By Gene Kershner
Breakfast in Dubai is on tap tomorrow morning at Meydan Race Course as Dubai World Cup Day kicks off a spectacular weekend of thoroughbred racing that includes the Florida Derby (NBC Sports Network, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. EDT) from Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds on Saturday evening. The Meydan Race Course is home to some of the richest races of the year. Free past performances for the Dubai races can be found here. The Dubai World Cup will be part of a Fox Sports 1 telecast between 1 - 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
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) Group 2 UAE Derby. Run over 1 3/16-mile on the Tapeta, for $2 million large. This race is also part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, offering the winner 100 points and a gate in the Derby. Last year's winner Lines of Battle finished 11th in Kentucky Derby 139. The race has drawn 12 three-year-olds, including several from the States.
The best known horse in the race is 5-Giovanni Boldini (USA) (5-2) a horse I loved in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. He has two wins on all-weather surfaces. The son of War Front will stretch out to his longest distance in this one and should be part of the mix for trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore. 9-Asmar (IRE) (6-1) has a win at the distance and on the Tapeta at Meydan. 4-Long John (AUS) (3-1) is a son of Street Cry and should be able to handle the distance and also has an impressive win over the surface.
Race 5: (11:03 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint. A 5-furlong turf sprint with a purse of a cool $1 million dollars has attracted 12 runners, including U.S. horse 7-Berlino de Tiger (30-1), who looks to be overmatched in this group. 8-Amber Sky (AUS) (8-1) looks like a solid turf sprinter coming off an impressive Group 1 win at Sha Tin in Hong Kong. 6-Hamza (IRE) (15-1) ships in and is a classy horse that should be in the mix. 12-Shea Shea (SAF) is no stranger to the Meydan turf course and is a win threat at even money odds.
Race 6: (11:41 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen Classic. A 6-furlong sprint on the Tapeta surface, with a purse of two big 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 back in the day. Old war horse and returning defending champ 5-Reynaldothewizard (USA) (5-2) will attempt back to back victories in the Shaheen. 12-Rich Tapestry (IRE) (4-1), a 6-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor defeated the 'wizard last out in a Group 3 race at Meydan. A horse going from Turf to AW is 4-Sterling City (AUS) (20-1) who has had some recent success at Sha Tin and against tough competition is a long shot worth considering.
Race 7: (12:39 p.m. EDT) Grade 1 Dubai Duty Free. A nice field of 13 horses will be going 1 1/8-miles on the Meydan turf course for $5 million. 10-Dank (GB) (7-2), the winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf takes on the boys in the Duty Free and should be the one to beat. It'll be her first effort off the layoff, but the 5-year-old by Dansili is a classy mare. She'll be challenged by the 4-year-old colt 11-Vercingetroix (SAF) (5-1) who is undefeated in six career races. This is shaping to be a huge race as 4-The Fugue (GB) (3-1), second place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Turf will also try her fortunes cutting back in distance for trainer John Gosden and top jockey William Buick.
Race 8: (1:17 p.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. A large field of 15 runners will run 1 1/2-miles on the turf for $5 million large. West Point Thoroughbreds and U.S. hopeful 11-Twilight Eclipse (USA) (20-1) comes off back-to-back graded stakes for trainer Tom Albertrani. He finished sixth in the BC Turf, by just over two lengths to 4-Magician (IRE) (3-1), who will be making his 2014 debut in the Sheema as the favorite. Ryan Moore is aboard the Deep Impact mare 12-Gentildonna (JPN) (4-1) who finished second in last year's edition. Another Japanese entry, 3-Denim and Ruby (JPN) (8-1) finished a nose behind Gentildonna in the Japan Cup and should be a nice price horse in here. Godolphin will send out 1-Excellent Result (IRE) (15-1) winner of his last two for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Frankie Dettori will be in the irons on 10-Dubday (GB) (20-1) who ships in after winning three straight Group 1 races in Great Britain.
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. 16-Ron The Greek (USA) (5-1) sold after last year's 6-year-old season to Saudi Arabian interests along with 10-Surfer (USA) (30-1), a Distorted Humor gelding are the two US-bred horses vying for the biggest purse of the race year. It will be Ron the Greek's first race on the Meydan Tapeta, a surface that not many US dirt horses have had much luck on since Curlin's win in the 2008 World Cup. He drew the far outside post and will have some work to do if he is to cash a big check.
Three horses I favor are 1-Prince Bishop (IRE) (10-1), 11-Hokko Tarumae (JPN) (12-1) and 4-Akeed Mofeed (GB) (10-1), all who have won multiple times at the Classic distance . Another horse that you can't discount due to the connections and breeding is 12-Ruler of the World (IRE) (9-2) by Galileo out of a Kingmambo mare, the slight morning line favorite. This race looks wide open and a great betting opportunity.
You can also check out the Dubai Race Night website for full World Cup day analysis on each race.
Saturday is a terrific day of racing, be sure to check out tomorrow's print edition for previews of the huge Derby prep races from Florida and Louisiana.