The US$10 million Dubai World Cup has been opened up by what appears to be a dismal gate position for warm favourite Twice Over.
The six-year-old, trained by legendary Henry Cecil, has been allocated gate 12 of 14, and those who saw last year's Dubai World Cup will recall most of the wide-drawn horses - including Twice Over - struggling in vain to overcome a pedestrian pace at Meydan's speed-favouring track.
Cecil has been training triple Group One winner Twice Over by 'telephone' from Newmarket, but Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khalid Abdulla, is on site in Dubai and observed hopefully: 'Twice Over won the Maktoum Challenge last time from a wide draw so maybe it's a good omen. It's not the graveyard, but he will need some above-average luck.'
Perhaps this time, however, those who bet the outside gates in this 2,000m spectacular will be getting no disadvantage but better odds. That certainly seems to be the view of those closely connected with the two horses drawn even wider than the Tom Queally-ridden Twice Over.
Hiroyishi Matsuda, trainer of the brilliant Japanese mare Buena Vista, who was controversially disqualified after her winning romp in last November's Japan Cup, said: 'The draw doesn't matter. It's just fate. I think she's the best in the race and I have a lot of confidence.'
And Kevin Shea, who rides Mike de Kock's Golden Sword said: 'Gate 14 makes no difference. He's got no early speed anyway.'
Meanwhile, positive Dubai World Cup bulletins emerged for US' super-consistent six-times Group One winner Gio Ponti, who drew gate five. He was one of the favourites last year when he finished fourth, but assistant trainer and regular work rider Christophe Lorieul said: 'The fact that he has been here before, and also the fact that there is less construction work taking place around Meydan this year has turned him into a more relaxed horse.'
Gitano Hernando, who was purchased by Chechen President Raman Kadyrov, leaves from gate eight and trainer Marco Botti is hoping for much better things than last year's sixth after a brutal passage destroyed all chances for this big, powerful galloper.
'Gitano's been here since December and my wife Lucia has been riding him out every day. All we want is a stronger pace than last year, and then he can show what he can do.'
Godolphin's number one trainer Saeed Bin Suroor sounds only modestly confident about a big show from their trio of contenders, Poet's Voice, Prince Bishop and Monterosso, and Godolphin horses have struggled in the world's most valuable race since they won it with Electrocutionist in 2006.
It may be worth noting the Dubai World Cup night contender about whom Bin Suroor has been especially optimistic is Khawlah, who takes on the colts in the UAE Derby.