03/27/2014 10:37AM

Dubai World Cup: Ron the Greek has work cut out for him

Barbara D. Livingston
On Wednesday, Ron the Greek drew the outside post for Saturday's $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Good luck seems to have deserted Ron the Greek in advance of world-class races in recent months.

Back in November, Ron the Greek missed the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita after a quarter crack surfaced days before the race. He was considered a contender for the richest race in the United States.

Purchased privately in December and sent to Saudi Arabia, Ron the Greek has been pointed to Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates. But when post positions were drawn Wednesday for the world’s richest race, Ron the Greek had the outside post in a tough 16-runner field.

The wide berth hampers Ron the Greek’s chances in a race that has drawn entrants who made their last starts in Dubai, England, Hong Kong, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. One thing missing is an American runner.

For the first time in the 19-year history of the Dubai World Cup, there are no American-based horses in a race won in the past by the American horses Cigar, Silver Charm, Captain Steve, Pleasantly Perfect, Invasor, Curlin, Well Armed, Roses in May, and, in 2013, Animal Kingdom.

Ron the Greek is the closest to an American horse in this year’s race and will need a career-best performance to win the eighth stakes of his career, which includes 30 starts and earnings of $2,713,089. The Dubai World Cup is run over 1 1/4 miles on a Tapeta Footings synthetic track.

The race is part of a nine-race program that features eight seven-figure races for Thoroughbreds. Post time for the first Thoroughbred race, the Godolphin Mile, is 9:10 a.m. Eastern. Post time for the Dubai World Cup is 2:05 p.m.

[Dubai World Cup: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Ron the Greek’s post makes jockey Jose Lezcano’s job difficult, but at least Lezcano knows the horse. Lezcano was aboard for Ron the Greek’s emphatic win in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last October, the horse’s final start for trainer Bill Mott.

After the private sale to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, Ron the Greek was sent to Nicholas Bachalard, who is based in Saudi Arabia. Bachalard is a former assistant to Christophe Clement in the United States.

Ron the Greek won a prep race for the Dubai World Cup, an allowance race over about 1 1/8 miles on dirt in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 15. The Dubai World Cup will be the 7-year-old’s second start on a synthetic track. He was fourth in an optional claimer at Keeneland in April 2011.

For the World Cup, Bachalard was philosophical about the post position.

“Not much we can do about it,” Bachalard said after the draw. “Lezcano has his work cut out for him. It’s a long way around. We’ll look at it, talk about it, and figure out a strategy.”

Ron the Greek races from off the pace. The strategy worked in the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap, which he won by 3 1/2 lengths. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup last October, Ron the Greek closed from fourth of eight to win by 6 3/4 lengths as a 21-1 outsider.

For Saturday’s race, Ron the Greek must beat such major stakes winners as Ruler of The World, who won the 2013 English Derby; Belshazzar, who won the Japan Cup Dirt last December; Military Attack, a Group 1 winner in Hong Kong in 2013 when racing under the name Rave; and the durable 8-year-old gelding Red Cadeaux, second to Animal Kingdom in the 2013 Dubai World Cup.

Ruler of The World, an Irish-bred colt by Galileo, is expected to be favored. He was a 3-1 choice with British bookmakers Thursday.

Earlier this week, Sheikh Joann Al Thani of Qatar purchased a 50 percent interest in Ruler of The World through his Al Shaqab Racing. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Ruler of The World, 4, has not raced since finishing third, beaten three-quarters of a length by Farhh, in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot last October. Ruler of The World is winless in four starts since the English Derby last June.

The Dubai World Cup will be his first start on a synthetic track.

[DRF Live: Get live reports and handicapping insights from DRF writers and handicappers this Saturday]

The best chance of the local runners is Prince Bishop, a 7-year-old gelding who won two stakes earlier this year at Meydan – Rounds 2 and 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge on Feb. 6 and March 8. This will be Prince Bishop’s third career start in the Dubai World Cup. He was 10th in 2011 and seventh in 2012.

Last year, the Dubai World Cup had a field of 12. Red Cadeaux closed from the back of the field under jockey Gerard Mosse to finish two lengths behind Animal Kingdom. Trainer Ed Dunlop said at Wednesday’s draw that Mosse will be urged to take a patient approach Saturday.

“We were drawn on the inside here last year, and we’ll probably do the same thing again and take our time,” he said. “There’s a lot more runners this time. We’ll take second place again for sure, I’ll tell you that.”