03/11/2005 12:00AM

American fab four in main event

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Shamardal, winning the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes in July 2004, will go for his fourth victory in as many starts when he goes off as the favorite in the $2 million UAE Derby.

Led by Roses in May, the runner-up in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic, a strong group of American-based runners are being sent to the Middle East for the Dubai World Cup program at Nad Al Sheba on March 26.

The biggest prize of the program - the Group 1, $6 million Dubai World Cup - will have the largest American contingent, with four likely starters.

The seven-race program is worth $15.25 million, the richest day of racing in the world. Six races are for Thoroughbreds; each is likely to have at least one American-based starter.

The World Cup, run over 1 1/4 miles for 4-year-olds and up, is led by Roses in May, who races for Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey. Roses in May is expected to be joined by Congrats, the runner-up in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5; Lundy's Liability, who finished fifth in that race; and Choctaw Nation, who was fourth in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 26.

They are expected to be opposed by the Japanese invader Adjudi Mitsuo; Firewall, a major stakes winner from Argentina now based in Saudi Arabia; and Chiquitin, Elmustaner, and Grande Hombre, who are based in the Middle East.

Roses in May, the likely favorite in the World Cup, is a multiple stakes winner trained in Florida by Dale Romans. Roses in May finished second in his lone start this year, the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5.

Lundy's Liability is not certain to be sent to Dubai, trainer Bobby Frankel said Thursday. While most American horses are being sent to Dubai this Saturday, Frankel has made arrangements for Lundy's Liability and Marenostrum, a candidate for the $2 million UAE Derby, to stay in California until March 19 so he can monitor their training. Lundy's Liability won the 2004 UAE Derby before joining Frankel's stable.

The American quartet for the Dubai World Cup has a difficult act to follow. Last year, American-based runners Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d'Oro swept the first two positions in the World Cup.

- Steve Andersen

Sheema Classic, 1 1/2 miles (turf)

Mike de Kock always comes to Dubai well stocked with South African tigers. In Greys Inn he may have his best chance of victory on World Cup Night in the Sheema Classic. Greys Inn is the winner of South Africa's premier event, the 1 3/8-mile Durban July Handicap, in which Yard-Arm was ninth. He looked overpowering when beating Tycoon - third in the Irish Derby, St. Leger, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic - in the Dubai City of Gold on World Cup preview night. Greys Inn stays, loves firm ground, and must be considered superior to the hard-knocking Ken McPeek trainee Prince Arch, who was game to win the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap against lesser foes but has never been farther than 1 3/8 miles. Greys Inn has more to fear from Godolphin's Cherry Mix. The runner-up in the Arc, Cherry Mix didn't act on dirt when fourth in the Maktoum Challenge and will appreciate a return to his favorite surface and distance. French invader Vallee Enchantee, third and first in the last two Hong Kong Vase's, is one for the exotics.

- Alan Shuback

Dubai Duty Free, about 1 1/8 miles (turf)

Whilly is the lone American hope in a race in which Right Approach, who dead-heated with Paolini last year, will defend his title after a fast-closing second to Alkaadhem in the Group 3 Jebel Hatta. Right Approach was getting six pounds from Alkaadhem that night but will reoppose at equal weights in the Duty Free. One of a handful of Mike de Kock trainees with a good chance of winning on World Cup night, Right Approach also holds an edge over the Julio Canani-trained Whilly, twice a listed winner at a mile who is cutting back from his victory in the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos Handicap. Also beware Key of Destiny, the de Kock-trained horse who was third in the Jebel Hatta, and Keltos, a Group 1 mile winner in England in 2002. Right Approach's most dangerous rival could be stablemate Yard-Arm, a two-time Group 1 winner at a mile in South Africa who is a Group 3 course and distance winner at Nad Al Sheba.

- Alan Shuback

Dubai Golden Shaheen, six furlongs

Pico Central, the winner of four major stakes last year, is one of three American-based hopefuls for the $2 million Golden Shaheen, the world's richest sprint. The Golden Shaheen is run on dirt over six furlongs on a straightaway.

Pico Central will be joined by Saratoga County and the mare Bear Fan.

Pico Central has not started since finishing third in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last November.

Friday, Pico Central worked six furlongs in 1:15.20 at Hollywood Park. Trainer Paulo Lobo said Pico Central is battling a quarter crack in his right front foot, but is optimistic it will not interrupt plans for a start.

Saratoga County won the General George Stakes at Laurel on Feb. 21, his third consecutive stakes win.

Bear Fan, who won four stakes last year, was eighth as the favorite in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel on Feb. 19. She has since undergone throat surgery to aid her breathing, trainer Wesley Ward said.

- Steve Andersen

UAE Derby, 1 1/8 miles

The eyes of the racing world will be on Shamardal here. The European champion 2-year-old, Shamardal has never been headed in three starts, including a win over an excellent field in the seven-furlong Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes on Oct. 16, his most recent start. By Giant's Causeway, he should take to dirt, but this will be his acid test for entry into the Kentucky Derby. Standing in his way is Becrux, who is owned by Team Valor and trained by de Kock. A listed race winner in Italy last year, Becrux bounced back from a poor effort in the UAE 2000 Guineas to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance by 6 3/4 lengths. He may challenge Shamardal for the early lead. Al Bastikiya winner Parole Board may be a cut below this class, but a pair of American-trained Brazilian-breds will be looking to repeat the victory of last year's winner, Lundy's Liability - if they make it into the race. Durban Thunder is an undefeated Group 1 winner now trained by Ken McPeek. He was scratched from the Al Bastikiya because of a fever and will not be rushed to make the UAE Derby. Bobby Frankel is contemplating sending Marenostrum, a Brazilian Group 1 winner who was third in a Santa Anita allowance last Saturday.

- Alan Shuback

Godolphin Mile, 1 mile

Tsigane, sixth for Julio Canani in the Dubai Golden Shaheen last year in his lone try on dirt, has been winless in four starts since then. He appears in tough with Godolphin's Firebreak, the two-time defending champ. Firebreak has not run since taking the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile on turf on Dec. 12, but won this race last year off an equally long winter layoff. Threats loom in Jack Sullivan and the de Kock-trained Grand Emporium, the first two finishers in the Godolphin Mile prep. Those two also won Rounds 1 and 2 of the Maktoum Challenge, so, like Firebreak, they are proven over Nad Al Sheba's deep surface.

- Alan Shuback