Updated on 09/16/2011 7:02AM

Sakhee, prince of the desert

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Ed Whittaker/Racing Post
Sakhee (left) and a stablemate at Al Quoz training center after an easy five-furlong work on Wednesday.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - In the Saudi Arabian desert, there are no better horses than Sakhee. It is five months since he was defeated on the square by Tiznow in the Breeders' Cup Classic. But now the year has turned, Tiznow has retired, and Sakhee is prepared to claim the title of the world's best racehorse.

When he returns to the international stage Saturday night at Nad Al Sheba, Sakhee is expected to win the $6 million Dubai World Cup for his owners, the Maktoums, Dubai's ruling family. Unlike his excursion to the Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park, Sakhee does not have to travel far this time. Winter headquarters for the Maktoum family's Godolphin racing stable is two miles from Nad Al Sheba.

Sakhee will face 10 rivals, including streaking Japanese star Agnes Digital, in the 1 1/4-mile Dubai World Cup. Post positions were drawn Wednesday for the $15 million World Cup card.

The World Cup is the richest race on a card filled with million-dollar-plus races. Essence of Dubai and Ibn Al Haitham start in the $2 million, 1 1/4-mile UAE Derby, with an eye to landing berths in the Kentucky Derby. The brilliant American sprinter Xtra Heat drew post 9 of 13 in the $2 million, six-furlong Golden Shaheen. American turf milers Val Royal and Del Mar Show drew posts 14 and 16, respectively, for the $2 million Dubai Duty Free at about 1 1/8 miles on grass.

The star of the night figures to be Sakhee, drawn in post 4 of 11 in the World Cup. Key rivals include likely pacesetter Western Pride in post 11, and Agnes Digital in post 4. Street Cry landed post 6 under Jerry Bailey, with Eibar Coa directly inside him on Crimson Quest in post 5.

The last time Sakhee competed in a race of international magnitude, he lost despite good fortune. Racing wide on a Belmont racetrack that favored outside lanes, he surged to a half-length lead at the furlong pole but blew the lead and lost by a nose. Not that it matters now. With the possible exception of Agnes Digital, none of his rivals have recent Grade 1 credentials.

Godolphin and and his trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, enter the World Cup program with high expectations. Suroor will saddle 23 horses, led by Sakhee. Sakhee's five-furlong work Wednesday morning at Al Quoz training center was ordinary, but three days before the race, he was not asked to set any records. Working in company with a lower-class stablemate, Sakhee raced alongside his workmate, and finished on even terms.

"It was just a blowout for the race," said Suroor.

Sakhee, runaway winner of the Arc de Triomphe last fall, has raced once since the Breeders' Cup, winning a prep by nine lengths. Following the World Cup, Crisford said Sakhee will campaign in Europe, and eventually plan to have another go at the Breeders' Cup. Frankie Dettori, who rides Sakhee, said Wednesday: "It's common knowledge he'll be tough to beat if he runs to the Breeders' Cup Classic."

Godolphin starts three others in the Dubai World Cup, including Street Cry, a 4-year-old familiar to American racing fans after a flirtation with the Kentucky Derby last year. While Suroor does not expect him to defeat Sakhee, there are hopes he can reestablish himself as a major force in the handicap division. Following the World Cup, Street Cry will be sent to Belmont Park for a summer-fall campaign.

"I like this horse; he's a different horse this year," Suroor said of Street Cry. "For this year, I think we'll get different results."

Street Cry won his comeback race by 8 1/2 lengths, beating two of his World Cup rivals (State Shinto and Royal Tryst), with a final time for 1 1/4 miles - 2:01.25 - that was .05 seconds faster than Sakhee's comeback win.

Three American runners will contest the $1 million Godolphin Mile, which drew 16 entrants. Peeping Tom drew post 2, Blade Prospector drew post 3, and Grey Memo landed post 6. Total Impact, whose last start was a second-place finish in a Santa Anita allowance, drew 8 of 14 in the UAE Derby.

In the Golden Shaheen, Xtra Heat faces Men's Exclusive, post 2; Echo Eddie, post 5; Caller One, post 7; and Bonapaw, post 13. There are no American-owned runners in the Sheema Classic or World Cup. Western Pride, trained by Jim Chapman, has been sold to Saudi Arabian interests.