01/03/2012 2:36PM

Dubai World Cup carnival starts with Al Rashidiya Trial

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The 16-day Dubai World Cup carnival begins at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, with the $125,000 Al Rashidiya Trial over about 1 1/8 miles on turf as the highlight of the program.

The carnival season culminates with the Dubai World Cup program on March 31.

In advance of March 31, the carnival features 23 races worth $100,000 or more, including seven stakes worth $175,000 to $400,000 on March 10, a program billed as a Super Saturday of preps for the Dubai World Cup program.

The Dubai World Cup has been mentioned as a springtime goal for Royal Delta, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs in November; Game on Dude, the runner-up in the BC Classic; and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. The other seven races on the Dubai World Cup program are expected to be strongly supported by other American-based runners.

Thursday’s Al Rashidiya Trial over about 1 1/8 miles on turf is a prep for the $200,000 Al Rashidiya over about 1 1/8 miles on turf on Jan. 26. Derbaas, a 6-year-old American-bred horse by Seeking the Gold, is a leading contender. At the 2011 Dubai World Cup carnival, Derbaas won the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, but was last of 16 in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free on the Dubai World Cup program.

Mahbooba, the winner of the UAE 1000 Guineas in 2010 and sixth in the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in October, is also part of an expected field of 18.