02/23/2010 12:00AM

Gitano Hernando in Dubai World Cup prep


The 4-year-old Gitano Hernando could face as many as 13 opponents and will be conceding weight when he preps for his Dubai World Cup date in the Winter Derby Trial on the Lingfield Park Polytrack on Saturday.

The conditions of the 1 1/4-mile listed race state that 4-year-olds carry 125 pounds while older horses tote 126. Winners of a Group 1 or Grade 1 since May 31 carry a seven-pound penalty, so Gitano Hernando will heft 132 pounds, thanks to his victory in last year's Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita.

No other horse in the prospective field has won so much as a listed race since May 31, so Gitano Hernando will spot his rivals six to seven pounds. That should still be well within his capabilities, as Gitano Hernando's official handicap rating in Britain is 120. The next highest rated horse in the five-day entries is Suits Me at 112, meaning that in a handicap Gitano Hernando would give that rival eight pounds. On Saturday, he will spot Suits Me just six pounds.

"This race has been the plan for him for a while," trainer Marco Botti told the Racing Post. "He has strengthened from 3 to 4 but he needs the race to put him 100 percent for the World Cup."

Gitano Hernando is 3 for 3 on synthetic tracks. In addition to his win at Santa Anita, he won a maiden and an allowance on the Wolverhampton Polytrack.

Gitano Hernando is Ladbroke's co-fourth favorite for the World Cup at 10-1 with Richard's Kid and Espoir City, winner of the February Stakes at Tokyo on Sunday. Gio Ponti has drifted from 4-1 to 6-1 co-favorite with Vision d'Etat after his loss at Tampa Bay last Saturday.