03/04/2008 12:00AM

Asiatic Boy preps for date with Curlin

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Asiatic Boy, Curlin's main rival for the Dubai World Cup, will have his final preparation for the world's richest race at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday night when the Emirates Racing Authority conducts course and distance preps for all six races on the March 29 World Cup card.

But the Mike de Kock-trained Asiatic Boy will not be using Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge, the traditional 1 1/4-mile World Cup prep, to get ready for the big race. Instead, he will go in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar, a Group 3 mile, which his 13 foes will be using as a prep for the Godolphin Mile.

Unbeaten in five starts on the Nad Al Sheba dirt, the Argentine-bred Asiatic Boy started his season on Jan. 24 with a victory in the six-furlong Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint, overcoming a ton of trouble for a 1 1/4-length victory over last year's Dubai Golden Shaheen third-place finisher, Salaam Dubai. On Thursday, Asiatic Boy will break from post 12, and jockey Johnny Murtagh will have a nearly five-furlong straight to size up the opposition and get position before the turn for home. The main opposition may come from Blackat Blackitten, a two-time one-mile handicap winner for Godolphin this winter. Post time for the Burj Nahaar is 12:15 p.m. Eastern.

The Group 2, $300,000 Maktoum Challenge, scheduled for 1:20 p.m., features three intriguing candidates jockeying for World Cup position. De Kock will saddle Lucky Find, a South African-bred son of the Forty Niner stallion Rich Man's Gold who improved his record to 2 for 2 going 1 1/8 miles at Nad Al Sheba with a 2o1/4-length win in Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge on Feb. 7.

Challenging Lucky Find will be Argentine champion Latency, who is fresh off a Dec. 15 triumph in the 1 1/2-mile Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini, the South American equivalent of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Trained by Juan Udaondo, Latency is equally adept on dirt, however, as evidenced by victories in his previous two starts going 1 1/8 miles at the Group 1 and 2 levels.

Godolphin will place its hope on its $9.7-million yearling purchase Jalil. An improving Storm Cat-sired full brother to After Market, Jalil has found his best stride on the Nad Al Sheba dirt this winter, scoring impressive handicap wins at 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/4 miles. But he is stepping up in class Thursday night.

The Group 3, $200,000 Dubai City of Gold, the prep for the Dubai Sheema Classic, boils down to a match race between Quijano and Oracle West.

Quijano won this race last year, and the Peter Schiergen-trained runner has since won the Grosser Preis von Baden and placed in the Canadian International and Hong Kong Vase. Oracle West, another de Kock-trained South African-bred, was second in both the City of Gold and the Sheema Classic last year and is coming off a 1 1/8-mile turf handicap score on Feb. 8.

Royal Oath could give Will Farish and his son Bill a victory in the $250,000 Jebel Hatta, a Group 2 trial for the Dubai Duty Free. Last year's four-length Royal Hunt Cup winner, Royal Oath is coming off a second-place finish in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, in which Lord Admiral was third. Lord Admiral again will face Royal Oath in the Jebel Hatta. Also in it are New Zealand's champion female Seachange and French Group 2 winner Racinger, who prefers soft ground.

Salaam Dubai will knock heads with a pair of sharp former Americans in the six-furlong $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal. The de Kock-trained Frosty Secret is coming off a six-furlong handicap score, while Diabolical, who won the A.G. Vanderbilt last summer at Saratoga, will attempt to improve upon his unlucky fourth in the Al Shindagha for Godolphin.

Two more de Kock runners, Honour Devil and Royal Vintage, first and second in the UAE 2000 Guineas, face off in the $150,000 Al Bastikiya, a 1 1/8-mile UAE Derby prep. Also in the race is Godolphin's Numaany, a maiden winner at Aqueduct, but not Godolphin's Nashua Stakes winner Etched, who is sitting this one out.