WHILE British racing remains in the icy grip of winter, the well-credentialled Pentire may well fly out to the warmth of the Middle East to prepare for the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba on March 27. Snow, heavy frost and ice have been the norm during the last bitterly cold week in this part of the world; this has made it difficult for trainers to keep their strings of horses on the move. Of course, the jumpers have Cheltenham in their sights, although with the abandonment of last week's important meeting at the headquarters of National Hunt racing, Gold Cup favourite One Man is to go straight to the Festival without a lead-up run. As far as horses for the Flat are concerned, those of the bread-and-butter variety have been regularly turning out at Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton, the three all-weather tracks, while the very good ones, such as Pentire, have been limbering up, wherever possible, for the first major international race of 1996. Newmarket trainer Geoff Wragg reported the weather had delayed Pentire's preparation, although matters had not yet reached the serious stage. 'We missed a couple of canters three weeks ago because of the freezing weather, and then about a week ago, we couldn't get him on the gallops. 'But overall, I'm very pleased with him,' the trainer added, safe in the knowledge that with the sun on his back in Dubai, the talented colt who finished runner-up to Lammtarra in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, will probably start to blossom. 'It's always difficult preparing a horse for any race, but obviously the big problem in Dubai is that the race is on dirt, a surface he has never raced on. He's been working on the all-weather at Newmarket and is progressing very well,' Wragg added. Pentire carries the famous chocolate and gold braided colours of Moller Racing, first inspired by 'Budgie' Moller and then carried on by Eric Moller. The brothers, who lived and worked in Shanghai and Hong Kong most of their lives, left money for horses to be purchased and raced in their memory. Not only is Pentire the only English-trained runner in the Dubai World Cup, he is one with a realistic winning chance, provided he handles the surface. He won six of his seven outings last year, the climax being a victory over Freedom Cry in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. As part of the invitation to runners, Sheik Mohammed has offered connections one month's free lodging, with training facilities available, to all horses who wish to travel to Dubai early. With parts of Britain under snow, this is an enticing clause in the conditions. An ounce of luck is worth a ton of judgment, so the saying goes, but Richard Dunwoody could easily boast an ample supply of both. For this reason, the choice of Flashing Steel as his mount in tomorrow's Hennessy Cognac (Irish) Gold Cup at Leopardstown is worthy of note. The champion jockey's name had also been linked to the promising Imperial Call, conqueror of Strong Platinum over two and a quarter miles at the course on January 13. In the end, Dunwoody plumped for the Irish National winner trained by John Mulhern for Charles Haughey, the former Irish prime minister. 'It was a very difficult choice,' Dunwoody admitted. 'But it came down to ratings and form, and basically the fact that Flashing Steel is a horse who has already 'done' it. But make no mistake Imperial C all is very good, although he still has something to prove,' he added. Conor O'Dwyer now comes in for the mount on Imperial Call, who faces a six-hour journey in a horse box from trainer Fergus Sutherland's yard at Killinardrish, near Macroom, in west Cork. Bookmakers Ladbrokes seemed anything but impressed by Dunwoody's decision as they tinkered with the ante-post market. While Master Oats - due to travel from Liverpool by ferry - shortened from 2-1 to 7-4, and Jodami remained steady at 3-1, flashing Steel eased half a point to 5-1. Monsieur Le Cure drifted to 4-1, while Imperial Call was clipped a point to 4-1. The sad fact is that the Hennessy was a prize that seemed destined for export, right from the day the race was inaugurated in 1987. It attracts foreign raiders because of its perfect timing as a prep race to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which means horses of the highest calibre turning out. The winners of the nine runnings so far look mighty impressive on paper. The Jimmy Fitzgerald-trained Forgive 'N Forget was a former Gold Cup winner when he started the ball rolling, Playschool (1988) was talented though prone to make the odd, catastrophic mistake, and there as Nick The Brief (1990-91), responsible for thrusting John Upson into the limelight. Carvill's Hill (1989 and 1992) was arguably the most talked-about winner, although he seemed to attract more attention in the second of those victories, when saddled up by Martin Pipe.