With the richest night in horse racing coming up this Saturday, March 26, Geoffrey Riddle and Amith Passela analyse each of the races before the main event.
Click through for our picks on each race. See our horse-by-horse analysis of the main race here.
Dubai Kahayla Classic
2. TM Thunder Struck
3. AF Mathmoon
If a system works, why tinker with it? Last year Saeed bin Suroor sent Tamarkuz to Musabah Al Muhari and the Oasis Stables trainer improved his new acquisition throughout the World Cup Carnival to win the Godolphin Mile.
Maftool is another given to Al Muhairi by the Al Quoz maestro and he looked a rejuvenated character when winning a handicap last month. That day Maftool, who has been gelded, powered through kickback and no longer needed the assistance of a visor.
Maftool won the UAE 2,000 Guineas last season and can take a step up again to beat the talented, yet temperamental, Marking and Sloane Avenue, who was edged out by Tamarkuz last season but has had an interrupted preparation.
3: Sloane Avenue
Dubai Gold Cup
It is very hard to see how Vazirabad will be beaten. Trained in Chantilly by Alain de Royer-Dupre, who has a good record at Meydan, the French gelding is unbeaten in five starts and crowned last season with a decisive win in the Group 1 Prix Royal Oak at Saint-Cloud in October.
Connections believe he has acclimatised fully this week and the four-year-old grey should have the race set up for him with British raider Big Orange and a rejuvenated former winner Certerach likely to set the pace.
Andre Fabre’s Manatee could well pick up the pieces should those two go too fast.
2: Big Orange
Polar River put in the least impressive performance of her four-race career last time when she won the UAE Oaks from Saturday’s rival Vale Dori.
Polar River had scythed her way through a maiden, the UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial and the Guineas itself prior to that race, but only just held off Mike de Kock’s challenger.
She had a tooth removed beforehand, however, and with a smoother preparation she looks very hard to beat.
Vale Dori must again give her weight due to being foaled in the southern hemisphere, but her defeat to Polar River was her first run since May and improvement is almost a given.
The Group 2 UAE Derby is worth $US2million, but what could be worth the trip alone for US raider Frank Conversation is that there is 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points available should he prevail.
1: Polar River
2: Vale Dori
3: Frank Conversation
Al Quoz Sprint
The key to this 1,000-metre dash is who will lead, and how fast will they go. There are numerous horses who like to pin their ears back and go for broke, and many of them are highly-fancied. Peniaphobia, who was second last year, Buffering, a six-time Group 1 winner in Australia, Ertijaal, the favourite who has set the Carnival alight and American sprinter Lady Shipman all like to lead.
Their rivalry up front could easily set it up for the closers and Hong Kong’s NotListenin’tome looks wildly underrated. Three weeks ago he posted the third fastest time down the Sha Tin stretch in the past 16 years and will get a magnificent tow in to the race from compatriot Peniaphobia. Defending champion Sole Power and dual Group 1 winner Goldream look best placed to take advantage on the other side of Peniaphobia, while Muthmir could also finish strongly.
3: Sole Power
Dubai Golden Shaheen
There is only one way that American sprinter XY Jet knows how to race. As soon as the gates open, the grey four-year-old will break quickly under Emisael Jaramillo and is unlikely to see another horse. XY Jet has speed to burn and has the perfect draw for his style of running in gate three.
Master Kochanwong will ensure that XY Jet does not necessary have his own way on his inside from gate two, while last year’s runner-up, Super Jockey, has been primed for another big run after just being edged out three weeks ago at Sha Tin.
Meydan favourite Reynaldothewizard will not be inconvenienced by his wide draw as he likes to be held up, but there is the suspicion that he will charge through tired horses without success.
1: XY Jet
2: Super Jockey
Godolphin could easily dominate the Dubai Turf. Charlie Appleby is set to saddle Tryster, who has lit up the Dubai World Cup Carnival with his supercharged finishing kick.
Tryster has the ability to cruise on the heels of a race before he unleashes a finishing burst that is as fast as a five-furlong sprinter.
Defending champion Solow, who is injured, had the necessary blend of stamina and speed to test Tryster but in his absence the role of stretching the favourite falls on Japanese runner Real Steel, who does not look good enough.
You have to go back six years for the last time Saeed bin Suroor drew a blank on World Cup night and with five wins already in this race Very Special could give Tryster the most to do.
2: Very Special
3: Real Steel
Dubai Sheema Classic
Duramente offers Japan the best chance of success on World Cup night. The four-year-old colt won the Japanese Guineas and Derby last season, before he fractured both forelegs. He was off the track for nine months but posted a very satisfactory return last month. There should be a great deal of improvement to come, and both trainer and jockey believe he has matured considerably since last season.
Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s Postponed was also very impressive when he won the Dubai City Of Gold on Super Saturday, but it looked a weak race and no winner of that Group 2 has gone on to land what is one of the best turf races in the world.
Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel has become a very hardy international campaigner and will not go down without a fight.
3: Highland Reel