DUBAI // This Dubai Kahayla Classic, the Arabian showpiece and traditional opener of the Dubai World Cup card, appears to be as wide open as any before it.
The 2,000m event for purebred Arabians, run over same World Cup distance for the thoroughbreds, has drawn the maximum entry of 16, including Seraphin Du Paon and TM Fred Texas, the 2011 and 2012 winners, respectively. Tadhg O'Shea, the stable jockey for the Al Asayl Stables, has chosen to ride the newcomer TM Junior Johnson.
However, that does not harm the chances of Seraphin Du Paon, who will be ridden by Adrie de Vries, last year's winning rider on TM Fred Texas.
The Frenchman Olivier Peslier, who has won the Kahayla Classic twice, is booked on TM Fred Texas. The reigning champion will be joined by Rich Frynchman and Al Mamun Monlau in the silks of the Qatari owner Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad.
Majed Al Jahouri has five entered in the silks of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed – Areem, Naseem, Musharab, Rakha and Rasikh – as he bids to win his first prize on a DWC card.
With four of those having won five Group 1 prizes between them, Al Jahouri is struggling to pick his favourite.
"They are all in the race on merit and I hope one of them can win this prize for me," he said.
"Areem has won three of his four races this season of which two are Group 1 prizes but all his victories have been over 1,600m.
"He likes to dictate the pace and he will be hard to beat if he can stay the trip. Naseem and Musharab are in good shape for this race and I won't rule out the chances of Rakha and Rasikh. For me, it doesn't matter which horse wins for me from the five entered."
Nieshan, the runner-up in 2011 and fifth last year, spearheads Eric Lemartinel's trio.
The seven-year-old chestnut son of Akbar is going in to the race having won the dress rehearsal - the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 - for the second time in a row.
Versac PY, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, finished a creditable fourth last year and Erwan Charpy, his trainer, thinks he has a "very big chance" after narrowly going down to Albar Lotois and his stable companion Nieshan in his last two starts.
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