03/25/2003 12:00AM

War in Iraq keeps Gold Allure home


Dubai, United Arab Emirates - The Emirates Racing Association's $15.25 million Dubai World Cup night took a heavy hit Monday when Japan withdrew its leading World Cup hope Gold Allure as he was about to be loaded onto a plane in Tokyo on Sunday morning.

Dubai World Cup Committee chairman Les Benton said that the Yakuo Ikee-trained son of Sunday Silence was kept at home at the behest of the Japan Racing Association because of the war in Iraq. Also staying at home will be the large Japanese press corps, which routinely follows any Japanese horse running in a foreign race.

In the meantime, fifteen horses were pre-entered for the $6 million Dubai World Cup, the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 race that will be the highlight of the big night at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday.

Harlan's Holiday, the most accomplished dirt runner in the group, has only galloped at Nad Al Sheba since arriving on Sunday. Among those he will face in the world's richest race are Godolphin's Moon Ballad and Grandera as well as Hamdan Al Maktoum's Nayef. Sulamani, however, has been switched by Godolphin to the $2 million Dubai Sheema Classic, a 1 1/2-mile turf contest much more suited to the talents of the French Derby winner.

Godolphin's first-string rider Frankie Dettori expressed his decided preference to ride Moon Ballad in the World Cup. This might come as a surprise to students of form, given that Grandera is a three-time Group 1 winner at the World Cup distance.

But those three triumphs came on turf, and the Dubai World Cup is run on a dirt course that is not dissimilar to that of Churchill Downs. While Grandera did win Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge over the World Cup course and distance three weeks ago, he beat the ex-Gary Capuano-trained Grundlefoot by a mere half a length that night. Moon Ballad was a far more impressive winner of Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge on Feb. 13.

Barry Irwin of Team Valor should be feeling bullish about his chances in the $2 million 1 1/8-mile Group 1 Dubai Duty Free. His Ipi Tombe cruised four furlongs in :48.12 on Monday morning, getting the last quarter in :22.72. The Zimbabwean-bred filly will start as the favorite in the Duty Free.

Julio Canani explained why he is running Cayoke in the $1 million Godolphin Mile instead of the Duty Free.

"He had been burning up the track at Santa Anita," the Peruvian-born conditioner said on Tuesday. The Duty Free is a little too long for him and you never know how good they are on dirt unless you try them."

Cayoke breezed five furlongs in 1:00.77 a Nad Al Sheba on Tuesday, while the Scott Lake-trained My Cousin Matt, a runner in the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen, went a half in :47.42.

Blue Burner, who will oppose Harlan's Holiday in the World Cup, went six furlongs in 1:14.00 at Nad Al Sheba on Monday. Fifth behind Harlan's Holiday in the Donn Handicap, Blue Burner will be making his last start for Bill Mott in the World Cup before being turned over to Saudi-based conditioner Kevin McAuliffe.

French stars Aquarelliste and Ange Gabrield arrived safely in Dubai on Sunday for their assignments in the World Cup and Sheema Classic, respectively.

In addition to the Japanese contingent, the war in Iraq has also laid claim to the opening ceremony program on World Cup night. As a result, there has been a reshuffling of post times. The big Arabian race, the Dubai Kahayla Classic, will open the program a half-hour later than scheduled at 5:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. EST). The new post times for the six Thoroughbred races are: Godolphin Mile 9:10 a.m. EST, UAE Derby 9:50 a.m. EST, Dubai Sheema Classic 10:30 a.m. EST, Dubai Golden Shaheen 11:10 a.m. EST, Dubai Duty Free 11:50 a.m. EST, Dubai World Cup 12:40 p.m. EST.