03/27/2009 11:00PM

Dubai rain showers threaten to continue


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The wind howled all day Friday in Dubai, but the rain stayed away - until Friday night. Then, about 10 p.m. local time, rain gusted down, and though it lasted only a half-hour or so, the shower probably was a harbinger of things to come.

After a largely dry Friday following Thursday's morning downpour, Dubai and Nad Al Sheba Raceourse were forecast to be pelted with heavy rain beginning Saturday morning and lasting through Dubai World Cup Night, and leaving open the possibility of a soggy $6 million Dubai World Cup.

Frank Gabriel, CEO of the Dubai Racing Club, said there were several places one could obtain a local forecast. "They all say something different," Gabriel said Friday afternoon.

Even if a lot of rain falls, there's not a strong fear that 2008 could repeat 1997, when downpours forced the cancellation and rescheduling five days later of the World Cup. The Nad Al Sheba main track was subsequently retrofitted for better drainage, and water now finds its way off the surface much more quickly than it did 11 years ago. Friday, the track was rated fast during morning training. The World Cup never has been contested on anything but a fast track.

The rain that has so far fallen this week hasn't had a great effect on the turf course here, either. Gabriel said the course would have been rated "good" were races run over it Friday. It should take a significant amount of moisture to turn the grass either yielding or soft, and truly change the conditions.

Black Seventeen may scratch from sprint

Do not be surprised if Black Seventeen is scratched sometime Saturday from the Golden Shaheen. The California-based horse who won the Grade 1 Vosburgh last fall has appeared lethargic in his training all week, and was led from the track back to the quarantine barn by his exercise rider on Friday morning.

"You never want to see the exercise rider leading a horse off the track," trainer Brian Koriner told Nad Al Sheba publicity staff.

Koriner said a "game-day decision" would be made on whether to start or scratch Black Seventeen from the six-furlong Golden Shaheen.