DUBAI // The winner of this year's Dubai World Cup will be able to lay claim to being the best horse on the planet. It is the first time the race has drawn entries from the best turf runners as well as dirt specialists. The US$10million (Dh36.7m) race, to be contested on the synthetic track at Meydan Racecourse, was previously run on dirt at Nad al Sheba - meaning trainers were unwilling to risk their finest turf runners and would instead opt for lesser races at the same meeting.
The record number of nominations for races on Dubai World Cup night is the result of the synthetic Tapeta track being used, providing world-class horses such as Cavalryman and Gladiatorus, who normally favour turf, with the chance to go in the world's richest race rather than the $5m Sheema Classic and Duty Free turf races. Martin Talty, the international manager at Dubai Racing Club, said the new surface was tempting trainers to consider a tilt at the big race.
"When the World Cup was on a dirt surface it was the best of the US versus Godolphin and a couple of other horses," he said. "Now with Tapeta it's opened itself up to the world because grass horses have shown they perform well on synthetic. "Trainers and owners who may have targeted their horses at the Duty Free or Sheema Classic, are hoping to have a crack at the World Cup. We haven't seen too many dirt horses on the Tapeta yet, but I would be surprised if they didn't perform - it is a very good track."
There are 288 World Cup nominations from 15 countries for what is shaping up to be a competitive night at Meydan Racecourse. There is a new trend towards entering horses for all three of the day's highest-paying contests. Trainers will decide later in the next few weeks which race their charges are suited to. Godolphin's Cavalryman, third in the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe and, at 125, joint-seventh highest-rated horse of 2009 is nominated for the World Cup, Sheema Classic and the Duty Free.
Gladiatorus, last year's 2009 Duty Free winner, and at one point the highest-rated turf horse in the world, may also go to the World Cup, but has been nominated for the Duty Free and Godolphin Mile. Gio Ponti, America's double Eclipse Award-winner and Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up, holds nominations for the World Cup and the Duty Free, and has form on turf and synthetic tracks. The World Cup has also attracted US-trained runners, including last year's favourite, Albertus Maximus who finished a disappointing sixth on the night.
In total 1,951 nominations have been received from 23 countries for the March 27 World Cup programme, up 268 on 2009. The figures compare favourably to World Cup day in 2000, the first year statistics are available, when 703 nominations were received. The number of entries have gone up every year since, culminating in the record 2010 figure. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org