03/04/2011 2:15PM

Dubai World Cup Preview Night highlighted by dominant Twice Over


The fallout from Thursday’s most informative Dubai World Cup Preview Night at Meydan suggests we are in for one of the more action-packed World Cup Nights in history March 26.

The overpowering victory of Twice Over, a 6-year-old trained by Henry Cecil, in Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge over the World Cup course and distance suggests American domination of the world’s richest race may be coming to an end. A blanket finish in the Jebel Hatta, the course and distance prep for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, suggests that race will once again be the deepest and most competitive on the card. And the narrow loss in the Mahab Al Shimaal by Conveyance, who previously finished 17th as the pacesetter in the Kentucky Derby, bodes well not only for him in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, but for Smiling Tiger, who looks like the strongest of the invading Americans, who have won nine of the last 11 runnings of the six-furlong sprint.

DUBAI CARNIVAL: Watch live racing from Meydan, plus replays and free PPs

A three-time winner of Group 1 races going 1 1/4 miles in England, Twice Over was 10th in last year’s Dubai World Cup, in which he was making his seasonal debut off a 4 1/2-month absence after finishing third in Zenyatta’s 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic victory. Cecil had him much better prepared Thursday, and Twice Over responded. He is William Hill’s 7-2 World Cup favorite, replacing Bold Silvano, who is 4-1 after missing the Maktoum Challenge with a minor foot bruise.

Trainer Mike de Kock said Bold Silvano, the handy winner of Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge at 1 3/16 miles, has missed only a couple of days training and could reappear in a handicap at Meydan this Thursday night. If he skips that race, the winner of South Africa’s premier event, the Durban July Cup Handicap, will go straight to the World Cup off a seven-week absence.

Aidan O’Brien is preparing Cape Blanco, the five-length winner of the 1 1/4-mile Irish Champion Stakes, for the World Cup, hard upon the news that Coolmore has sold a part interest in the Galileo 4-year-old to Fitri Hay. Meanwhile, Joshua Tree, who won the Canadian International for O’Brien in October, is being considered by his new Qatar trainer Ibrahim Al Malki for the Dubai Sheema Classic after winning the 1 1/2-mile Qatar International Invitational Cup at Doha on Feb. 24.

Winning the Dubai World Cup off a winter vacation is extremely difficult. It has been done only once. That came in the second running of the race in 1997, when the Michael Stoute-trained Singspiel did it. The task facing Gio Ponti, then, looks formidable. Having missed his prep in the Canadian Turf Handicap last week, America’s two-time champion turf horse will be facing a much tougher task March 26 than he did last year, when he had a prep. Moreover, this year’s race looks much tougher than last year’s, in which Gloria de Campeao nosed Lizard’s Desire on the line.

Among the World Cup possibilities is Snow Fairy, the winner of the English and Irish Oaks who is coming off a victory against males in the 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup on Dec. 12. Trainer Ed Dunlop, however, might opt for what looks like an easier spot in the Sheema Classic.

Add three dangerous raiders from Japan − their Horse of the Year, Buena Vista, who will also run off a layoff; recent Nakayam Kinen and Arima Kinen winner Victoire Pisa; and recent February Stakes and Japan Cup Dirt winner Transcend − and we have on tap a mouthwatering World Cup renewal. One who will not be lining up, however, is Etched, the Monmouth Cup winner who was eased out of the Maktoum Challenge on Thursday.

There was little to choose between Wigmore Hall, Poet’s Voice, and Presvis in the Jebel Hatta, a Group 2 prep for the Dubai Duty Free. Second to Paddy O’Prado in Arlington Park’s Secretariat Stakes in August, Wigmore Hall showed considerable improvement in prevailing by a neck over Poet’s Voice, the Godolphin colt who had pipped Rip Van Winkle in last September’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Presvis would have won the race but for his usual lackadaisical start. If and when Luca Cumani can get this gelded 7-year-old son of Sakhee to break properly, he will be well nigh unbeatable at or about nine furlongs.

Bankable, second to the impossible longshot Al Shemali in last year’s Duty Free, is taking an odd route to the Duty Free. On Thursday he ran down Conveyance late to win the six-furlong Mahab Al Shimaal by a length, but will return to what is surely his best distance for the Duty Free.

The Emirates Racing Association is offering $26 million on World Cup Night, and the quality of the horses running is well deserving of all that loot.