03/05/2009 12:00AM

Asiatic Boy earns way to Dubai World Cup

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Asiatic Boy returned to winning ways at Nad Al Sheba Thursday night with a convincing score in Round 3 of the Group 2, $300,000 Maktoum Challenge. The runner-up to Curlin in last year's Dubai World Cup, he will head into this year's edition of the world's richest race as the most accomplished of the locally trained challengers.

Less than a length third to My Indy in his seasonal debut on Feb. 5 in Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge, Asiatic Boy wore down Round 2 runner-up Happy Boy for a 2 1/4-length victory under Johnny Murtagh. Trained by Mike de Kock, the Argentine-bred Asiatic Boy covered the 1 1/4 miles in a tepid 2:03.03. Godolphin's Kirklees was fourth, with Breeders' Cup Marathon winner Muhannak fifth, 12 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

Honour Devil's World Cup prospects took a second straight hit as the de Kock trainee was beaten 2 1/2 lengths into second by Snaafy in the Group 3, $200,000 Burj Nahaar. The winner of last year's UAE Derby, Honour Devil had previously been a distant third in a modest one-mile allowance, and while he ran better this time, he had nothing in the tank through the final furlong.

Owned by Hamdan al-Maktoum, Snaafy had raced unsuccessfully on turf in England but has now won three straight on the Nad Al Sheba dirt and is a prime candidate for the Godolphin Mile. His winning time was 1:37.00.

The consistent but unheralded Balius made his Nad Al Sheba debut a winning one as he came late for a 1 1/4-length victory over dead-heaters Jay Peg and Russian Sage in the Group 2, $250,000 Jebel Hatta, a course and distance prep for the Dubai Duty Free, a race won last year by Jay Peg. Second to Archipenko in the Queen Elizabth II Cup in April, Balius had most recently been second to Eagle Mountain in the Hong Kong Vase. The Japanese filly Vodka had a rough trip as she was trapped along the rail through the stretch, finishing fifth, beaten two lengths.

Formerly trained in France by Carlos Laffon-Parias but now with Abdullah bin Huzaim, a trainer for Sheikh Mohammed's son Rashid, Balius covered the 1 1/8 miles on good turf in 1:48.84.

The added distance of the 1 1/2-mile Dubai City of Gold, a Group 2, $250,000 prep for the Dubai Sheema Classic, was just what the filly Front House needed as she held off Quijano by a half-length. Second in a pair of Group 3 races at a mile and 1 1/8 miles earlier this winter, the de Kock-trained Front House had been a Group 2 winner in South Africa at 1 1/2 miles, and looks like one of the favorites for the Sheema Classic. Quijano, however, will improve for this effort as he had not run since Oct. 4 when ninth in the Canadian International. King of Rome was third, while Purple Moon, a nose second to Doctor Dino in the Hong Kong Vase, was fourth. The winning time was 2:31.70.

Just about everyone had given up on Arkansas Derby winner Gayego after he finished 17th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and 11th in the Preakness. But Godolphin picked him up last fall and he rewarded its faith with a three-quarter length victory in the Group 3, $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal, a six-furlong trial for the Dubai Golden Shaheen. In fact, the first three home were all ex-Americans as Al Shindagha Sprint winner Big City Man was second, with the winner's stablemate Diabolical third, 3 1/2 lengths farther behind.

The Argentine-bred Soy Libriano won a Midshipman-less Al Bastakiya by two lengths from Godolphin's Jose Adan, who raced erratically throughout. The result means that Godolphin's Desert Party will be the favorite for the UAE Derby on World Cup Night. Midshipman, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, has been injured and will miss the Triple Crown.

City Style continued to progress for Godolphin as he surged to a 1 3/4-length win in a 7 1/2-furlong, $150,000 turf allowance. The question for Godolphin is what to do with him next. Fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, City Style is a gelding and so ineligible for the European classics.