again was running a courageous second to Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If the Bob Baffert trainee does make the trip though, he will have a variety of choices, as he is also nominated for three other races on the $27+ million dollar card … the Dubai Sheema Classic, Dubai Duty Free, and Godolphin Mile.
If those big four are not enough, maybe your favorite can be found among the other Americans of note nominated to the Dubai World Cup, including, Preakness champ - Shackleford, BC Turf third - Brilliant Speed, Jerome winner - Adios Charlie, multiple stakes winner - Duke of Mischief, Jockey Club Gold Cup hero - Flat Out, multiple derby winner - Prayer for Relief, Belmont champ - Ruler On Ice, and undefeated star – Trickmeister.
If you’re thinking about making the trip to the City of Gold for the Dubai World Cup and all the rest of the great races on the richest night of racing, like I am, no worries. A business class airfare there and back will only run you in the neighborhood of $12,000. Too bad we can’t run for the ten million … see you there!