DUBAI // Gentildonna has won seven of her nine career starts, including five consecutive Group 1 contests, and that history is the easy explanation for her status as strong favourite for the US$5 million (Dh18.4m) Dubai Sheema Classic.
The daughter of Deep Impact won the Japanese Triple Crown and showed her mettle when claiming the Japan Cup after a gutsy battle to the line from Orfevre, the 2011 Japanese Horse of the Year and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up.
On that day, she proved her courage against her older rival by going stride for stride in a barging match before getting her nose ahead as they flashed past the winning post.
However, anxiety from travelling over from Japan, her first trip outside the country, is the biggest concern for Sei Ishizaka, the trainer.
"She settled down very well and I am very happy the way she has gone about doing her workout," he said.
"This is her toughest test yet," he said. "If she can race in the same sort of form that she has in the past then she has a very good chance of winning. Her greatest assets are that she is a very clever horse and has a very strong heart."
Gentildonna is returning for her first race in more than four months and is pitted against six other Group 1 winners.
Aidan O'Brien's St Nicholas Abbey, the highest rated of the 11 runners, is the only entry with a run at Meydan and one that has to be respected.
The six-year-old bay son of Montjeu went down narrowly to Cirrus Des Aigles 12 months ago and has taken the same path to Dubai as in 2012, coming off the Breeders' Cup in November.
Royal Diamond also represents Ireland in an international field that comprises horses from Germany (Girolamo), France (Dunaden and Shareta), South Africa (Await The Dawn), Qatar (Very Nice Name) and the UAE (Prince Bishop and Sharestan). Japan has a second runner in Trailblazer.
Prince Bishop spearheads Godolphin's hopes. The son of Dubawi is returning for the first time after his defeat in the Dubai World Cup last year. He has twice run on Tapeta.
He finished third twice behind Hunter's Light, the stable's main hope for the main prize Saturday night.
Mike de Kock's Await The Dawn has had two eye-catching runs in his past two starts. The son of Giant's Causeway won a handicap rated 100-plus at Meydan before coming a close second to Jakkalberry in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday three weeks ago, the DWC dress rehearsal.
There are no confirmed front runners in the race and the horses with the best turn of foot on the home stretch will have the advantage. Gentildonna already has proven she has that quality.
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