By Gene Kershner
Breakfast at the races is on tap on Saturday morning as Dubai World Cup Day kicks off a spectacular weekend of thoroughbred racing that includes the Florida Derby (NBC Sports Network, 6 p.m. EDT) from Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds. The Meydan Race Course will be home to some of the richest races of the year. American style past performances for the Dubai races can be found here.
Here's the lineup and a bit of commentary, a synopsis of the U.S. horses running, so fill up your bowl with some Lucky Charms and start handicapping…
Race 4: (10:25 a.m. EDT) UAE Derby. Run over 1 3/16-mile on the Tapeta, for $2 million big ones. his race is also part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, offering the winner 100 points and a gate in the Derby. The race has drawn 12 three-year-olds, including several from the States. Lightly raced 7-Secret Number (3-1) is the morning line favorite, but I favor 4-Lines of Battle (10-1), a War Front colt we last saw at Santa Anita. He finished sixth in a fairly strong Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf race where he had a very wide trip and covered much more ground than the top finishers. The top American challenger is El Camino Real winner 5-Dice Flavor, who won that race at Golden Gate Fields, a track with a Tapeta surface.
Race 5: (11:05 a.m. EDT) Al Quoz Sprint. A 5-furlong turf sprint with a purse of $1 million dollars has attracted 16 runners. Appears to be a duel between favored 7-Shea Shea (5-2) and 15-Sole Power (5-1), who met earlier in the month at Meydan in a $175K ungraded stake where Shea Shea prevailed by over two lengths. With a faster pace to the race likely, let's go with Sole Power to avenge his loss in the Meydan Sprint. Top American hopeful is 6-Varsity (6-1) with Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons. He'll most likely be on or near the lead and will try to take them gate to wire.
Race 6: (11:45 a.m. EDT) Dubai Golden Shaheen. A 6-furlong sprint on the Tapeta surface, with a purse of two bills, encompasses a field of 13 horses. Don’t confuse this race with the Shabeen, an old Buffalo bar and grill on Delaware Avenue, very popular on and around March 17. 3-Trinniberg (5-2) comes off the long layoff after his Breeders' Cup Sprint win to go for the money. Will he be ready to roll against horses that have had decent starts so far in 2013? His main rival, also an American horse, 12-Private Zone (9-2) has had three straight second place finishes in graded company in California. They are both "in the lead" types so depending on the pace early will decide whether any stalking or closers can catch them. I like 5-Reynaldothewizard (12-1) and 10-Mental (7-2), horses that each have earned wins on the Meydan Tapeta to challenge the Americans.
Race 7: (12:40 p.m. EDT) Dubai Duty Free. A nice field of 14 horses will be going 1 1/8-miles on the Meydan turf course for $5 million. One of America's top turf horses and defending Breeders' Cup Turf champion 3-Little Mike (3-1) will try to prove that last year was no fluke in winning three major U.S. races. He had a tune up race on the Tapeta in the Al Maktoum challenge where he finished sixth. If he wins he'd be the first American horse to win on the turf course during a World Cup meet. If you're looking to beat Little Mike, look no further than 5-Sajjhaa (GB) (8-1) who owns a Grade 1 victory over this course for Godophin. Johnny Murtagh is aboard New Zealand-bred 7-Ocean Park (9-2) who ships in with an impressive record. This could be one of the best races of the day.
Race 8: (1:20 p.m. EDT) Dubai Sheema Classic. Eleven runners will run 1 1/2-miles on the turf for $5 million large. 8-Gentildonna (9-5), winner of last November's Japan Cup is the most likely favorite on the card. You can never count out 6-St. Nicholas Abbey (5-2), but looks like he could have his work cut out for him on Saturday.
Race 9: (2:05 p.m. EDT) Dubai World Cup. Run at the classic 1 1/4-mile distance on the Tapeta for $10 million. Yes, you read that correctly, $10 million. Several American hopefuls will try and bring back the big purse to the homeland, including the two-time Ladies Classic champion 8-Royal Delta (4-1) who had a difficult trip last year in this race, but is back to redeem herself. She brings Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith with her this year to challenge. A familiar Americanhorse, 3-Dullahan (6-1) should go off at a better price and will be rolling late. He will have 50-year-old jockey Gary Stevens in the irons for the first time and will try and improve off his last effort over the Meydan all-weather surface earlier this month. The dangerous Godolphin stable has the morning line favorite in 4-Hunter's Light (IRE) (7-2) who will be running third off the layoff and comes off two impressive wins over the track. Also entered are last year's winner, 10-Monterosso (20-1) and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner 12-Animal Kingdom (5-1), whose last win on a synthetic surface was the Spiral Stakes prior to the Derby at Turfway Park. This race is shaping up to be nothing less than a classic. I like Dullahan's chances and think Royal Delta will prove last year's race was a simply a bad trip.
Saturday is a terrific day of racing, be sure to check out tomorrow's print edition for previews of the huge races from Florida and Louisiana.