03/17/2009 12:00AM

Eagle Mountain out of Sheema Classic


Eagle Mountain, who would probably have started as the favorite for the Dubai Sheema Classic on March 28, was withdrawn from the race on Monday after having suffered a suspensory ligament injury. Trainer Mike de Kock was grateful that the problem was discovered early and is planning on a summer campaign for Eagle Mountain, winner of the Hong Kong Cup and runner-up in last fall's Breeders' Cup Turf.

This will be the second time in a row that Eagle Mountain will miss the Sheema Classic due to injury, having passed on last year's running with a pelvis injury. De Kock, however, could still have as many as 10 runners on World Cup Night at Nad Al Sheba, among them Arlington Million runner-up Archipenko in the Dubai Duty Free.

Archipenko looked very sharp off a 7 1/2-month layoff when taking the Group 3 Zabeel Mile at Nad Al Sheba on Feb. 26. Along with the Japanese filly Vodka, who was a close but troubled fifth in the Zabeel, local hot shot Gladiatorus, defending title holder Jay Peg, French Group 1 winner Paco Boy, Group 2 Jebel Hatta winner Balius, Australian Group 1 winners Niconero and Tuesday Joy, and American turf aces Kip Deville and Hyperbaric, the 1 1/8-mile Duty Free once again shapes up as the top race on the World Cup card, and the best flat race of the year thus far anywhere in the world.

The absence of Eagle Mountain from the Sheema Classic makes things a bit easier for American candidates Red Rocks and Marsh Side, but the Yanks will still have to deal with recent Group 2 Dubai City of Gold winner Front House. An Irish-bred filly trained by de Kock for a consortium led by Susan Magnier, she is a Sadler's Wells-Darshaan cross bred to stay 1 1/2 miles. The Luca Cumani-trained Purple Moon faded to fourth in the City of Gold but is better judged on his fast-closing nose second in the Dec. 14 Hong Kong Vase to Doctor Dino, who will also line up for the Sheema Classic. Youmzain, twice runner-up in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is arguably the most accomplished horse in the field, but trainer Michael Channon is once again opting to run him off a six-month absence. When employing those tactics the last two years, Youmzain could manage only third in 2007 and fifth in 2008.

Distance is the question for Albertus Maximus in the Dubai World Cup. The winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap in his last two starts, Albertus Maximus is as low as the 7-4 favorite with some British bookies to become the eighth American-trained winner of the world's richest race, but in his only start at the World Cup's 1o1/4 miles, he weakened to finish eighth behind Student Council in the 2007 Pacific Classic. De Kock's revived Asiatic Boy, second in last year's World Cup and a good winner of the 1 1/4-mile, Groupo2 Maktoum Challenge-Round 3 on Marcho5, will offer a stern challenge. So will the Godolphin-owned My Indy, the winner of the 1o1/8-mile Maktoum Challenge-Round 2, and Casino Drive, the Japanese invader who was a sharp second in the one-mile, Grade 1 February Stakes at Tokyo on Feb. 22. Well Armed might be the World Cup favorite if the race were run on a synthetic track, but the other two American trainees, Anak Nakal and Arson Squad, appear to be in the race only to fill up the American numbers in the absence of horses such as Magnum and Tiago.

This is a subpar American World Cup contingent. Horses like Curlin, Invasor, Silver Charm, and Cigar - along with occasional Godolphin stars like Dubai Millennium, Street Cry, and Electrocutionist - make the World Cup what it is, so this year's edition looks very much like a good Group 2 event, unless Albertus Maximus, Asiatic Boy, or Casino Drive can spring the hoped-for world-class effort.

As American-trained sprinters have won eight of the last nine Dubai Golden Shaheens, foreign owners are trying a new tactic this year in an effort to break the Stateside stranglehold: They are buying American sprinters and training them in Dubai. Big City Man, a two-time stakes winner at Calder for Jose Pinchon who is now trained by Jerry Barton for Saudi Prince Sultan Mohammed Saud Al Kabeer, had won the Groupo3 Al Shindagha Sprint and was recently second in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal, just ahead of the Godolphin-owned Diabolical, the 2007 winner of Saratoga's A.G. Vanderbilt. Also dangerous will be Lucky Quality, a front-running Hong Kong raider who is 4 for 4 going six furlongs on dirt against lesser at Sha Tin. But are they as fast as Indian Blessing?

Mahab Shimaal winner Gayego, the winner of last year's Arkansas Derby, will step back up to a mile for Godolphin in the Godolphin Mile, in which the Doug O'Neill-trained Informed will have to improve off his fourth in the San Antonio Handicap.

This year's UAE Derby shapes up as a showcase for Godolphin's leading Kentucky Derby hopeful Desert Party. If the Street Cry-Tabasco Cat cross can repeat his 4 3/4-length UAE 2000 Guineas win in the 1 1/8-mile Derby against basically the same bunch, Desert Party's Kentucky Derby future book price of 17-1 will look like value.