03/25/2011 9:18AM

Dubai World Cup: Friday morning training sees Twice Over looking strong


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The week of a major horse race, no news is good news, and as for news, Dubai World Cup Week 2011 has been notably, fortunately light so far.

No reported injuries, no major training mishaps, no nothing, really. About the most exciting thing to hit Meydan Racecourse on Friday morning was the wall of fog that blew over the track at about 5 a.m. and dropped down to ground level 40 minutes later, swaddling the landscape in a covering of wet whiteness.

Out of the fog wall and onto the track walked Dubai World Cup favorite Twice Over a little past 6 a.m., his trainer, Henry Cecil, out at the track for the first morning since flying here from England. Because of fog, the particulars concerning much of Twice Over’s morning training routine will remain a mystery to all but horse and rider, but the part of Twice Over’s gallop that could be observed from a viewing area around the clubhouse turn revealed a horse apparently in peak condition. Twice Over appeared relaxed but poised, and his physical well-being very much the equal of his mental state. Tenth in the $10 million World Cup last year, Twice Over has grown into a different animal in 2011.

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“I think he’s better than he was last year,” Cecil said while conducting a radio interview. And as his questioner began another line of inquiry, Cecil interrupted with a revised answer. “I don’t think – I know he’s better than he was last year.

Of the nine World Cup horses seen training Friday at Meydan, Twice Over looked the best. Cape Blanco, on the other hand, seems still to be in the process of adapting to new surroundings. Having arrived late Monday night from trainer Aidan O’Brien’s base in Ireland, Cape Blanco, a highly regarded Group 1 winner on turf, was the last horse to ship into Dubai for the World Cup. Thursday marked his first day at the track, and Cape Blanco got fairly hot while doing light exercise, but the day had grown warm, and the horse’s environs were entirely unfamiliar, making his reaction understandable. But though the fog turned the air quite cool Friday morning, and Cape Blanco was making his second journey over the track, the horse was sweating from his kidneys before even beginning to jog. By the time he neared the end of his trip to the track, Cape Blanco had sweat about his shoulders and hip. It would be hasty to eliminate him on these factors alone, but still, one would have liked to see Cape Blanco looking more comfortable.

Fly Down looked good again galloping, while the Japanese horse Transcend cuts an attractive figure. Whether these dirt horses can perform to par on Meydan’s synthetic surface remains to be seen.

Among the Sheema Classic horses, Dangerous Midge made a favorable impression while training lightly and visiting the gate Friday morning. Laaheb, a longshot, is an attractive animal in good flesh. Chinchon, the United Nations Handicap winner last summer, had a fairly vigorous gallop. For the second day, Bourbon Bay was taken to the nearby training track for a gallop on turf by trainer Neil Drysdale. Drysdale is hoping for the firmest turf conditions possible, but a walk over the Meydan grass course Friday suggested the grass is at least slightly softer than it was earlier in the week.

Nothing about Wigmore Hall, one of the favorites for the Duty Free, indicates he will fall back after winning his prep race here March 3. Presvis, who has been known to refuse training, visited the track without incident again Friday. Bankable and Tazeez did nothing to discourage those who think they have a Duty Free chance.

Rocket Man, for whom many predict victory in the Golden Shaheen, looked very well Friday morning., Defending Golden Shaheen champ Kinsale King stayed in the barn. “I want him fresh,” said trainer Carl O’Callaghan, who kept busy galloping Al Quoz Sprint hopeful Mr. Gruff for fellow Californian Ron Ellis.

J J the Jet Plane, the likely Al Quoz favorite, did his usual routine work over the Tapeta training-track surface. Back at the main track, the Rick Dutrow-trained Stradivinsky looked as sharp as he has all week, and may give J J all he wants in the Al Quoz, Saturday’s first Thoroughbred race. Stradivinsky looks no better, however, than Dutrow’s other horse, Godolphin Mile starter I Want Revenge. I Want Revenge is the first horse on the track every morning (except for the Saudi horse Deem, who, due to quarantine restrictions, trains at 4 a.m. – much to the chagrin of the outriders who must be on the track while he is) and looked extremely well when seen Friday. Both Dutrow horses had the easiest kind of morning, jogging one lap around the Tapeta oval.

Post 14 fits de Kock's game plan for Golden Sword

Bettors seeking a World Cup longshot could do far worse than Golden Sword, and anyone interested in the horse will be pleased to know that trainer Mike de Kock cares not a bit that Golden Sword drew the outside post in a 14-horse field.

“That’s what I wanted,” de Kock said Thursday morning.

Golden Sword, a closer, is going to drop back out of the gate, and de Kock didn’t want him drawn down on the inside and getting crushed by a tide of horses angling in for position before the race’s first turn. Golden Sword has never won a race of anything close to the significance of the World Cup, but American horseplayers know by now that fondness for a particular synthetic racing surface can carry a horse well beyond his presumed class. And Golden Sword relishes the Tapeta going at Meydan.