02/08/2005 12:00AM

Maktoum Challenge, Round 2

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The countdown to Dubai World Cup night gains momentum at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday evening with Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge and the UAE 2000 Guineas.

Grand Emporium, who gave trainer Mike de Kock his second straight win in the one-mile Maktoum Challenge Round 1 three weeks ago, should have no problem handling the 1 1/8 miles of Round 2, a Group 3 contest worth $200,000. Opposing him again Thursday are the Turkish invader Kaneko and Jack Sullivan, who finished second and third, respectively, in Round 1. Frankie Dettori will be aboard Godolphin representative Inamorato, who was second to the de Kock-trained Victory Moon in this race last year.

The Group 3, $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas at one mile has attracted Tony James, the winner of the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York last August, and Kandidate, who has won his last two starts on dirt in England. Becrux, owned by Team Valor, will be saddled for the first time by de Kock, who won this race two years ago with Victory Moon.