03/29/2012 1:04PM

Dubai World Cup: Cirrus des Aigles shoots for a World Cup first in the Sheema Classic

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Hong Kong Jockey Club
Cirrus des Aigles will try to make trainer Corine Barande-Barbe the first female trainer to win a Thoroughbred race on Durbai World Cup Night when he runs in the Sheema Classic.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – There is a Ladies Night theme to this year’s Dubai World Cup. It centers on jockeys Hayley Turner and Chantal Sutherland, the first females to ride on World Cup Night. Then there is the champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta, who is attempting to become the first female horse to win the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Though Gillian Duffield has won the Kahayla Classic for Arabian horses three times, there has yet to be a female trainer to win a Thoroughbred race on World Cup night. France’s Corine Barande-Barbe could become the first when she sends out Cirrus des Aigles in the $5 million Sheema Classic at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

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Though the Sheema Classic marks the return to the races of St Nicholas Abbey, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Barande-Barbe expressed confidence that her 6-year-old gelding, who makes his 41st start on Saturday, more than belongs in this field.

“I think in racing competition the best horse wins,” said Barande-Barbe, who will turn 54 on Friday. “I know I have the best horse.”

Cirrus des Aigles has finished first or second in 29 of his 40 lifetime starts. He defeated Dubai World Cup favorite So You Think in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot last October, his fifth win from 11 starts in 2011, a year that ended with a fifth-place finish in the Hong Kong Cup.

Cirrus des Aigles finished second in his seasonal debut to Zazou in a 1 3/16-mile allowance race over Chantilly’s synthetic surface. While Zazou was entered in the World Cup, Barande-Barbe opted to go back to the turf with Cirrus des Aigles.

“I saw fit to leave him on the grass because his later campaign will be on the grass,” she said.

Cirrus des Aigles has 1 win and 4 seconds from 7 tries at 1 1/2 miles. However, those four seconds have come by a combined total of one length.

There does not appear to be a lot of speed in the Sheema Classic, but Barande-Barbe said she believes her French-bred gelding is adaptable to whatever pace scenario exists.

“He has a lot of speed and a lot of stamina,” Barande-Barbe said. “He can do things on his own if there is no pace.”

St Nicholas Abbey makes his first start since winning a weak renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Turf last November at Churchill Downs. He is a three-time Group 1 winner, but has yet to prove effective off layoffs.

Joseph O’Brien rides St Nicholas Abbey for his father, Aidan, who also sends out Treasure Beach, who won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington last year.

Mahbooba, the only female horse in the field of 10, has beaten males twice already this year at Meydan and was beaten a nose by First City in the Group 2 Cape Verdi at a mile. She defeated males in her only attempt at 1 1/2 miles last year.

Mahbooba is one of two horses sent out by Michael de Kock, who is 1 for 13 in this race, having won it in 2008 with Sun Classique. He also sends out Bold Silvano, who suffered an injury early last year and has yet to return to form.

Jakalberry, a four-time winner at 1 1/2 miles, had a useful prep when third in the Group Nad al Sheba Trophy at 1 3/4 miles 30 days ago.