03/04/2004 1:00AM

Victory Moon surely up to challenge


Dubai World Cup Preview Night at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday will feature course-and-distance preps for all six of the big races on Dubai World Cup Night on March 27, but serious Godolphin contenders will be hard to find.

With Godolphin yet to produce viable hope for either the World Cup or the UAE Derby, Saturday's preps for those two races should go to a pair of Southern Hemisphere invaders.

Victory Moon's task in Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge, a Group 2 prep for the 1 1/4-mile World Cup, appears straightforward. A South African-bred, he was an easy winner of Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge going 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 12 and is already a course-and-distance winner, in last year's UAE Derby. Trainer Mike de Kock will have him ready in anticipation for a possible meeting with Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d'Oro in the World Cup.

Victory Moon will face just six rivals in the $300,000 Challenge, among them a Godolphin runner, Naheef, who was seventh in last year's Dubai Duty Free and who makes his first start on dirt. A better chance for second belongs to Dubai Honor, who has two wins at the distance versus lesser.

Godolphin is keeping its World Cup hope, Pennsylvania Derby winner Grand Hombre, under wraps until March 27. It is taking the same route with its main UAE Derby chance, Great Exhibition, a Gone West colt whose best effort was a 1 1/4-length second to Master David in a Thirsk maiden.

The UAE Derby prep is the Al Bastikiya, a 1 1/8-mile conditions race worth $150,000. Little Jim, an Argentine import who won the UAE 2000 Guineas in his first start in Dubai, rates a solid favorite. By the Forty Niner stallion Roar, Little Jim was a Group 1 and Group 2 winner on dirt in Argentina at 2. The Mike de Kock-trained Brazilian-bred Lundy's Liability, fourth in the UAE 2000 Guineas, could complete the exacta.

The Group 3, $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal is the prep for the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen. Conroy will defend his title, but the choice is Persuasivo Fitz, whose second behind the very speedy National Currency in the Al Shindagha Sprint last time points him out in a dull field.

Vespone is the one notable Godolphin runner who will line up on Saturday. Purchased after his victory in the Grand Prix de Paris in June, he finished last of 12 in his lone start for Godolphin in the Champion Stakes on Oct. 18. His presence in the Group 3, $200,000 Jebel Hatta, the prep for the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Duty Free, is intriguing. He will be sternly challenged by Trademark, a two-time Grade 2 winner at Saratoga, and British Group 3 winners Gateman and Membership.

Fair Mix, a Group 1 winner in France, and Lunar Sovereign, winner of last September's Man o' War Stakes, are the name horses in the Group 3, $200,000 Dubai City of Gold, the prep for the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic, but the preference is for the David Loder-trained Razkalla, a two-time listed winner in England who took a 1 1/4-mile turf allowance at Nad Al Sheba on Feb. 7.

Betting on the six-race Nad Al Sheba card will be available at selected account wagering outlets. Partial-card wagering will be available at selected outlets throughout the United States. All pools will be commingled with pools in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Bright Sky starts short year

French classic winner Bright Sky embarks on an abbreviated 5-year-old campaign at Saint-Cloud in the Group 3 Prix Exbury.

Winner of the French Oaks and the Prix de l'Opera at 3, Bright Sky defeated subsequent Breeders' Cup Mile winner Six Perfections in the Group 2 Prix d'Astarte at Deauville last August before finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf. She will use the 1 1/4-mile Exbury as a prep for the Dubai World Cup on March 27, after which she will be sent to Kentucky to be bred to A.P. Indy.

The Andre Fabre-trained Polish Summer, who uses the Exbury as a prep for the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup night, will give Bright Sky something to think about, as will Look Honey, a Sadler's Wells 4-year-old who won the 1 1/4-mile Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam three starts back in July.