01/15/2002 1:00AM

Curule facing China Visit


China Visit and Curule head a field of 10 at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday night in Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge, the first local prep for the March 23 Dubai World Cup.

Trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin, China Visit is the defending champ in this one-mile Group 3 dirt contest. Most recently third in the Hong Kong Mile, he ran the best race of his career when he won the Group 2 Prix du Rond-Point at Longchamp on Oct. 6.

Curule, whose latest effort was a second in a Saratoga allowance on Aug. 11, finished 1 1/2 lengths behind China Visit in a Nad Al Sheba allowance last March, after which he finished a head in front of him as runner-up in the Godolphin Mile.

Round 2 of the Challenge will be run on Feb. 7 at 1 1/8 miles. Round 3, at 1 1/4 miles, is scheduled for Feb. 28.