01/25/2006 1:00AM

Mandella taps three for $6M race

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Trainer Richard Mandella has nominated three of his Grade 2 winners - Unbridled Energy, Minister Eric, and Congrats - to the $6 million Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba, seeking a repeat of his 2004 victory with Pleasantly Perfect in the world's richest race on March 25.

Unbridled Energy and Minister Eric, winners of the last two runnings of the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, and Congrats, who ran fifth in last year's World Cup, are among the 42 U.S. horses on the list of 159 free nominations to the 1 1/4-mile World Cup.

Also named are Choctaw Nation, third in last year's World Cup; Flower Alley, the Travers Stakes winner; Magna Graduate, a winner of his last three starts at the Grade 2 and Grade 3 level; and Trotamondo, recent winner of the Native Diver Handicap. The first two in the Japan Cup Dirt, Kane Hekili and Seeking the Dia, also are nominated, but mighty Godolphin has nominated only four - Cherry Mix, Electrocutionist, Rule of Law, and Valixir.

American-trained horses have won five of the first 10 runnings of the Dubai World Cup, the highlight of a $21 million, six-race Thoroughbred card, elevated from last year's $15 million thanks to purse increases that raised both the Dubai Duty Free and the Dubai Shaheen Classic from $2 million to $5 million.

The 1 1/8-mile Duty Free has attracted 327 nominees, 37 of them American, headed by last year's runner-up, Whilly, plus Badge of Silver, Gun Salute, Honor in War, Tedo, Willow O Wisp, and The Tin Man. That group is also nominated to the 1 1/2-mile Sheema Classic, which drew 166 nominees, including Breeders' Cup Turf champ Shirocco, Japanese Triple Crown winner Deep Impact, Heart's Cry, and Hong Kong Vase winner Ouija Board.

American sprinters have dominated the six-furlong dash of the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, winning five of the last six runnings. This year, 33 of the 143 nominees are from the U.S., although few of them rank among this country's current leading sprinters. The top Americans are Attila's Storm, Captain Squire, Gaff, Proud Tower Two, and Too Much Bling. Also named are the Dubai-trained Tropical Star and Botanical, who finished second and third behind Saratoga County in last year's Golden Shaheen.

Forty-one of the 132 nominees to the $2 million UAE Derby at 1 1/8 miles are trained in the U.S., but it is unlikely that any of the prime Kentucky Derby hopefuls, such as Stevie Wonderboy or Private Vow, will be making the arduous trip to Nad Al Sheba just six weeks before the first Saturday in May.

One U.S. runner who could end up in the UAE Derby lineup is Henny Hughes, the Saratoga Special winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up who is now trained in Dubai by Alex Laird.

Congrats, Unbridled Energy, and Minister Eric have also been nominated to the $1 million Godolphin Mile, as have last year's first- and third-place finishers, Grand Emporium and Tsigane. Another nominee is Blatant, recent winner of Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge.