DUBAI // Tonight's card at Nad Al Sheba is super by name and by nature considering it will be the final one at the track before the Dubai World Cup on March 28. With seven races over the same course and distances as the big night, as well as the inaugural running of the Meydan Classic, it is by far the most important meeting of the season to date and Mike De Kock, in particular, will be hoping for a gala night.
He runs his two main World Cup hopefuls in the shape of Asiatic Boy, the 2007 UAE Derby winner and runner-up at last year's World Cup, and Honour Devil who won the UAE Derby last year. Both tasted defeat on their return this season but De Kock warned prior to those races that both would need the outings. Asiatic Boy contests the Group 2 Maktoum Challenge III over the Dubai World Cup trip of 10-furlongs on the dirt among 16 contestants but has been dealt an awful draw of 15. His main likely rivals Happy Boy and Kirklees have drawn five and six places respectively.
Kirklees is trained for Godolphin by Saeed Bin Suroor who has won this race three times with subsequent Dubai World Cup winners. Bin Suroor said: "He won well last time on grass and we have always been keen to race him on dirt. He seems to handle it in his work and we hope for a big run." Honour Devil is better drawn in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar, over a mile, and De Kock hopes both horses can run well. "Asiatic Boy has an awful draw but is in good form and this is his last major step towards the World Cup," he said.
"He needed his first run, but not as much as Honour Devil who will also come on for this run. The low draw will help him though." Godolphin's Diabolical and Saudi Arabia's Big City Man could be the pair to concentrate on in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal over six furlongs, while Godolphin's City Style will be hard to beat in the Meydan Classic, over 1500 on turf. That is for three-year-olds, as is the Al Bastakiya race where Medici looks an interesting runner representing Saudi Arabia.
Australia's Valedictum and Japan's Vodka will add to the international flavour in the Group 2 Jebel Hatta. Jay Peg won the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night over this course and distance last year for Herman Brown and is another to consider in this 16-runner spectacle. The same number contest the other turf race, the 12-furlong Group 2 Dubai City of Gold and Brown's Mourilyan should go close. Front House could be best of a De Kock trio, while Germany's Quijano has won this race in the past. There should be plenty of World Cup night clues on offer.