Cigar is ready for clash with Halling

 

CIGAR, last year's American Horse of the year, meets Hailing at the Nad al Sheba track in Dubai today for the richest race in the world - the £4 million Dubai World Cup - in a rematch of their Breeders Cup Classic duel last October.

The 11 entries for the one and a quarter miles on dirt have won 8 races and over $50 million dollars between them, though the entry of Cigar has given the event a huge boost and made it a dream come true for Dubai Defence Minister and the world's leading owner Sheikh Mohammed. His innovative experiment with wintering horses from Europe in Dubai paid off with Lammtarra's and Hailing's successes last year and the race brings to fruition his development of Dubai's racing and training facilities into centres of excellence.

The clash between Cigar, unbeaten in 13 races, and Hailing, owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation, was meant to be the highlight of the Breeders Cup meeting but in the end Halling was no match for the horse named after an airforce base and trailed in second last.

Hailing, to be ridden by Frankie Dettori, is one of four Godolphin entries. He rose from being a top handicapper in 1994 to winning the 1995 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown but found the tight track at Belmont Park, New York not to his liking.

Godolphin manager Simon Crisford is more confident this time. "He didn't handle the track when running dismally behind Cigar and that run is safely forgotten. However, he is used to running on this surface and has a tremendous chance," Crisford said.

Cigar, with Jerry Bailey in the saddle, owned by American billionaire Alan Paulson and trained by Bill Mott, won his first race this year, the Group One Donn Handicap in Florida. Since then a bruised foot stopped him working for 11 days and he missed his preparation race, the Santa Anita Handicap but his connections have been delighted with his track work since arriving in Dubai.

Perhaps the biggest question mark over Cigar is that he will be running without the aid of the drug Lasix, which stops horses from breaking blood vessels, for the first time hut, again, his connections do not appear to be too concerned.

Godolphin lured Tom Albertrani, a former member of the Cigar team, to work for them but he is frank about the chances of stopping the great horse.

"There is only one way to beat Cigar. Close your eyes and dream it," he said.

There are others who may upset the duel, including Pentire. Michael Hills rides the Geoff Wragg trained entry who was only beaten once last season in six starts. He went down by the narrowest of margins to Derby winner Lammtarra in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, and subsequently won the Irish Champion Stakes.

Wragg has been pleased with his work since he came to Dubai and is not unduly concerned that his. horse was rated half a stone less than Cigar in the international ratings.

Australian runner Danewin weighs in at a massive 545 kilos and is not the fastest finisher, rather a. dour stayer. Japan provides the outsider Lively Mount.

Cigar also meets two of his compatriots he beat in the Breeders Cup Classic, L'Carriere and Soul of The Matter, second and fourth respectively.