Sheema Classic preview: Postponed and Highland Reel must ‘respect the Japanese horses’

Alongside California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup, Sheema Classic runners Postponed, Duramente and Highland Reel are all officially rated the highest of the 104 runners across the card on 121, writes Geoffrey Riddle.

Last year Duramente posted wins in the Japanese Guineas and Derby, after which an attempt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was mooted. The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images
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DUBAI // On paper the Dubai Sheema Classic is the best race of the nine on the $US30 million (Dh110.1m) Dubai World Cup card at Meydan on Saturday and once the gates fly it could well be the most fascinating, too.

Alongside California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup, Sheema Classic runners Postponed, Duramente and Highland Reel are all officially rated the highest of the 104 runners across the card on 121.

Each of the trio has undergone completely different preparations, with Postponed cruising to an effortless victory in the Dubai City Of Gold on Super Saturday.

Duramente won the Group 2 Nakayama Kinen last month over an inadequate 1,800 metres and Highland Reel, who raced in six countries in his three-year-old season last year, has yet to race competitively as a four-year-old.

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Roger Varian has already waxed lyrical this week about the smooth preparation he has given Postponed, who starts as favourite after wins in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July and his Prix Foy victory in September, but it is the Japanese raider who he fears most.

His wife, Hanako, is the Japanese representative for Godolphin so he would know more than most.

“We are very respectful of Duramente,” Varian said. “I have watched his races and he is obviously a very good horse. You have to respect the Japanese horses at these big international meets because they regularly win the best races around the world. He looks one of their best horses.

“If I wasn’t racing against him, I would be very excited to see him.”

Postponed bids to become the first winner of the Dubai City Of Gold to step up to take the Sheema Classic, although none who tried boasted the class of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s horse.

British runners do not have the best record in the Sheema Classic but the Duramente camp are not taking Postponed’s challenge lightly, however.

Last year Duramente posted wins in the Japanese Guineas and Derby, after which an attempt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was mooted. He later fractures bones in both forelegs and had to take six months off.

Unlike Highland Reel, Saturday’s race will be Duramente’s first international start and although it has taken the mount of former World Cup winner Mirco Demuro a few days to settle in to his surroundings, he is ready for his biggest clash to date.

“We have a nice horse but Postponed looks very hard to beat,” Demuro said. “Gate four is fine for him. He can be a little bit keen but we will see.”

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