03/21/2013 2:28PM

Dubai World Cup looks like field of 13 at Meydan

Tom Keyser
Little Mike, eighth in Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge, looks headed to the Dubai Duty Free on grass.

Thirteen horses are expected to be entered next week in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the March 30 centerpiece of what figures to be an outstanding night of racing in the desert.

[FULL LIST: 2013 Dubai World Cup Fields]

The anticipated World Cup field includes 10 Group or Grade 1 winners, including the 2012 World Cup winner, Monterosso, as well a three-horse U.S.-based contingent many are calling the strongest sent to Dubai since the World Cup was moved from Nad Al Sheba to Meydan in 2010. Dullahan already has made a start at Meydan, finishing a troubled 11th in the March 9 Burj Nahaar, while two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom arrived with the rest of the North American horses earlier this week. Royal Delta finished ninth in the 2012 World Cup, the victim of a difficult trip. Animal Kingdom is racing his way toward Southern Hemisphere stud duty later this year and made his final U.S. start last month in the Gulfstream Park Turf Championship, where he finished second behind Point of Entry.

Monterosso is one of five Godolphin horses listed as probable World Cup runners, and though he wears the crown of defending champion in the race, Monterosso could finish only 10th in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, his first start of the winter racing season in Dubai. Monterosso’s stablemate Capponi would be making his first start since a second-place finish in the 2012 World Cup if he indeed lines up for this year’s edition. Hunter’s Light has been one of the stars of the World Cup Carnival this winter, winning both rounds 2 and 3 of the Maktoum Challenge by about three lengths. African Story won the Godolphin Mile in 2012 but may take a swing the night’s big event after a sharp comeback win in the Burj Nahaar.

[DUBAI WORLD CUP: Complete DRF coverage, live video from Meydan]

There are eight other U.S.-based horses scheduled to race on the World Cup card, most prominent among them Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Little Mike. Little Mike finished eighth in the Maktoum Challenge Round 3, his first start on an all-weather track, and is listed as a probable runner in the $5 million Duty Free on turf, his connections apparently leaning toward that race over about 1 1/8 miles rather than the $5 million Sheema Classic at about 1 1/2 miles.

The Duty Free, which has 14 probable runners, looks like a deeper race than the Sheema Classic, but the Classic is expected to draw the Japanese superstar filly Gentildonna, winner of the Group 1 Japan Cup in her most recent start last November. Little Mike would face no runner of that proven quality in the Duty Free, but will have a host of worthy challengers such as Sajjhaa, Trade Storm, The Apache, and Mushreq. Among the better known names in the Sheema Classic are St Nicholas Abbey and Shareta.

Trinniberg, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, is part of a good American pair in the Golden Shaheen, an all-weather sprint over about six furlongs, with Private Zone another viable threat to win the race. Mental, an Australian import, was impressive in his lone start of the winter, while defending champion Krypton Factor is eligible to improve.

U.S. runners Great Attack and Varsity will, like Little Mike, attempt to become the first American-based horse to win a turf race when they start in the Al Quoz Sprint, a race in which the Mike de Kock-trained Shea Shea should be solidly favored. Two more Americans, He’s Had Enough and Dice Flavor, are among 13 probable runners in the UAE Derby, but, somewhat surprisingly, there are no U.S. horses in the Godolphin Mile, the night’s other main-track race. The Godolphin Mile includes 16 probables, including star South African import Soft Falling Rain, and looks like one of the better editions of the race.

Completing the Thoroughbred portion of the card is the Dubai Gold Cup, a two-mile turf race.