02/05/2002 12:00AM

China Visit going for reversal


Godolphin's preparations for Dubai World Cup Night move into the second stage at Nad Al Sheba Thursday evening with Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge and the UAE 2000 Guineas Prep.

Narrowly beaten by Australian invader Skoozi in Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge, China Visit will seek revenge in Round 2, a 1 1/8-mile listed race on dirt. They will be joined by State Shinto, sixth in Round 1, and Curule, who was scratched from that race. Round 2 also features the return of Godolphin's Best of the Bests. A 5-year-old son of Machiavellian, Best of the Bests won this race by 12 lengths last year before finishing a disappointing eighth behind Captain Steve in the Dubai World Cup.

As it is a seven-furlong dirt contest, the UAE 2000 Guineas Prep rates as more of an early pointer to the Kentucky Derby than the 2000 Guineas. Featured are Assaaf, a Night Shift colt who saw his two-race unbeaten record snapped when he ran third in the listed Autumn Stakes at Ascot in October, and Ibn Al Haitham, the Norfolk Stakes runner-up who finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. For clues as to whom Godolphin favors in these races, it should be noted that Frankie Dettori will ride Best of the Bests and Assaaf.