01/29/2004 1:00AM

State Shinto wins in Dubai

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State Shinto outdueled Tropical Star to take Round 1 of the Group 3 Maktoum Challenge at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday night. The one-mile, $150,000 event was the first of three United Arab Emirate stepping-stones on the road to the Dubai World Cup on March 27.

Fifth in last year's Dubai World Cup, State Shinto, an 8-year-old son of Pleasant Colony, was making his first start since finishing a distant fourth behind Mineshaft in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 27. Now trained by Mazin Al Kurdi for Sheikh Mohammed's son Rashid, State Shinto came from 10th place to lead at the sixteenth pole and win by a head, getting the mile on a fast track in 1:37.37.

The South African-bred Victory Moon, winner of last year's UAE Derby, closed well to be third, three-quarters of a length behind Tropical Star. He will surely improve over longer distances, especially since this was his first outing since July.

Blatant, runner-up in the Group 1 Premio Vittorio di Capua last fall, weakened to finish eighth in his first try on dirt.

None of Godolphin's big guns ran, as trainer Saeed bin Suroor awaits Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 12.