03/03/2010 1:00AM

Imbongi heads Zabeel Mile in Dubai


Nosed out of the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort by Bankable on Feb. 19, Imbongi will be the favorite in the Group 2, $250,000 Zabeel Mile at a mile on turf Friday night at Meydan in Dubai. The evening also features the debut of Tahitian Warrior for his new owners, Godolphin.

Snaafy, the winner of 4 of his last 6 outings at Meydan and Nad Al Sheba, will have his supporters in the Zabeel Mile, while Godolphin is hoping that Rio de la Plata, one of Europe's top 2-year-olds three years ago but winless in seven tries since taking the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc-Lagardere in October 2007, will be ready off a 3 1/2-month absence.

Purchased by Godolphin after his 4 3/4-length debut victory in a six-furlong maiden at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 3, Tahitian Warrior will be ridden by Frankie Dettori in a one-mile allowance on the Meydan turf course. If successful against Godolphin stablemates Black Snowflake and Frozen Power, Tahitian Warrior, a Maria's Mon gelding, could go in the UAE Derby on March 27.

On the same card, Aaron Gryder and Kent Desormeaux will represent the United States in the Meydan Masters jockey competition, in which big-race winners from around the world in 2009 square off in a four-race series.

Gryder earned his spot in the Meydan Masters lineup by riding Well Armed to victory in the Dubai World Cup. But Desormeaux, Jamie Spencer, and Richard Hills are replacements for Calvin Borel (Kentucky Derby), Mike Smith (Breeders' Cup Classic) and Johnny Murtagh (Irish Derby), each of whom declined invitations because of other commitments.

In addition, French Derby winner Christophe Lemaire and St. Leger winner Ted Durcan replace the now-retired Michael Kinane, who had won the Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Completing the lineup of 12 riders are Ahmed Ajtebi (Dubai Sheema Classic),Corey Brown (Melbourne Cup), Ryan Moore (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes), Olivier Peslier (Hong Kong Cup), Norihiro Yokoyama (Japanese Derby), and Dettori, who received a special at-large invitation.

Desormeaux and Gryder both have warm chances in Leg 1, a six-furlong handicap. Desormeaux will be on the Doug Watson-trained So Will I, who was third in a similar event in his seasonal debut on Feb 18. Gryder, who flies in from his winter base in Hong Kong, will ride Alazeyab, who was third behind Midshipman in a seven-furlong allowance last week. Gryder rides the highweight Consul General in Leg 2, a seven-furlong handicap, while Desormeaux will be sporting Godolphin blue in Legs 3 and 4 aboard Once More Dubai and Roman Republic. Gryder's mount in Leg 4, a 1 1/4-mile handicap, is Hattan. Third in a similar event a week ago, the Halling 8-year-old is a two-time Group 3 winner on Polytrack in England.