03/22/2009 11:00PM

Bettor's guide to World Cup Night

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The Dubai Duty Free rates as the best race on the $21 million Dubai World Cup card at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday night. Eight Group 1 or Grade 1 winners will line up for the 1 1/8-mile turf race, two fewer than last year's running, which was won in record time by Jay Peg.

Jay Peg has not had the best of preparations for his title defense. He was a dull fourth in a one-mile handicap at Nad Al Sheba when spotting the field weight, after which he was 1 1/4 lengths second to Duty Free contender Balius in the Group 2 Jebel Hatta. It may be that we have already seen the best of him.

Because of the Duty Free's competitiveness, even the favorite should provide value. That could be Archipenko, the unlucky Arlington Million runner-up who returned from a seven-month absence to take the Group 3 Zabeel Mile with a certain style, going clear at the eighth pole and finishing with determination. The way his trainer, Mike de Kock, gets them ready for big races suggests that Archipenko is the horse to beat, despite the fact that he is not yet a Group 1 winner.

Kip Deville fits well in the Duty Free but he is 0 for 2 in foreign climes. He was only fifth in the Woodbine Mile on a European-type course with a 2 1/2-furlong stretch similar to that at Nad Al Sheba. At Sha Tin in December he was a dull ninth when failing to handle the right-handed turn. On Saturday he will be running around two mild left-hand turns, and while his trainer, Rick Dutrow, won two races on World Cup Night last year, Kip Deville looks in tough. The other American entry, Hyperbaric, is stepping up in class after his Citation Handicap victory four months ago.

Vodka, winner of the Japanese Derby two years ago and the one-mile Yasuda Kinen vs. males last year, was very unlucky when trapped on the rail in the Zabeel Mile, finishing two lengths behind Balius in fifth. A close fourth in last year's Duty Free, she must be given every consideration.

Paco Boy, Lady Marian, and Creachadoir are all coming off European Group 1 scores. Paco Boy took Longchamp's seven-furlong Prix de la Foret on Oct. 4 but hasn't run since, while the Godolphin-owned Creachadoir is returning from a leg injury suffered after winning Newbury's Lockinge Stakes on May 17. Both can probably be eliminated from serious consideration as can the Godolphin filly Lady Marian, who has been idle since her Oct. 5 victory in the 1 1/4-mile Prix de l'Opera.

If you are looking for an upset special, take Gladiatorus. Never worse than second in his last nine starts in Italy and Dubai, he won the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort by 5 3/4 lengths last time, and while he is stepping up in class, he may be improved enough to get the job done.

Because it lacks a standout like Curlin or Dubai Millennium, this may be the best betting Dubai World Cup of all time. The four-horse American contingent is the weakest we have ever sent, while the locals and other invaders are still largely unproven. There are, however, three horses that have the potential to be international stars, and the winner is likely to come from that trio.

Probable favorite Albertus Maximus eked out a half-length win in the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap, the race won by Cigar, Captain Steve, and Invasor prior to their World Cup triumphs. There is, however, a question about his ability to stay 1 1/4 miles. He was only eighth in his lone try at 10 furlongs in the 2007 Pacific Classic, although trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, eight times the champion trainer in the United Arab Emirates, is confident he will get the trip.

A distant second to Curlin in last year's World Cup, Asiatic Boy prepped for this with a visually impressive 2 1/4-length win in Round 3 of the Group 2 Maktoum Challenge over the World Cup course and distance. Trained by Mike de Kock, he comes into the race perfectly. Casino Drive, a half-brother to Belmont winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, was a sharp second in this World Cup trial over an inadequate mile in Tokyo's Grade 1 February Stakes. One of these days he may fulfill his great potential, but will it be on Saturday night?

Well Armed would be the World Cup favorite if the race was run on a synthetic surface. Since it goes on dirt, he is fully capable of repeating his third-place finish of last year.

British bookmakers have installed Doctor Dino as the favorite for the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic, but he has not run since winning the Hong Kong Vase on Dec. 14. Two-time Arc runner-up Youmzain has not run since Oct. 5 and is coming off a similar layoff when fifth and third in the last two Sheema Classics. The Americans Red Rocks and Marsh Side can be safely eliminated. A pair of ex-South Africans, Russian Sage and Front House, both trained by de Kock, are the ones to note.

Russian Sage is a two-time Group 1 winner going 1 1/4 miles in South Africa who prepped with a hard-fought second in the Jebel Hatta, dead-heating with Jay Peg. He will appreciate the step up in distance, but perhaps not as much as the filly Front House, an Irish-bred Sadler's Wells-Darshaan cross who beat Quijano last time in the 1 1/2-mile Group 2 Dubai City of Gold.

American domination of the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen will be tested as we have not sent our best sprinters this year. Still, Indian Blessing wins this on her best, although the value plays look like Big City Man and Lucky Quality, the Hong Kong invader who is 4 for 4 on the Sha Tin dirt vs. lesser.

Anything but Desert Party would be a big disappointment in the UAE Derby. Godolphin's Kentucky Derby candidate has already beaten all of the main contenders in the UAE 2000 Guineas and an allowance race. He is bred to stay up to 1 1/4 miles and should have no trouble getting this 1 1/8 miles.

Gayego will take all the beating in the Godolphin Mile. In his first start for Godolphin on March 5 off a three-month absence, the Arkansas Derby winner beat Big City Man in the six-furlong Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal. He appears to have a class edge over his rivals, including the Doug O'Neill-trained Informed. One must beware of the Godolphin entry Two Step Salsa, a two-time Grade 3 winner on the Hollywood Cushion Track who was third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and who prepped with a 3 1/2-length score in a six-furlong handicap on Feb. 20.