The third round of the Maktoum Challenge is considered to be the main local trial for the Dubai World Cup itself, although you have to go back to 2006 and Electrocutionist for the last horse to win both races.
This year 14 will go to post and African Story looks the main Godolphin hope having shaped so well when second to Prince Bishop on his seasonal reappearance. He is a horse that simply loves racing on tapeta, an impressive winner of the Godolphin Mile in 2012 and looking as good as ever when taking the Burj Nahaar with similar ease this time last year. It came as a surprise to many that he was stepped up in trip for the Dubai World Cup 12 months ago, but he emerged with plenty of credit in finishing fifth to Animal Kingdom, and his run behind Prince Bishop proved beyond doubt that he stays this sort of trip. He is fully expected to reverse form with that one, and for those of you looking for an ante-post investment in the World Cup, then 14/1 about African Story is as good a bet as any at this stage, likely to be shorter should he win with ease on Saturday.
Kieren Fallon was seen at his best on Prince Bishop in the second leg of the Maktoum Challenge, kicking for home over 2f out and opening up an unassailable advantage. He clearly handles conditions well but it's doubtful that represented a career-best effort and, as mentioned, he will have his work cut out to confirm form with African Story, although is at least well drawn for Fallon to try and pull of a similar heist.
An intriguing runner in the Godolphin blue is Cat O'Mountain who looked the next big thing when bolting up on his reappearance. He was kept to handicap company for his next start but fluffed his lines when only tenth behind Elleval, who also runs on Saturday. That run wasn't the greatest reflection of his ability given he was forced wide throughout, and he wasn't actually that far off the bare form of his win first-time out, so he could be to one be reckoned with at a bigger price given the promise of that initial run.
Arguably one of the most progressive horses in the lineup is Sanshaawes, who has won his last 2 starts by bare margins that haven't reflected his true superiority. He only joined Mike de Kock prior to the Carnival, and wasn't the easiest horse to win with for previous connections, hinting as to why in his victories as he hasn't put the races to bed in the manner that could have been expected from the way he travelled. He strikes as the type to raise his game as he steps up in grade and it's interesting alone that de Kock is running him, as no doubt he would have several options for this race.
He is joined by Alexandra Palace who also graduates from handicaps, but without the same progressive profile having only finished third behind Tha'ir last time. He also met with defeat on his penultimate start when eighth to Elleval, although perhaps close enough to a strong pace that day and his efforts either side of that have suggested he is a better horse ridden with restraint. Saying that, it will still be a surprise if he can make a significant impact in this.
Side Glance was just ahead of African Story in the Dubai World Cup last year, outperforming expectation that day but proving it to be no fluke with several good efforts on his travels subsequently. He has finished third in Arlington Million, sixth in a Cox Plate and wasn't beaten far when fifth in the Hong Kong Cup when last seen. All those runs do suggest he still comes up just short at the highest level, but he handles conditions and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him run well, acknowledging he may need this with the World Cup again his main target.
Joshua Tree can also be classed as a globetrotter, his finest hour in 2013 coming when landing the Canadian International at the expense of Hyper. He was disappointing in the Japan Cup when last seen and this does strike as being a true prep for him, all his best form coming over further, indeed finishing second to Opinion Poll in the Dubai Gold Cup here back in 2012. The Dubai Sheema Classic looks the logical main aim for him and expect him to need the run.
Elleval needs a mention simply because of the great Carnival enjoyed by David Marnane, and the Irish contingent in general, the Emerald Isle securing seven victories between them over the last couple of months. Elleval has been part of that success, narrowly getting the better of Start Right last time, who, whilst not being the most frequent of winners, has at least given his running more often than not this season and rates as being a solid form pointer. Marnane's charge certainly warrants this step up in grade, if, ultimately, likely to come up a bit short.
Several of these are punching above their weight and it is best left to African Story who really is a class act under these conditions. If this was a mile he would be odds-on, but he proved last time that this longer trip is well within his compass and as long as he isn't as far out of his ground on this occasion, he should be able to put down a solid marker for the Dubai World Cup at the end of the month.
Back African Story in the 16:10 at Meydan