03/08/2012 5:35PM

Mendip faces tough challenge in final World Cup prep


There are questions looming over the top three contenders in Saturday night’s feature at Meydan, the $400,000 Maktoum Challenge Round 3, the final major local prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31.

Mendip, a winner in five of his seven starts over the Tapeta main track at Meydan, captured Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge by one and one-quarter lengths on Feb. 9, but Mendip got a clear run in the race and the overall class of the 10 foes he beat that evening falls somewhat short of that possessed by his 13 rivals in this start.

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Monterosso might well be the most talented horse in the race, but his most recent start was a third-place finish in the 2011 Dubai World Cup, and with a return trip to that bright stage the main goal of his winter campaign, Saturday night’s start is a mere means to an end.

“I think that Monterosso will need the run on Saturday because I want him to be at his best for the Dubai World Cup,” said a quotation from trainer Mahmood al Zarooni on Goldolphin’s web site. “I am just hoping for a good run and that he comes back sound and healthy.”

Six-year-old Bold Silvano’s career has been limited to 15 starts owing to injury, and after a layoff of more than a year he finished fifth on Feb. 9 in the Firebreak Stakes. But at one mile, the Firebreak distance was shorter than Bold Silvano’s best, and he was beaten less than two lengths in a start probably intended as much as anything to shake off rust. He can improve Saturday, and trainer Mike de Kock holds out hope of making the World Cup with Bold Silvano.

The race also includes two former prominent U.S. horses, Fly Down and Richard’s Kid. Fly Down, who is based in Saudi Arabia, appears to have no fondness for synthetic-surface racing and thus little chance in Saturday’s race, but Richard’s Kid, a synthetic specialist, showed a glimmer of life in the Maktoum Challenge Round 2, finishing a decent sixth while making his first start in almost a year.

Those fishing for a mighty longshot might consider Irish Flame, another de Kock-trained horse. Irish Flamed was fifth in a pair of Meydan turf starts this winter, but scored a highly rated victory last fall at Kempton in one of only two career starts on a synthetic surface.