Attention turns to Meydan on Saturday as the best horses on the planet head to the UAE to battle it out in the world's richest race meeting, the 2011 Dubai World Cup.
With thirteen countries set to be represented in seven different races, punters are faced with a daunting task as they look to unravel form from all over the world.
Last year's meeting threw up a whole host of surprises and big priced winners and there is sure to be plenty of excitement and exhilarating finishes on Saturday's fascinating card under the lights at Meydan. Paddy Power
are offering all new customers a free bet on today's racing and will be streaming all the action from Dubai live online.
13:15 - Al Quoz Sprint (Group 2) (Turf) 5f
This year’s Al Quoz Sprint revolves around world class international speedster J J THE JET PLANE and there is sure to be plenty of disappointed punters if the second best sprinter on the planet doesn’t rise to the task.
Second only to the mighty Black Caviar in the sprinting world rankings, J J The Jet Plane has tasted Group One success all over the world, including when beating Singapore favourite Rocket Man in the Hong Kong Sprint last year.
Last seen destroying a decent field over course and distance when giving lumps of weight away, the selection put a bad run on Tapeta behind him and opened his account at this year’s Carnival with minimum fuss.
The superstar will not mind dropping down to five furlongs and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t up to beating his rivals here.
War Artist and Prohibit are capable of taking a hand in the finish and it would be foolish to underestimate the chances of Starspangledbanner-conqueror Sole Power who has been aimed at this race since his 100/1 shock in the Nunthorpe Stakes last season.
Nick Wilby’s selection – J J The Jet Plane (2/1, Paddy Power)
13.50 - Godolphin Mile (Group 2) (AWT) 1m1f
The Godolphin Mile will be a race that British punters will be approaching with some confidence and Red Jazz and PREMIO LOCO are the highest rated runners in the field.
The former has some high class form to his name and a ½ length third to Poet’s Voice in the QEII at Ascot would be enough to win this race, especially with trainer Barry Hills being particularly forward with his horses at this time of the year.
However Premio Loco is afforded another chance after his below-par performance at last year’s Carnival and the admirable miler could improve on an already impressive strike rate on the all-weather.
Last seen finishing down the field on softer than ideal ground at Newmarket, the selection had previously won the Criterion Stakes and Summer Mile before chasing home the awesome Canford Cliffs and Aidan O’Brien’s Rip Van Winkle in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
In the hope that Premio Loco can show his best form on a surface that he has not yet proven he enjoys, he is the selection, although the Godolphin duo of Skysurfers and Rileyskeepingfaith are not dismissed lightly.
14.25 - UAE Derby (Group 2) (AWT) 1m1f 110yds
A wide open looking renewal of the UAE Derby this year and no horse has really stepped forward to dominate this season’s division. Khawlah is the favourite for the race after beating Mike De Kock’s highly regarded Mahbooba in the UAE Oaks and the Godolphin inmate looks like she could be a classy filly this season, although Frankie Dettori appears to have jumped off her to ride South American Carnival debutant Xin Xu Lin.
With this year’s classics being dominated by the fillies, it is best to overlook any of the colts that have been plying their trade in the UAE and turn to the British raiders.
John Gosden’s Utley is clearly well regarded by his legendary trainer and could be involved if he can shake off his poor draw and Aidan O’Brien’s MASTER OF HOUNDS and Alexander Pope are also well respected on their Carnival debuts.
Master Of Hounds has form tying him in with the likes of leading Classic hopes Casamento and Dunboyne Express and with the step up in trip and decent ground sure to suit, he could make his double-figure odds look incredibly generous.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Master Of Hounds (12/1, Stan James)
15.05 - Dubai Golden Shaheen Stakes (Group 1) (AWT) 6f
The Golden Shaheen is sure to be explosive and frenetic and Singapore sprinting sensation ROCKET MAN can make amends for his unlucky defeat at the hands of the re-opposing Kinsale King in last year’s race.
Patrick Shaw’s consistent gelding couldn’t get a clear run at a vital time one year ago but with a bit more luck Rocket Man could turn the tables on the American raider. Aside from being the highest rated horse in the field, the selection arrives at Meydan on the back of a fine prep run and with form tying in with the likes of J J The Jet Plane and Sacred Kingdom he could take some pegging back at the business end of proceedings.
Kinsale King is obviously afforded maximum respect and Euroears is not taken lightly, but Rocket Man is the best horse in the race and can right the wrongs of last year’s running.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Rocket Man (6/4, Betfred)
15.45 - Dubai Duty Free Stakes (Group 1) (Turf) 1m1f
An absolutely enthralling renewal of the Dubai Duty Free Stakes sees sixteen of the best horses in the world clash in what looks set to be an absolute thriller.
There will be plenty of British punters hoping that either WIGMORE HALL or Presvis can bring the prize back home with them and if the former can build on his success in the Jebel Hatta at Meydan three weeks ago, there doesn’t seem any reason why Michael Bell’s progressive gelding can’t get off the mark in Group One company.
The John Smith’s Cup winner will appreciate the step up in distance and is known to be at his best when tackling a big field from the back of the pack. Jamie Spencer will be hoping for a strongly run race and will surely be confident that the Secretariat Stakes runner-up can continue to progress on his travels.
Luca Cumani’s Presvis remains the one to beat, but his tendency to run a shocker as often as he does a great race is seriously off putting and he always needs the gaps to open at the right times.
Herman Brown’s Bankable is a seriously classy individual who will be looking to go one better than his second in this race last year, while Singapore’s Better Than Ever is a fascinating contender after recording fourteen out of fifteen victories on the bounce back at home.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Wigmore Hall (11/2, Paddy Power)
16.50 - Dubai Sheema Classic (Group 1) (Turf) 1m4f
Godolphin’s Rewilding has been off the track since his disappointing performance in the St Leger at Doncaster last September, but it isn’t hard to see why the superstar is favourite for this year’s Sheema Classic.
The huge impression the four-year-old made in the Great Voltigeur at last year’s Ebor meeting lives long in the memory and the way he cruised past the likes of Midas Touch and Joshua Tree was seriously impressive.
However, he is a very skinny price and the value looks to lie with Barry Hills’ talented globetrotter REDWOOD.
The selection was last seen chasing home Mastery in the Hong Kong Vase and had previously tasted success in the Grade One Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at the end of a season that saw the five-year-old begin to fulfil some of his undoubted potential.
Hills is reportedly delighted with the progress Redwood has made this year and he can be expected to improve a couple of pounds as long as there is a decent pace to chase.
Brian Meehan’s Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Dangerous Midge will be looking for more success at the highest level, while Japanese raider Rulership could be a danger to all under the hands of Christophe Soumillon.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Redwood (nb) (9/1, Boylesports)
17.35 - Dubai World Cup (Group 1) (AWT) – 1m2f
This year’s Dubai World Cup looks one of the best renewals of the race for some time and there should be no hard luck stories if Japanese raider Transcend blasts out from the gates as expected.
Last year’s race left punters scratching their heads after a number of Group One winning horses fluffed their lines in a falsely run race and this year’s market leader Twice Over will be looking to prove that his poor performance in the 2010 Dubai World Cup was all wrong.
Henry Cecil’s superstar has since become one of the best middle-distance performers in Europe and the dual Champion Stakes hero returns to Meydan on the back of a scintillating performance in the third leg of the Maktoum Challenge earlier this month.
There is no doubt that he will be a tough nut to crack, even from his far from ideal draw.
Equally, Mike De Kock’s Golden Sword and American sensation Gio Ponti will have plenty of punters convinced that they can win the world’s richest race, but the value looks to lie with multiple Group One-winning Japanese wondermare BUENA VISTA.
The selection was just touched off in last year’s Sheema Classic after a far from impressive ride behind John Gosden’s Dar Re Mi, but she returns to Meydan a better horse and she looks wildly overpriced at 10/1.
Yet to finish out of the first three in her incredible career, she was robbed of a victory in the Japan Cup after a highly debatable stewards enquiry (she was first past the post) and she was narrowly denied by the re-opposing Victoire Pisa last time out.
She should reverse the form with that rival this time and become the highest earning horse in training. Her draw is a slightly worrying, but she is a hold-up performer and she will be in the right hands with jockey Ryan Moore in the saddle.
Gitano Hernando and Musir are respected, while Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Blanco will be virtually unbeatable if he can put up the same sort of performance that saw him hammer an awesome looking Irish Champion Stakes field (Twice Over included) last season.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Buena Vista (NAP) (10/1, Ladbrokes) - Already advised ante post Gitano Hernando, 12/1.