Dubai World Cup Preview: Hunter's to Light up Meydan

Silvestre de Sousa will be aboard Hunter's Light at Meydan.

The world's richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan, has attracted a star-studded 13-runner field. Timeform's Dubai expert Stephen Molyneux gives you his assessment of Saturday's race...

"Hunter's Light's record on an artificial surface stands at four from five (only defeat came on debut) and he fully deserves to be towards the head of the market..."

The obvious starting point when previewing the Dubai World Cup is Godolphin, who have owned the winner five times since the race's inception in 1996, with Saeed bin Suroor (who also trained Hamdan Al Maktoum's 1999 winner of the race Almutawakel) responsible for four of those, and new boy on the block, Mahmood Al Zarooni, getting in on the act last year by saddling the first two home, namely Monterosso and Capponi. 

It's no surprise that the boys in blue are heavily represented again this time around, with three running in their colours, namely African Story, Hunter's Light and Monterosso, and bin Suroor and Al Zarooni will also be represented by Kassiano and Capponi respectively, who have both sported the famous blue in the past but will be in different colours for this race.

The most prominent in the betting out of those five, and indeed favourite or joint-favourite with most bookmakers, is Hunter's Light, the winner of rounds two and three of the Maktoum Challenge at the Carnival this year. 

Godolphin's last five winners in this race had contested at least one round of the Maktoum Challenge prior to World Cup success and Hunter's Light couldn't have been any more impressive in disposing of Surfer in February and his progressive stablemate Kassiano more recently, looking every inch World Cup material. 

Hunter's Light's record on an artificial surface stands at four from five (only defeat came on debut) and he fully deserves to be towards the head of the market.

Few could have envisaged Kassiano as a likely runner in this at the start of the Carnival, when rated only 106 by Timeform. He has been the most progressive handicapper in Dubai this year, however, improving into a very smart performer in winning three times and then upping his game again when stepped up to pattern company behind Hunter's Light. He didn't get the clearest of runs through that day, so can be rated as finishing a clearer second, and there will be worse outsiders than him.

Last year's winner, Monterosso, is obviously worth a mention as he bids to become the first horse to retain his crown. He will again go into the race on the back of just one run which came in the third round of the Maktoum Challenge when a long way behind Hunter's Light. 

It's fair to say Monterosso didn't show anywhere near as much as he had done when prepping a year ago, however, and on that basis he can't really be supported with any confidence, mindful that he also disappointed on his sole outing in Britain after last year's success.

A stronger contender could be African Story, who took well to the tapeta surface at last year's Carnival, winning three times, including the Godolphin Mile on World Cup night. He demonstrated his well-being when making a successful return over the same trip when landing the Burj Nahaar at Meydan earlier in the month. 

High-class form over a mile, as well as an impressive course record (four wins from five starts), brings African Story into the reckoning, though the trip is very much an unknown stepping up beyond a mile for the first time.

The other dominant force in the race has traditionally been the American contingent, with eight winners down the years, though it's fair to say they haven't been anything like as successful since the race switched from dirt to tapeta ahead of the 2010 renewal. Gio Ponti's fourth placing that year is the best an American raider has managed on the new surface, with Game On Dude and Royal Delta both noticeable disappointments twelve months ago.

This year's challenge from the States looks strong, on paper at least, with the aforementioned Royal Delta, as well as Animal Kingdom and Dullahan all declared to run.

Royal Delta will at least return with that experience under her belt, and she has clearly improved again since then, her defeat of My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic one of the highlights on Breeders' Cup night. She has confirmed her well-being with a recent win at Gulfstream Park and it seems reasonable to assume she will fare much better this time around. 

Dullahan disappointed on turf at the Breeder's Cup but had shown high-class form on a synthetic surface earlier in the year when winning the TVG Pacific Classic. The Dale Romans-trained colt has had a pipe-opener at Meydan this year, finishing well down the field behind African Story in the Burj Nahaar. That performance hardly enhanced his credentials, but there were potential excuses. The shorter trip is the obvious one, whilst it was reported he got very worked up on the way over to the track. 

Dullahan's form in America stands up to the closest scrutiny and whilst it's fair to say he isn't the most consistent, he is more than capable of getting involved if on a 'going day'.

The only Kentucky Derby winner to run in the Dubai World Cup was Silver Charm back in 1998 and Animal Kingdom will bid to complete that notable double when he lines up twelve months later than originally intended. 

Animal Kingdom was due in Dubai last year only to suffer an injury and he's been limited to just three starts in the last nineteen months, all on turf, winning an allowance optional claimer at Gulfstream before finishing second to Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile (when staying on strongly after meeting trouble) and to Point of Entry in a Grade 1 back at Gulfstream in February. The surface is obviously an unknown, though he does have form on polytrack, whilst his style of racing (tends to be held up) could leave him vulnerable given how Meydan has ridden this year.
Mike de Kock's sole contender is last year's Sheema Classic fourth Treasure Beach, who has plenty to find with the main protagonists on Timeform ratings (only sixth behind Hunter's Light on sole run this year) and essentially isn't good enough, and similar comments apply to the three British-trained runners, Planteur, Side Glance and Red Cadeaux.

That leaves the French-trained Meandre, who is a triple Group 1 winner over a mile and a half on turf but may find things happening a bit quick for him in this.

As things stand, Hunter's Light makes plenty of appeal. He is fit and firing, clearly relishes this surface and has done nothing wrong in winning both his starts this year. With doubts of one sort or another over the American-trained runners, as well as last year's winner Monterosso, Kassiano makes as much appeal as anything of those at longer odds.

Back Hunter's Light @ 5.69/2 
Back Kassiano @ 11.521/2 

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