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PHOTO: Dubai Racing Club
PHOTO: Dubai Racing Club

By Michael Wrona
Thursday, 28 March 2024

When Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates hosts this Saturday's 29th Dubai World Cup program, fans wagering through North American ADWs will enjoy participation in the World Pool. Access to the larger pool of money invested globally will mean more stabilized odds. The dazzling card, boasting US$30 million in purses, gets underway at 7:30 a.m. Eastern / 4:30 Pacific and all you can watch live on and FanDuel TV. The event has attracted horses from over a dozen countries, including more than 30 Group/Grade 1 winners, plus many of the world's elite horsemen and riders. The Dubai World Cup, with a massive $12 million purse, is the fitting finale (Race 9) at 12:35 p.m. Eastern / 9.35 a.m. Pacific.
2023 Dubai World Cup winner, Ushba Tesoro, finished the year by unleashing a paralyzing burst to win a second consecutive G1 Tokyo Daishoten. In his only race since, the now-7-year-old went under narrowly in the Saudi Cup to America's Senor Buscador. Ushba Tesoro is 5-2 favorite to become the Dubai World Cup's second repeat winner, after Thunder Snow in 2018-19. Saturday's rematch with Senor Buscador (8-1) will be an obvious highlight, but there are three other horses separating them in the wagering. Japan's Derma Sotogake (9-2), who was 6th in the Kentucky Derby and runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Classic, can easily improve on a 5th-placed Saudi Cup finish in his 4-year-old debut. Santa Anita Handicap winner, Newgate (7-1), can provide the trainer-jockey combination of Bob Baffert and Frankie Dettori with a second success after Country Grammer took the spoils in 2022. However, for all the lofty reputations – both equine and human – attached to this year's race, the surprise package has been an unheralded horse from Kazakhstan who sits second in the market at 7-2. 

The sentimental choice and one of horse racing's great "fairy-tale" stories is undoubtedly Kabirkhan, a son of 2016 Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome, who was undefeated as a 2-year-old in Kazakhstan and a leading 3-year-old in Russia. With a part-Arabic, part-Kazakh name that translates to "Mighty King," Kabirkhan continued his unlikely journey to stardom by joining the Dubai barn of American expat Doug Watson. Despite being an eight-time champion UAE trainer in his 20 years since completing a mentorship under Kieran McLaughlin (himself a three-time champion UAE trainer), Watson had never won a Group/Grade 1 Thoroughbred race until Kabirkhan stormed the desert and captured the Al Maktoum Challenge in January. California Chrome's trainer, the venerable Art Sherman, has followed Kabirkhan's rise from obscurity with a sense of wonderment. Sherman, who looked in fine fettle at age 87 when I had the pleasure of his company at a recent luncheon, marvels at the physical similarities and humble beginnings of both horses. California Chrome's breeders paid $8,000 for his dam, while Kabirkhan was a $12,000 Keeneland yearling purchase after a downturn in his sire's stud career had seen "Chrome" relocated to Japan. California Chrome, a two-time US Horse of the Year and 2023 Hall of Fame inductee who has been largely overlooked as a stallion, could ironically become the first winner of the Dubai World Cup to sire a Dubai World Cup winner.

The showpiece race is the climax of a program which boasts a tremendous variety of conditions:

  • Race 1 is the Kahayla Classic for Arabians at 1-1/4 miles on dirt.
  • Race 2 is the Godolphin Mile on dirt.
  • Race 3 is the Dubai Gold Cup, at two miles on turf.
  • Race 4 is the Al Quoz Sprint, a straight six-furlong spectacle on turf.
  • 100 Kentucky Derby points are up for grabs in the UAE Derby, Race 5 at 1-3/16 miles on dirt. 
  • US sprinter Sibelius returns to defend his title in the Golden Shaheen, Race 6 at six furlongs on dirt.
  • The extraordinary 8-year-old Lord North is back to rekindle his love affair with the Dubai Turf, Race 7 at 1-1/8 miles, which he has won each of the past three years. 
  • Race 8, The Sheema Classic at 1-1/2 miles on turf, features the past two winners of the Breeders' Cup Turf, Auguste Rodin and Rebel's Romance. The former races for the first time since Ryan Moore's widely lauded Breeders' Cup ride last Fall. (Moore rode in Sydney last weekend and will immediately return to Australia for The Championships at Randwick on April 5 and 12.) The Sheema Classic will also be graced by star Japanese filly Liberty Island, winner of her nation's "Triple Tiara."

About Michael Wrona 

A native of Brisbane, Australia, Michael Wrona has called races in six countries. Michael's vast U.S. experience includes; race calling at Los Alamitos, Hollywood Park, Arlington and Santa Anita, calling the 2000 Preakness on a national radio network and the 2016 Breeders' Cup on the International simulcast network. Michael also performed a race call voiceover for a Seinfeld episode called The Subway.

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