Red Desire goes for the big one

There is a change of plan of the fine Japanese filly Red Desire with the horse now primed to compete in the Dubai World Cup.

DUBAI // Connections of the Japanese filly Red Desire have confirmed she will run in the Dubai World Cup on the back of her impressive victory in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round III race on Super Thursday. She displayed an astonishing turn of foot in a slow-paced race when floating from last to first in the March 4 prep at Meydan Racecourse. She pipped the in-form 2009 World Cup runner-up and Al Maktoum Challenge Round I winner Gloria de Campeao on the line.

The assistant trainer, Takashi Saito, yesterday confirmed Red Desire will sidestep her original Dubai Sheema Classic target for a tilt at the showpiece US$10million (Dh36.7m) World Cup instead. "We know there is a lot of excitement about Red Desire in Japan. The country has yet to win the World Cup and there will be many eyes following her progress as well as pressure," he said. The filly will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon, whose original World Cup hope, Mike de Kock's Eagle Mountain, was retired earlier this week because of tendon problems.

Racing fans in Japan will be pleased to have a runner to cheer for after losing their two-time horse of the year, Vodka. The seven-time Group One winner was retired following the Maktoum Challenge when she was found to have bled from the nose, a sign of burst blood vessels in the lungs. In fact the only person who may unhappy with Red Desire's choice of race could be her Al Maktoum Challenge rider Olivier Peslier, who already has a big-race booking on the Hong Kong Cup winner Vision D'Etat and may have hoped to partner the Japanese horse in the Sheema.

Though Japanese horses have won races on World Cup night before - Heart's Cry was a memorable winner of the 2006 Sheema Classic - the closest they have come to winning the World Cup was in 2001 when To The Victory was second to Captain Steve. "We know it's a tough race, but we are not worrying about other horses. We are concentrating on our filly and getting her to the start as sound and as fit as possible," said Saito. "This is a challenge for Red Desire. The way she finished in the Al Maktoum Challenge is typical, but actually in Japan there is one filly that can finish faster."

That filly, the fleet-footed Buena Vista, who beat Red Desire into second place in the Japanese 1,000 Guineas and Oaks last year, is likely to contest the Sheema Classic so the pair will not meet.