03/23/2011 12:30PM

Dubai World Cup gets 14, with Fly Down on rail, Golden Sword far outside

Andrew Watkins
The Nick Zito-trained Fly Down will break from post 1 in a field of 14 for Saturday's Dubai World Cup.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Fourteen horses were entered Wednesday evening in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the crown jewel of Saturday night’s eight-stakes racing program worth $26,250,000 in prize money. View Entries >>

Everyone was pleased with their post position. All the horses are doing well.

Or so went the tale told during a typically lavish Dubai draw ceremony, held at an IMAX theater housed between the grandstand and the Meydan hotel.

VIDEO: Marcus Hersh interviews trainer Richard Mandella at Meydan

“I’m happy with the draw,” announced Yousef Al Sayegh, racing manager for owner Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa al Maktoum. That was just after Golden Sword had landed post 14, the least desirable spot in the World Cup.

Leave it to Tim Poole, the plain-speaking assistant to trainer Nick Zito, to supply at least a small dose of reality when informed of Fly Down’s somewhat discouraging rail draw.

“It’s better than 14,” Poole shrugged.

In truth, post position should not make or break a horse’s World Cup chances. The Tapeta oval here is a little over a mile and a sixteenth, the World Cup a race of about 2,000 meters, or 1 1/4 miles. There’s plenty of stretch run for the horses to sort themselves out before the field hits the first turn.

It was slightly hard to sort out the proceedings on the IMAX stage Wednesday evening. The $5 million Sheema Classic and $5 million Duty Free were drawn in rapid-fire fashion. Someone pushed a big green button on a monitor, and the fields – 16 in the Duty Free, 14 for the Sheema – popped quickly and randomly onto movie screens.

The World Cup required a more complex system. With 10 Emirates Airline female flight attendants smiling bravely in the background, 14 small chests – treasure chests, they were called, of course – were opened one by one. Each chest contained the name of a World Cup horse. Someone representing the selected horse’s camp trooped onto the stage to point at one of 14 golden teapots. Under the teapot was a number. Then came the brief interview in which the person expressed happiness with the draw.

“The thing is, wherever you draw, there is almost always going to be something,” Lord Teddy Grimthorpe said shortly after the event had wrapped up. Grimthorpe, the racing manager for Juddmonte Farms, had picked out a teapot atop number 12, the post from which Twice Over, whom English bookmakers are listing as the fairly solid favorite for the World Cup, will break. Grimthorpe pointed out that Twice Over had scored his impressive 2 3/4-length win in the third round of the Maktoum Challenge Cup here March 3 after breaking from post 12.

“Maybe that’s a good omen,” Grimthorpe said.

Poole expressed slight concern about Fly Down getting lost on the fence as a crush of horses seeking position came over. No such concerns apply to the other American horse in the race, Gio Ponti, who landed post 5 for his second World Cup try. Cape Blanco, the Aidan O’Brien-trained 4-year-old who will be among the betting favorites, will break from post 4. The excellent Japanese mare Buena Vista is lodged between Twice Over and Golden Sword on the outside. Mike de Kock trains both Golden Sword and Musir, who drew post 7. Transcend, another Japanese horse, drew post 9 and may well set the pace.

The Duty Free is heavy on horses who raced last summer at Arlington. Debussy, who drew the rail, won the Arlington Million, while Tazeez, who landed post 13, finished third in the same race. Wigmore Hall, second to Paddy O’Prado in the Secretariat and winner of the local Duty Free prep, drew favorably in post 5, just inside the mercurial Presvis. Bankable, another potential factor, has stall 9.
The other five races on Saturday’s program were drawn with little publicity and even less fanfare sometime earlier this week. Defending champion Kinsale King landed the rail in the $2 million, 10-horse Golden Shaheen, but has won twice before from that spot. Euroears as post 7, Rocket Man post 9.
There are 14 horses each in the UAE Derby, which will be contested over about 1 3/16 miles on Tapeta, and in the Godolphin Mile, another synthetic-track race. I Want Revenge, who may be formidable in the $1 million Godolphin Mile, seems favorably drawn in post 10. A field of 16 was entered in the Al Quoz sprint, a five-furlong straightaway turf race.

Saturday’s races start at 8:35 a.m. Eastern with the Kahayla Classic for Arabians. The first Thoroughbred race, the Al Quoz, a five-furlong turf sprint, goes 40 minutes later, followed by the Godolphin Mile, the UAE Derby, the Golden Shaheen, the Duty Free, the Sheema Classic, and the World Cup, scheduled for 1:35 Eastern. Saturday’s forecast calls for sun and a high temperature of 88 degrees. This is, after all, a desert – albeit one with golden teapots.