There is no South African presence at Meydan racecourse for Dubai World Cup day on Saturday, but the ghost of Sheikh Hamdan will surely be there.
And, of course, there’ll be a wealth of interest for South African racing aficionados watching on television as an array of the world game’s glitterati do battle.
Among the visiting trainers are Japan’s Takoshi Saito and Ryuji Okubo, the US’s Steve Asmussen and Jose Francisco D’Angelo, England’s Charlie Appleby and John Gosden, Ireland’s Aiden O’Brien, France’s Andre Fabre, South America’s Antonio Cintra and the burgeoning Arabian talents of Fawzi Nass and Abdullah Mishrif.
The jockeys include Joel Rosario, Christophe Soumillon, Ryan Moore, Mickael Barzalona, Frankie Dettori, Keita Yosaki and Mickaelle Michel.
And there might be a fabulous horse or two.
World Cup night will be a lot quieter than usual, partly because no spectators are allowed, but also because sadness will hover over proceeding following the death this week of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, 75, deputy ruler of Dubai and one of the world’s biggest racing enthusiasts.
Flags are flying at half-mast as the emirate observes 10 days of mourning.
Hamdan and his distinctive blue and white silks are well known in South Africa – at the moment being carried to glory by Triple Crown aspirant Malmoos, but previously associated with the likes of Hawwaam, Soft Falling Rain and Rafeef.
An obituary in the UK’s Racing Post stated that Hamdan transformed British racing and breeding after he became involved in the game in 1980 – pouring billions of pounds into the Shadwell operation that later spread to the US, Australia and South Africa.
Even after the various Dubaian royals amalgamated their racing interests into the mighty Godolphin, Hamden insisted on having plenty of his own horses as well. Among international stars that raced in his colours were Nashwan, Nayef, Dayjur, Sakhee and Battaash.
Apart from his partnership in Godolphin and its several Dubai World Cup triumphs, he won the 1999 edition individually with Almutawakel.
He is represented but a half dozen horses at Meydan on Saturday, notably by two fancied runners in the Al Quoz Sprint.
All the World Cup action will be broadcast to local fans on Tellytrack, from around lunchtime, with the Cup being run at 8.50pm SA time. Full betting is available on TAB.
Here is the Dubai Racing Club’s World Cup race preview:
A cast of 14 Group or Grade 1 winners with a combined 23 victories at the highest level are set to line up for the 25th running of Dubai World Cup day at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday 27 March 2021.
A total of 117 horses from 11 countries will compete across a spectacular day of racing worth US$26.5 million that features six Group 1 and three Group 2 contests.
The Group 1 $12 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline and held over 2000m welcomes a 14-strong line up headed by the highest-rated Mystic Guide, trained by Michael Stidham in the US.
Mystic Guide is one of three Godolphin-owned runners in the field with the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Gifts of Gold also representing the home team. The third Godolphin runner comes in the shape of Magny Course, the charge of French maestro Andre Fabre who is making his dirt debut in the World Cup.
The Godolphin runners face stiff competition from a three-strong team of US raiders, including the 2021 Pegasus World Cup runner up Jesus’ Team for trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo and the Miguel Angel Silva-prepared Grade 2 winner Sleepy Eyes Todd. Title Ready, winner of January’s Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes trained by Dallas Stewart, completes the US line-up.
Japanese interests are represented by Grade 1 winner Chuwa Wizard, who claimed the Champions Cup at Chukyo Racecourse in December 2020 for trainer Ryuji Okubo, while Uruguay’s Ajuste Fiscal lines up for trainer Antonio Cintra. Bahraini handler Fawzi Nass saddles a first Dubai World Cup runner with Salute The Soldier, whose route to the Dubai World Cup included victory in two out of the three traditional Dubai prep races – the Maktoum Challenges.
Great Scot, third in the Saudi Cup last month, flies the flag for Saudi Arabia and trainer Abdullah Mishriff. Local hopes will be pinned on the 2020 Group 3 Firebreak Stakes winner Capezzano and this season’s Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 runner-up Hypothetical from the yard of Salem bin Ghadayer. Musabbah al Mheiri saddles Military Law while Doug Watson is represented by Thegreatcollection.