Dubai: Godolphin handler Mahmoud Al Zarouni looks to hold all the aces in today's inaugural running of the $1 million (Dh3.67 million) Dubai Gold Cup (G3) sponsored by Al Tayer Motors, with Fox Hunt and Opinion Poll clearly the dominant runners in the field of 13. Both the runners have plenty in their favour having run at the top level in all the major stayer's contests.
This will be the first time that the 3,200 contest is run on the big night and it is sure to be a top class renewal with contenders like Francois Doumen's the ten-year-old gelding Kasbah Bliss, the Marco Botti-trained Joshua Tree and recent Meydan scorer Mikhail Glinka, who represents South African handler Herman Brown.
Frankie Dettori rides Opinion Poll in the Godolphin first colours, while Silvestre de Sousa partners Fox Hunt.
The former enjoyed an outstanding season in Europe last year where he won two Group Two Cup races at Goodwood and York and was also second in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot. The six-year-old made his 2012 debut in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) over 14 furlongs at Meydan on March 1 and and finished a respectable second behind Fox Hunt.
Al Zarooni said: "Fox Hunt is a very consistent sort and has performed very well in Dubai this year. He is tough and durable and was at the top of his form when winning earlier this month. I hope he can continue to run up to his best in the Dubai Gold Cup."
Godolphin have a third representative in the race in the Saeed Bin Surour-trained Grand Vent.
The four-year-old colt had seven starts in France with his best effort coming in the Prix Noailles (G2) over 2,000m at Longchamp last year. He finished seventh of 12 in a 2,000m handicap at Meydan on his seasonal bow. Bin Surour is hopeful and said: "This is a big step up in trip but he gives the impression that he should stay and I am hoping he can run well."
Mikhail Glinka looks to be the main danger to the Godolphin runner on the strength of his authoritative victory in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold (G2) on Super Saturday on March 10.
Brown, who rates Mikhail Glinka, as his best chance on the night said: "We have six runners on the night and they all seem very well and in great form — the best I have had them this year. We could have gone to the Dubai Sheema Classic with Mikhail Glinka but, realistically, the Dubai Gold Cup looked a more viable winning opportunity. We know he stays well and I am hoping for a big run. We also have Bronze Cannon in the race but Mikhail Glinka looks our main hope."
Kasbah Bliss, has been one of the eye-catchers during morning trials thanks to the orange coloured bandages he is equipped with.
Doumen said he was happy with the 10-year-old's preparation and has been issuing up-beat bulletins all week.
"He looks good, it's amazing how supple he is despite his age. I'm not worried about keeping him fresh for Saturday," said the Frenchman earlier. Barbican represents Alan Bailey who trains out of the Cavendish Stables in Newmarket, England. The four-year-old was most progressive last year winning six of his 10 starts including a Listed event at Kempton in November.
Bailey said: "He will be my first runner out here and he has travelled exceptionally well. He is a horse who will never overdo himself and he idles when he gets to the front in a race. It does look a decent race but he loves a battle."
Another interesting contender is the Japanese raider Makani Bisty who finished 11th to Dubai World Cup runner-up Transcend in the 2011 Japan Dirt Cup (G1).
1. OPINION POLL
2. FOX HUNT
3. MIKHAIL GLINKA