DUBAI // Simon Crisford promised after Super Saturday that Godolphin would roll out their heavy guns for Dubai World Cup night, but even with 23 runners across the eight-race thoroughbred card, the Godolphin racing manager was not totally confident of success on Thursday.
Three weeks ago, Godolphin dominated the dress rehearsal for World Cup night with Saeed bin Suroor saddling all four winners for the Dubai-based operation.
The quartet return to Meydan Racecourse on Saturday, but the influx of international challengers since then has tempered Crisford's enthusiasm.
Hunter's Light won the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge and heads to the World Cup, in which he will be joined by African Story, who won the Burj Nahaar.
Secret Number took the Al Bastikiya and lines up in the UAE Derby, and Sajjhaa bids to secure the Jebel Hatta-Dubai Duty Free double.
America has set out its stall by sending over Animal Kingdom, Royal Delta and Dullahan to try to wrest back the World Cup for the first time since Aaron Gryder scored aboard Well Armed in 2009, and Crisford was wary of their challenge.
"We do have a strong hand, but if the American contingent are on song, and they take to the surface, they are much better than anything that we have, especially Animal Kingdom and Royal Delta," he said yesterday.
Talent is not always telling in the world's most valuable horse race, however.
Gloria De Campeao was thrashed by Well Armed to the tune of 14 lengths on dirt at Nad Al Sheba, but came out on top 12 months later when denying Lizard's Desire on the opening night at Meydan.
Mirco Demuro's outrageous mid-race manoeuvre on Victoire Pisa, when he swept to the front, secured the trophy in 2011, while home advantage and a liking for Tapeta saw Monterosso to the line ahead of Capponi last season.
"Of course, just because the Americans are better quality horses does not mean they are going to win, because we are racing at Meydan and our horses love the surface," he said.
"The depth of our challenge is probably the same as it has been in previous years, but if you come into the evening thinking you are going to win, then it never really happens. But if you don't fancy anything ,sometimes they do win."
African Story became the first horse to win the Burj Nahaar in consecutive years three weeks ago. Rather than allow him to take the easy option and defend his title in the Godolphin Mile, the six-year-old takes his chance in the World Cup under Kieren Fallon.
"You have to like African Story and Hunter's Light for a small piece of the Dubai World Cup - hopefully one of them is good enough to win, but we will find out," Crisford said.
Secret Number put in one of the memorable performances of the Dubai World Cup Carnival in the Al Bastikiya, becoming the only horse to win from stall 11 or wider around two turns this season.
The son of Raven's Pass, the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, put two lengths on Mike De Kock's Zahee, who reposes.
Bin Suroor has won the UAE Derby, which is the third thoroughbred race of the night, seven times and could conceivably win it again.
Secret Number is joined in the race by stablemate Shuruq, who will be ridden by Paul Hanagan in the red cap after Silvestre De Sousa chose Secret Number.
The Brazilian rider conceded yesterday that he may have chosen incorrectly.
"Secret Number has done nothing wrong - winning two from two. I have may have picked the wrong one because the filly Shuruq is nice as well.
"She gets a weight allowance and was impressive when winning the UAE Oaks.
"It was a difficult choice as she is a nice filly, but he's a good horse."
Mahmoud Al Zarooni is set to run in the 1900m contest the well-regarded Now Spun and Snowboarder.
Now Spun will be ridden by Mickael Barzalona, while Snowboarder will be ridden by William Buick.
With such firepower, it may be the Classic generation that set the Godolphin ball rolling.
"We are just hoping they run their races and, if they run their races and we get one winner, we will be delighted," Crisford said.
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