03/23/2005 1:00AM

All cool for U.S. horses in desert

Sheikh Mohammed (foreground) takes in the Dubai World Cup post position draw on Wednesday.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The already outstanding chances for an American-based winner in Saturday's $6 million at Nad Al Sheba racecourse were greatly enhanced on Wednesday when the four candidates - Choctaw Nation, Congrats, Lundy's Liability, and Roses in May - drew post positions that should help their running styles.

Roses in May, expected to be a strong favorite, drew post 12 in 13-horse field, the widest draw among the American entrants. He is expected to be part of the pace.

The stalkers Lundy's Liability and Congrats drew posts 5 and 7, respectively, while the closer Choctaw Nation will start from post 9.

The world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup is run over 1 1/4 miles on dirt. The race starts in a chute to the right of the grandstand, and continues for two furlongs before reaching a slight left-hand turn. There is a five-furlong run down a side of the course, before a three-furlong stretch run.

Because of the desert heat, racing at Nad Al Sheba is conducted at night. Post time for the race is 9:20 p.m. local time (12:20 p.m. Eastern). The forecast for Saturday is for a high of around 80 degrees and a low in the high 60's. The United Arab Emirates borders Saudi Arabia on the Persian Gulf.

The field may lose the longshot Grande Hombre, winner of the 2003 Pennsylvania Derby. On Wednesday, officials with Godolphin Racing, owned by the Maktoum family, hosts of the World Cup, said that Grand Hombre suffered a bruised right front foot while training earlier this week.

Grand Hombre did not gallop as scheduled on Wednesday morning as part of Godolphin's annual display of top horses in training.

"It's touch and go," said Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford. "This setback has come at a bad time."

The absence of Grande Hombre would leave Godolphin without a starter in a race its horses have won a record three times in nine runnings.

Sheikh Mohammed, who operates Godolphin with his family, is represented in his own colors by Ruler's Court, the winner of the 2003 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita. Ruler's Court breaks from post 6. Troubled by injury last year, Ruler's Court has had one subsequent start, finishing sixth in a prep race on March 5.

Wednesday's post position draw was conducted at a beachfront hotel approximately 10 miles from Nad Al Sheba racecourse.

The draw was conducted in two phases. A flight attendant from Emirates, the country's national airline, opened an envelope revealing the name of one of the 13 entrants.

At that point, the horses' representative walked on a stage where rows of small ornate doors were positioned on tables. The representative opened the door, which revealed a number that signified a post position.

Adele Dilschneider, who co-owns Congrats with Claiborne Farm, selected third, the first American-based runner to pick a post position.

By drawing post 7, Congrats will break from the same post that race winner Pleasantly Perfect had in 2004. Richard Mandella trained Pleasantly Perfect and will saddle Congrats.

Congrats, the runner-up in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5, will be near the front, Mandella said. "He'll be right there. The important thing is to be home first," he said.

The connections of Lundy's Liability, who defeated Congrats in the San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 6, had the seventh selection, while those of Roses in May picked ninth.

Kenneth Ramsey, who owns Roses in May, said before the draw that he wanted posts 2 through 4 and did not want the rail or the outside. By the time that Roses in May's name was picked from the envelopes, posts 3 and 4 were gone. Ramsey picked 12, avoiding the rail, which was still available.

"Oh! Twelve!" Ramsey said, as he opened the small door, quickly spinning away in disappointment.

Later, trainer Dale Romans said an outer post should benefit Roses in May. "We have plenty of run into the turn," he said. "We don't have to worry about getting covered up. I'd rather be outside."

Choctaw Nation's name was chosen last of the Americans. With two posts available, owner Bob Bone picked 9, leaving Grande Hombre on the rail.

Drawing post 9 for Choctaw Nation met with trainer Jeff Mullins's approval, but he is more interested in seeing how the late-running gelding will act on Nad Al Sheba's three-furlong stretch.

"As long as he gets in the clear, I think he has a chance," Mullins said.

The field

Dubai World Cup
Purse: $6 million; 1 1/4 miles Nad Al Sheba racecourse

1Adjudi MitsuoHiroyuki Uchida10
2ChiquitinMichael Kinane11
3Choctaw NationVictor Espinoza9
4CongratsTyler Baze7
5DyneverJose Santos13
6ElmustanserRichard Hills2
7Grand HombreFrankie Dettori1
8Jack SullivanDarryll Holland4
9King's BoyAaron Gryder8
10Lundy's LiabilityPat Valenzuela5
11Roses in MayJohn Velazquez12
12Ruler's CourtKerrin McEvoy6
13Yard-ArmWeichong Marwing3

* Post: Saturday, 12:20 p.m., Eastern
* Post positions differ from saddle cloth numbers