03/17/2015 2:46PM

California Chrome leads U.S. group of 16 to Dubai

Shigeki Kikkawa
California Chrome will run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28 at Meydan.

They’re back.

After basically saying thanks but no thanks in 2014, when a mere three horses made the trip, U.S.-based horses will travel en masse for the March 28 Dubai World Cup card at Meydan Racecourse.

Prospective fields for the races provided Tuesday by Dubai Racing Club officials include 16 American horses who were to ship overseas Tuesday. The return of dirt racing this year at Meydan, which had employed an all-weather racing surface since its opening in 2010, spurred the increased participation.

The American contingent includes two starters for the $10 million Dubai World Cup, California Chrome and Lea. Donn Handicap winner Constitution had been an intended World Cup runner before injuring a shin, and 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern might have traveled as well had he recovered in time from a foot problem.

Still, California Chrome and Lea figure to be the favorites in an expected nine-horse field that also includes two former American runners, Candy Boy and Ron the Greek, the latter based in Saudi Arabia, and the former having been based in the United Arab Emirates since January following his private purchase. The others invited to the World Cup and expected to run are African Story, Epiphaneia, Hokko Tarumae, Prince Bishop, and Side Glance.

Main Sequence, the 2014 champion male turf horse and last year’s winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, will attempt to become the first American-based horse to win one of the World Cup card turf stakes when he starts in the $6 million Sheema Classic. His trainer, Graham Motion, saddled the only U.S.-based World Cup winner during Meydan’s all-weather era, Animal Kingdom, who won in 2013.

The other American horses on the card are Secret Circle, Salutos Amigos, and Big Macher, all of whom go in the $2 million Golden Shaheen at six furlongs on dirt; Mshawish, who was invited to the $6 million Dubai Turf (formerly called the Duty Free); Bradester and Prayer for Relief, who go in the $1 million Godolphin Mile on dirt; Distinctiv Passion and Green Mask, who run in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint on turf; and two horses for the $2 million UAE Derby, Galicado and My Johnny Be Good.

The Motion-trained Quadrivium is traveling partly as a companion for Main Sequence, with hopes of getting an invitation to the Godolphin Mile.

The Sheema Classic also is expected to include Designs on Rome, Dolniya, Flintshire, Harp Star, Just The Judge, One and Only, Sheikhzayedroad, Sky Hunter, and True Story.

Along with Mshawish, the projected Dubai Turf field includes Cladocera, Earnshaw, Euro Charline, Farraaj, Hunter’s Light, Limario, Solow, The Grey Gatsby, Trade Storm, and Umgiyo.

The UAE Derby, also open to horses who are 4-year-olds on Southern Hemisphere time, is a major Kentucky Derby qualifying race, awarding 100 points to its winner. The leading Dubai-based horses expected to start are Mubtaahij and Maftool.

Notably absent from the list of expected starters this year are any horses trained by Aidan O’Brien, who in the past has been a reliable participant in the World Cup races.