02/01/2010 1:00AM

Gio Ponti tops World Cup nominations

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Gio Ponti heads the list of 288 free nominations to the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan on March 27. Favored by all of the British bookmakers for the world's richest race, the 2009 Eclipse Award winner as both best older horse and best turf horse was one of 45 American-trained horses nominated to the World Cup at the first entry stage that closed Jan. 13. The list does not include Zenyatta.

All of the favorites for the World Cup are among the nominees, including Twice Over, Vision d'Etat, Gitano Hernando, Presvis, Espoir City, and Vodka. So, too, is Gloria de Campeao, last year's World Cup runner-up who got his 7-year-old season off to a flying start with a victory in Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge on Thursday on Meydan's new synthetic track.

Some of the other more prominent American names on the list are Richard's Kid, Awesome Gem, Einstein, Life Is Sweet, and Quality Road. Godolphin has named 33, including Midshipman and Regal Ransom as well as Justenuffhumor, who is more likely to be aimed at the Dubai Duty Free, and Cavalryman, who was trained last year by Andre Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed to win the Grand Prix de Paris and finish third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe but is a more likely candidate for the Dubai Sheema Classic if he runs at all in Dubai this winter.

Presious Passion heads a list of 17 American nominees to the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic, which also includes Gio Ponti and Cloudy's Knight. Among the 27 American nominees to the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Duty Free are Battle of Hastings, Courageous Cat, Loup Breton, and Never On Sunday, a Group 1 winner in France who is now with Patrick Biancone.

Dominated by American-trained horses since its inception, the Dubai Golden Shaheen, which like the World Cup will be run for the first time on a synthetic surface this year, has attracted 205 nominees, 30 of which hail from the United States, among them the first three from the Breeders' Cup Sprint: Dancing in Silks, Crown of Thorns, and Cost of Freedom, as well as Sprint fourth Gayego who is currently training in Dubai with Godolphin.

A surprising 43 of the 173 nominees to the $2 million UAE Derby, which will be run this year at 1 3/16 miles on Meydan's Tapeta surface, are trained in the United States. They include Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise, the second- and third-place finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Godolphin's Vale of York, who also is nominated.

Should Zenyatta's connections wish to nominate her to the Dubai World Cup, they still have plenty of time. The second stage for all World Cup Night nominations closes Feb. 17 and will cost owners one-tenth of 1 percent of the purse. The stage on March 8 costs 1 percent of the purse, while supplementary nominations on March 21 are priced at 10 percent of the purse.