01/18/2010 1:00AM

World Cup looks to Zenyatta


Despite the news that the Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Zenyatta, could make her 6-year-old debut in the Santa Margarita Handicap on March 13, hopes remain high in the Mideast that she could still be rerouted to the Dubai World Cup. Her inclusion in the field would help to make this year's renewal of the world's richest race the deepest in its 14-year history.

Newly enriched this year to $10 million and to be run on a synthetic surface at the new Meydan Racecourse, the 1 1/4-mile World Cup is an attractive spot. Owners, trainers, and jockeys of all foreign-based horses running on World Cup Night - as well as their spouses - all receive free travel and hotel accommodations. Travel expenses for the horses themselves are also picked up by the Dubai Racing Club.

The first stage of free nominations to the Dubai World Cup and the other seven races on the $26 million World Cup card closed on Jan. 3 and will be announced shortly. There are three other nominating stages yet to come. The next, which requires a fee of one-tenth of a percent of the total purse, closes Feb. 17. The third stage on March 8 necessitates a fee of 1 percent of the purse. Supplementary nominations at a rate of 10 percent of the purse close on March 21. At that late date it would cost $1 million to get into the World Cup.

Speaking to the Racing Post, the Dubai Racing Club's chief executive, Frank Gabriel, said, "It is our aim to secure a lineup of the highest quality for the Dubai World Cup. A horse of the caliber of Zenyatta will be of paramount importance."

Officials of the racing club will be putting on a charm offensive in an effort to convince Zenyatta's owners, Jerome and Ann Moss, and trainer, John Shirreffs, to bring their undefeated 6-year-old mare to Dubai. With 13 of her 14 career victories coming on synthetic tracks, the Tapeta surface at Meydan should be right up her alley. But a return to filly-and-mare competition in the March 13 Santa Margarita would very likely preclude a trip to Dubai for the World Cup, which will be run just two weeks later on March 27.

The number and quality of horses already announced for the World Cup indicate that the inclusion of Zenyatta in the field would make this year's race the best ever. Gio Ponti and Twice Over, the second- and third-place finishers behind Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic, were declared as possibles by their connections immediately after the Classic. Gitano Hernando, the Team Valor-owned Goodwood Stakes winner, was pulled from the Breeders' Cup Marathon in favor of a tilt at the World Cup. The Pacific Classic winner Richard's Kid was recently purchased by Rashid bin Mohammed al-Maktoum's Zabeel Stables expressly for the race. Vision d'Etat, a four-time Group 1 winner going at or about 1 1/4 miles on turf in France, England, and Hong Kong, is also under serious consideration, as is the Japan Cup winner Vodka, who is scheduled to close out her career in the World Cup before heading to Ireland to be bred to Sea the Stars.