Animal Kingdom to reign supreme in Dubai World Cup

13 Irish-trained horses chase purses worth a cool $22m

Aidan O'Brien saddles St Nicholas Abbey. Photograph: Getty

Aidan O'Brien saddles St Nicholas Abbey. Photograph: Getty

Sat, Mar 30, 2013, 06:00

A total of 13 Irish-trained horses will chase some of the $22 million on offer in the seven races leading up to this evening’s $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan.

They include five from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard, a sure sign that while some may scoff at the form value of Sheikh Mohammed’s international brainchild, there is no arguing with the financial clout of the world’s most lucrative day’s racing.

St Nicholas Abbey attempts to go one better than last year in the $5 million Sheema Classic where the O’Brien star is joined by Johnny Murtagh’s Curragh Leger hero Royal Diamond.

But the international nature of this meeting is emphasised by the presence of the Japanese superstar filly Gentildonna, Japan Cup conqueror of Orfevre, a horse none of the rest of this field could reasonably be expected to defeat.

South Africa’s Shea Shea is the big obstacle to the four Irish runners in the Al Quoz Sprint but Johnny Murtagh’s mount, Sole Power, is tried and trusted on the Meydan turf and can go close.

Imperial Monarch is the proven Group One operator in the Gold Cup but a fast pace will see Saddler’s Rock fare better than on his Meydan debut while Gordon Lord Byron’s fairytale rise through the international ranks would be sealed with a win in the Golden Shaheen.

American dominance of the World Cup itself has evaporated since the 2010 move to Meydan’s Tapeta surface but it could be a different story this time. A trio of US hopes line up, including the double Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta and the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

The latter returned to action with a fine run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf and is proven on synthetics as well as dirt.

Animal Kingdom got a desperate ride on his Dubai warm-up at Gulfstream, and is drawn 12 of 13 here. But this is a notably versatile and classy horse who can overcome all obstacles.