03/19/2007 11:00PM

U.S. runners airborne in hunt for Dubai riches


All 14 horses representing the United States at Nad Al Sheba on Dubai World Cup Night, March 31, should be on their way to the Middle East. A contingent of eight, led by the World Cup favorite, Invasor, was scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale International Airport on Tuesday evening, while six others, headed by Dubai Duty Free hopeful Lava Man, were to take off from Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

The Florida contingent was scheduled to arrive in Dubai on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. local time (12:30 p.m. Eastern), while the California group was also to land on Wednesday evening. Both flights had planned stops at Stanstead, England, for refueling.

Technically, the United States will be represented by just the Horse of the Year Invasor in the $6 million Dubai World Cup, as the John Kimmel-trained Premium Tap will fly the flag for Saudi Arabia, where he has been in residence since having been bought by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and sons. Another World Cup runner with ties to America, Discreet Cat, will start for Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai-based Godolphin outfit. Flow, who will challenge colts in the 1 1/8-mile UAE Derby, also will run for Godolphin.

Scheduled to accompany the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Invasor on the Fort Lauderdale flight are three of the four Americans in the 1 1/8-mile, $5 million Dubai Duty Free: Miesque's Approval, the Martin Wolfson-trained Breeders' Cup Mile winner, and a pair of Todd Pletcher charges, Host, who ran fourth in last year's Duty Free, and English Channel, a three-time Grade 1 winner. Also slated to be on board were three of America's five candidates for the six-furlong, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen: Bishop Court Hill, also from Pletcher's barn; the Eddie Kenneally-trained Kelly's Landing; and the Manuel Azpurua-trained Nightmare Affair. Honey Ryder, the Flower Bowl Handicap winner who is aiming at the 1 1/2-mile, $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic, is the fourth Pletcher runner on the Florida plane.

Lava Man's flightmates from Los Angeles were to include two for the Golden Shaheen: the Doug O'Neill-trained Harvard Avenue, as well as Friendly Island, the Pletcher trainee who finished second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint to Thor's Echo. The champion American sprinter of 2006, Thor's Echo is now with Sateesh Seemar in Dubai, where he will try to go one better in the Golden Shaheen, in which he was second last year.

Also scheduled to be on the Los Angeles fight were the Sheema Classic-bound Obrigado, who won the San Luis Obispo Handicap and is trained by Neil Drysdale, and two $1 million Godolphin Mile hopefuls in the Julio Canani-trained Dixie Meister and Sprint at Last, the third of three O'Neill horses.

All told, the United States will have five in the Golden Shaheen: Bishop Court Hill, Friendly Island, Harvard Avenue, Kelly's Landing, and Nightmare Affair. Four U.S. Runners will go in the Duty Free: English Channel, Host, Lava Man, and Miesque's Approval. There are two for the Sheema Classic, Honey Ryder and Obrigado; two in the Godolphin Mile, Dixie Meister and Spring at Last; and one in the World Cup, Invasor, whose only defeat came in last year's UAE Derby, when he finished fourth, seven lengths behind his World Cup rival Discreet Cat.