Updated on 09/16/2011 8:01AM

Dubai Diary: Part I


Well Toto, we're sure as hell not in Kansas anymore. Dubai, Las Vegas without the themes and gambling, is a surreal spot. The downtown "Strip" where my high-tech hotel is located is about a six block long series of glassy, steel high-rises plunked down in the desert, just a few miles from the calm waters of the Persian Gulf. At night it is lit up just like Vegas, a neon jungle surrounded by sand. Cell phones abound, as do men in dresses, traditional Arab outfits known as dishdashas.

Today's main activity was a morning workout/interview session at Godolphin's Al Quoz stables, a bizarre little oasis about three miles from the strip, which loomed large in the background. There are a few palm trees, a small white building, about 150 seats, a patch of grass and the training track, all stuck in an area of town that resembled a rundown section of rural Mexico. Things got really weird when hundreds of millions of dollars of top-class Godolphin horses trotted out into this scene and began working out. They didn't do any real hard work, but looked marvelous, as top-class horses are supposed to do.

favorite Sakhee led the charge, and the best horse in the world went about his business professionally, prepping for what should be a glorified workout on Saturday night, as there is no one in the lackluster field who figures to even make the superstar sweat.

Stable manager Simon Crisford, a former journalist who charmed the British media with a wink and a few witty answers to their softball questions, did say that Sakhee is being pointed for a return to America to avenge his narrow loss in the Breeders' Cup Classic, so here's hoping he stays healthy through the summer.

Yours truly, as well as intrepid Daily Racing Form writer Brad Free, peppered Crisford and found out that Godolphin will be sending a small but talented group of older horses to New York this spring, led by Street Cry, who will undoubtedly finish second in a few big races. The top Kentucky Derby hopefuls are familiar faces, led by the tempermental Essence of Dubai. Godolphin is hoping the regally bred son of Pulpit will like the added distance of the 1 1/4-mile UAE Derby Saturday night. Crisford also indicated they are looking for a good run from the talented maiden Ibn Al Haitham, a gorgeous, jet-black colt who was the best looking horse on the track all morning.

With jet lag setting in like a snake wrapping up its prey, it's time for some much-needed sleep. Next up, a trip to Nad al Sheba racetrack and the open air markets of the "Old Town," where gold is as plentiful as sand in this surreal part of the world.