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Animal Kingdom heads Dubai World Cup entries

Monterosso will bid to become first double winner of the $10m contest at Meydan

Gulf News

Dubai: The 18th running of the $10 million (Dh36.7 million) Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline, has received a staggering 272 entries from 11 countries at the end of the free nominations stage, led by a quantum 184-horse entry from the UAE.

As expected the Group 1 contest, which will take place on March 30 at Meydan Racecourse, has attracted some of the best thoroughbreds from around the world including 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Animal Kingdom, 2012 Eclipse Award-winning and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) heroine Royal Delta and 2012 South African champion Igugu.

Defending champion Monterosso looks the pick of the local entries as he bids to become the first horse in history to win the race twice. Monterosso represents six-time Dubai World Cup winner Godolphin and, together with the progressive Farhh, twice runner-up to the great Frankel last season, heads a significant 28-horse entry from the stable.

American-bred horses have won the Cup a record nine times and the country has, true to form, posted 27 nominees. South Africa has nominated 18, Japan 11, Great Britain seven, Hong Kong four and Singapore two.

Martin Talty, the Dubai Racing Club’s International Manager said in a statement on Tuesday: “In 2002 we had 87 horses nominated for the Dubai World Cup at the free nominations stage, this year we have 272.

“The nominations shouldn’t be used as an assessment of the quality of the ultimate field, but the large increases over the years do serve to demonstrate the status that this flagship race, and indeed all the races on the Dubai World Cup day, has attained all over the world.

“A total of 23 countries are represented in these nominations for our programme of six Group 1 races, two Group 2s and one Group 3 outing worth a combined $27,25m in prize money. I look forward to following the progress of all the nominated horses as we draw nearer to the big day on March 30.”

Royal Delta, who finished ninth to Monterosso after being seriously hampered in the race twelve months ago, is the 9/2 ante-post favourite with leading English bookmaker William Hill, who also offer 6/1 for Animal Kingdom and 10s for last year’s big disappointment Game On Dude.

The Dale Romans-trained duo of Dullahan, the Pacific Classic star and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic sensation Little Mike is also prominent in the markets.

Both hopeful are expected to warm-up for the World Cup with runs on the March 9 Super Saturday card. Like many Dubai World Cup nominated horses, both also hold nominations for the Dubai Duty Free (G1), sponsored by Dubai Duty Free and the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), presented by Longines.

South African training giant Mike de Kock may well have his best chance yet of winning a maiden Dubai World Cup with the highly-regarded champion mare Igugu, who has triumphed in 10 of her 12 starts, including four at the highest level.

De Kock, who has conditioned some outstanding winners in Dubai and perhaps none more than 2003 Dubai Duty Free winner Ipi Tombe said of Igugu: “I firmly believe she’s world class and she’s only going to get better. I do rate her right up there.”

The six-year-old daughter of champion sire Galileo has also been nominated for the two Group 1 $5 million turf races, the Dubai Duty Free, which has attracted 304 nominations and the Dubai Sheema Classic, which has 266 nominations, including 2011 Melbourne Cup and 2012 Caulfield Cup winner, Dunaden.

Argentina’s 2012 Premio Classico General Belgrano and Breeder’s Cup Marathon winner Calidoscopio hold nominations for the Dubai World Cup and the Dubai Gold Cup, a race where India’s champion filly In the Spotlight has also been nominated.