Stage set for fitting farewell to Nad Al Sheba

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 March, 2009, 12:00am

Regardless of how the US$21 million of prize money is ultimately divided up in Dubai tonight, it will be an historic and perhaps emotional meeting as the last World Cup night at the Nad Al Sheba racetrack.

The Dubai World Cup - the world's richest race with prize money of US$6 million - is the brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

Nad Al Sheba is making way for the US$1.25 billion Meydan racecourse, being built adjacent to the state-of-the art Meydan City complex in time to stage the 2010 World Cup.

Today's big-race field of 14 is headed by US raider Albertus Maximus, the 2-1 favourite in London betting.

Though the five-year-old may not be in the league of Cigar, the horse is well drawn at 10, has solid form and is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who won with Invasor two years ago.

McLaughlin told the World Cup website: 'It's hard to be as confident as we were with Invasor because Invasor was a great horse, but we are confident and Albertus Maximus is doing very well.'

Mike de Kock, a Dubai specialist, sends out locally trained Asiatic Boy (5-2), runner-up to the 'monster' Curlin 12 months ago when Well Armed finished third. Well Armed again represents US-based trainer Eoin Harty and is rated an 8-1 shot.

Hong Kong has an interest in the meeting, albeit a small one.

Lucky Quality, a winner of five races already this season, takes his place as a 14-1 chance in the US$2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, a race on dirt down a straight 1,200m track.

Lucky Quality is trained by Me Tsui Yu-sak and is to be handled by the flamboyant Frenchman Olivier Doleuze.

He's drawn barrier four and it will be interesting to see how the race unfolds on the tricky straight course, with favourite Indian Blessing drawn on the outside of the field of 12.

A race of greater interest from a Hong Kong viewpoint will be the HK$5 million Dubai Duty Free, featuring Japan's Horse of the Year Vodka, who easily steamrolled our own Armada in last year's Yasuda Kinen. Vodka holds an entry for the Group One Champions Mile at Sha Tin.