Lucky eight are strongest Hong Kong contingent to land in Dubai
Air of quiet confidence surrounds runners in offshore sortie to rich desert kingdom meeting
The largest and strongest Hong Kong team assembled for an offshore sortie will be on the ground at Dubai's Meydan racecourse on Friday, with eight runners in five races competing for US$23 million in stakes at the World Cup meeting on March 29.
Numbers do not guarantee success and the previous largest team - five runners in 2012 - returned with two third placings, but there is an air of quiet confidence about this year's group.
The Jockey Club opened the Sha Tin turf to Dubai contenders yesterday and Douglas Whyte put Richard Gibson-trained Akeed Mofeed through his paces.
"It was a very routine gallop and we couldn't see much of them in the heavy fog anyway," said Gibson.
"But Douglas came back very happy with the horse and said he was very relaxed, which is important. It isn't long since Akeed Mofeed last ran and he had a nice trial the other day.
"He's where I want him and he'll just be kept ticking over when he gets to Dubai."
Gibson believes Akeed Mofeed and arch-rival, John Moore-trained Military Attack, have the form and talent to win the US$10 million Dubai World Cup, with just one question mark.
"I've seen what we are up against and it's a quality line-up, as you would expect. There's an English Derby winner, there's a strong Japanese contingent.
"But, if Akeed Mofeed and Military Attack run to their Hong Kong form, they have the quality to win it, in my opinion," said Gibson.
"The big ask is the Tapeta surface and whether they handle it.
"Many good horses don't act up on it, but the only way we'll find out is to go there and try, and this is a privilege and a dream for me - from the moment you take out your trainer's licence, you hope to one day have a horse good enough to run in the world's richest race and here we are."
Overseas bookmakers have listed Military Attack as a 9-1 third favourite for the World Cup and Akeed Mofeed at 12-1, behind Ruler Of the World at 4-1 and The Fugue 6-1, although the latter is also listed as a favourite in the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free.
Moore's Dubai trio - Military Attack, Dominant and Sterling City - fly out tonight at 9.50pm, while Akeed Mofeed will be joined by Amber Sky on the 6.30am flight on Friday.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Amber Sky, worked "beautifully" up the Sha Tin straight yesterday as he prepares for the US$1 million Al Quoz Sprint. He is a 7-2 second favourite behind last year's winner, Shea Shea.
"The boy who rides him all the time said he couldn't be better," said Yiu on Thursday night. "He trialled brilliantly, he is really well and will just work steady in Dubai to keep him where he is."
Oddsmakers have the greatest confidence in Hong Kong's sprinters on Tapeta in the US$2 million Golden Shaheen, where Rich Tapestry - a recent Group Three winner on the surface - is 5-2 favourite and Moore-trained Sterling City second choice at 7-2.
In the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic, 2,400m, Hong Kong Vase winner Dominant is at 12-1, with the joint favourites Aidan O'Brien-trained Magician and Japanese mare, Gentildonna at 4-1.
Tony Cruz-trained Blazing Speed and Derek Cruz's veteran sprinter, Joy And Fun left on Wednesday night.
Blazing Speed is a 16-1 chance in the Dubai Duty Free, where Japan's Just A Way is favourite, while 10-year-old Joy And Fun is 25-1 to end his career a winner in his fourth attempt at the Al Quoz Sprint - a race he won in 2010, came third in 2012 and second last year.