Tom Queally, the jockey of the Dubai World Cup favourite Twice Over, is relishing a second chance at the world's richest race after revealing his mount "quickened better than he's ever quickened before" when he ran away from a classy Super Thursday field last week.
Twice Over, a two-time Champion Stakes winner in England, swept past six Group 1 winners to claim the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three, the historically significant final dress rehearsal for the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) race.
The Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three has produced the former World Cup winners Dubai Millennium, Street Cry and Electrocutionist.
Queally said he was very impressed with the way the Henry Cecil-trained six-year-old won his prep race.
"It was a prep run but it was extra special to win like that," said Queally, who flew to London after the race to exercise Cecil's string ahead of the new British racing season.
"I liked the way he quickened," Queally said. "I would say that he quickened as good, if not better, than he has ever quickened before. He also ran very straight; sometimes he just wanders off a true line."
Such was Twice Over's domination of the 2,000m contest that the Mike de Kock-trained 2010 UAE Derby victor, Musir, also a Group 1 winner, was second nearly three lengths behind the winner. Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes winner Gitano Hernando was third.
Twice Over's effort in that race has seen him overtake Bold Silvano, De Kock's Grade One Durban July winner, as favourite for the Meydan Racecourse showpiece on March 26.
Bold Silvano became the favourite at the beginning of February when he blew away all comers in the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, noticeably easing off well before the line.
Although there is little doubt that Bold Silvano could have won his prep race by a much greater distance had he been ridden hard to the line, that win came in far less esteemed company than Twice Over's.
Bold Silvano was withdrawn from a match-up with Cecil's horse last week after suffering a bruised foot before Thursday's race, damaging his credentials further.
The news that Queally, Twice Over's jockey for six of his 10 career wins, three of them Group 1 contests, feels his mount won his prep in possibly his most scintillating style yet while not yet 100 per cent fit, is likely to convince even more that Twice Over is the horse to beat.
"He will improve for the run," Queally said. "He's still a little bit woolly in his coat, so there is more to come from that point of view as well, it seems."
Last year Twice Over came to Dubai after winning his first Champion Stakes at Newmarket and then travelling to the United States to run third behind Zenyatta and Gio Ponti in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic. Conditioned at Cecil's yard in snow-covered England before travelling to the UAE barely a week before his World Cup effort, the runner could do no better than 10th in a muddling, dawdling contest that also saw him get bumped.
This time Cecil, a 10-time British Champion trainer, who has won 24 British Classics, changed his game plan. He sent the Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned horse to the desert in time to take in a prep race before his second attempt at the World Cup.
"We are doing things a little differently with him this year," said Queally, who enjoys a successful relationship with Cecil's yard, riding, among others, the multiple Group 1-winning filly, Midday and the Dewhurst winner and 1,000 Guineas favourite, Frankel.
"I know he was only over here a little more than a week last time, but then he has only been here a little more than a week for the Maktoum Challenge, too, and we won that," said the rider. "But he has more time to acclimatise this year and that should stand him in good stead."
Queally, who won six Group 1 races last season and has a career total of 11, said he would love to add the World Cup to his glittering CV.
"It's the race that everybody wants to win," he said. "I don't think anyone would say no to it. You might say that it has eluded Henry Cecil as well. He's won a lot of big races and is a man who enjoys a challenge. With Twice Over he's got a horse that has been doing everything right in his preparation."