02/20/2017 3:40PM

Mubtaahij preps for Dubai World Cup

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mubtaahij (right) finishes second by a head to Shaman Ghost in the Woodward Stakes last summer.

Mubtaahij, who finished second in the 2016 Dubai World Cup, will have his prep for a second run in the $10 million race when he starts Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse in the $160,000 Curlin Handicap.

Mubtaahij undoubtedly will be heavily favored to win the listed race over about 1 1/4 miles on dirt, but while he is a far more accomplished horse than any of his rivals, Mubtaahij will be making his first start since Oct. 8, and last winter the horse did not run to his best form until the World Cup itself.

The 5-year-old Mubtaahij gained international attention when he won the 2015 UAE Derby by eight lengths, earning a trip to America for the Triple Crown. Mubtaahij finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby and was fourth in the Belmont Stakes during the North American phase of his 3-year-old season, but he was slow to get his feet under him last winter in Dubai, finishing fourth in the Firebreak Stakes and fifth in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 before stepping forward on the big night with a fine second to California Chrome in the World Cup.

By Dubawi, Mubtaahij was shipped to the United States again last summer, this time moving from trainer Mike de Kock into the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin, who orchestrated a fine three-race campaign in New York. Mubtaahij finished third in the Suburban, then ran to his best form when beaten a head by Shaman Ghost in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga. Mubtaahij was probably over the top when he was a well-beaten fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, after which his connections called it a season.

Mubtaahij is easily the highest-rated horse in the Curlin (for which post positions were to be drawn Tuesday), and the handicapper has burdened him with 60 kilograms, which is about 132 pounds, eight more than the second-highest weight in the race. All signs suggest that bettors should think twice about backing Mubtaahij as an odds-on favorite.

While Mubtaahij is the best-known horse in America competing Thursday night, there are two higher-class races on the card, the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy and the Group 3 UAE Oaks.

Among the entries in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy over about 1 3/4 miles on turf is the excellent French 5-year-old Vazirabad, who won the Gold Cup on the World Cup undercard last year and will have a great chance to repeat in the $1 million stayers’ race next month.