Dubai World Cup: Luck of the draw deserts favourites

Winner of the 2,000-metre dirt affair at Meydan last March, American-trained Country Grammer will start from post 14


Leslie Wilson Jr

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The Dubai World Cup post position Draw at the Armani hotel in Dubai on Thursday. — Photo by Shihab
The Dubai World Cup post position Draw at the Armani hotel in Dubai on Thursday. — Photo by Shihab

Published: Thu 23 Mar 2023, 12:10 AM

Last updated: Thu 23 Mar 2023, 12:16 AM

Country Grammer, Algiers, and Panthalassa, all leading contenders for the prestigious Dubai World Cup, were handed outside starting position for Saturday’s 27th renewal of the $12 million contest.

Winner of the 2,000-metre dirt affair at Meydan last March, American-trained Country Grammer will start from post 14 as he bids to become only the second horse in the history of the race to win it twice. Thunder Snow scored back-to-back victories in 2018-2019.

UAE-trained Algiers, the imperious winner of two rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge series at the Dubai World Cup Carnival this year, will bid for glory for his young owner Hamad Sultan Ali Alsabousi, from stall 13.

Panthalassa, one of eight Japanese runners among the 15-strong field and winner of last month’s $20 million Saudi Cup, drew the widest stall but his trainer Yoshito Yahagi still managed a smile at the official Post-Position draw held at the Armani Hotel in the record-break Burj Khalifa.

“We could miss the break but we still have to go forward, so I’m okay with what we got,” said Yahagi, a three-time JRA Award winning handler.

Meanwhile, Bendoog, who has raced exclusively at Meydan and finished fourth in the UAE Derby last year, was handed a peach of a draw by Caroline Seemar, performing official duties for her trainer husband, Bhupat Seemar.

“Of course, it’s a dream come true and I think number seven is a pretty good number,” Mohammed Khaleel Ahmed, owner of Bendoog. “It’s a fantastic race and every horse deserves their place so it should be a good race and may the best horse win.

Seemar’s second runner, Remorse who was sixth in the World Cup last year, will break from stall one.

“It’s the shortest way round so it’s fine. We had the pick of stall one or six but either was good,” added Seemar.

Country Grammer broke from gate three when he triumphed last year, but will need all the help he can get from his celebrated jockey Frankie Dettori if he were to make history in the race.

“Frankie’s a very good jockey and will know how to ride him from the outside,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Bob Baffert, who will not be attending this year’s meeting.

“He’s in good shape. While it may not be the ideal draw I’m confident that he has the class and ability to get into a good position from where he can lay down a challenge.”

Country Grammer comes into Saturday’s race after finishing second for the second year running in the Saudi Cup. However, he won the San Antonio Stakes on his previous start in December under a confident ride by Dettori.

Former Godolphin Racing Manager turned trainer Simon Crisford was accompanied by owner Hamdan Sultan Ali Alsabouli at the draw.

Despite being handed the 13th stall, Ali Alsabouli remained buoyant and said: “It is very special to be the youngest owner in the Dubai World Cup which is a battle between some great horses. I hope we can win it.

“Gate 13 is fine but I was hoping to get five or six.”

Co-trainer Simon Crisford aimed Algiers at the Godolphin Mile last year and is now eying a bigger prize with the six-year-old son of Shamardal.

“He has drawn wide in both prep runs and so it’s no real concern,” he said.

Among the eight-strong Japanese team was a trio of fancied runners who drew inside stalls including Jun Light Bolt in stall three, Vela Azul in five, and Ushba Tesoro in eight.

Vela Azul comes to Dubai with a big reputation having won the last run of the Japan Cup and trainer Kunihiko Watanabe commented how the dice rolled in his favour.

“I wanted the inner so I’m happy, it’s perfect. He travelled over well and he is in good shape,” he said.

Another leading Japanese contender is Crown Pride, who was lesser fortunate and drew stall 12.

However, Masafumi Matsuda, assistant trainer to Koichi Shintani, kept a straight face and said: “We’re not upset at all. After the race, we will be hopeful that stall number 12 will be the lucky one for us.

“We will go over the tactics with the jockey, but Crown Pride absolutely loves Dubai so we hope it will be lucky for us.

“He won the UAE Derby last year and the plan was always to come back for the Dubai World Cup. So here we are.”

Despite winning the Saudi Cup in 2021, Emblem Road did not attempt to compete in a big-race Middle East double but is now here, with his connections saying that he’s an even better horse than he was when he shocked the world in Saudi.

“I was hoping for number seven, but my lucky number for today is this number (2),” said Saad Abdulwahed, assistant trainer to Ahmad Abdulwahed.

Bahraini owner/ trainer Fawzi Nass has enjoyed a lot of success in Dubai over the years but never in the Dubai World Cup. However, Salute The Soldier hinted that he might be the horse to set the record straight after his impressive win in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3.

Nass drew stall 4 and said, with a smile: “I might look happy but I’ll be happier once the race is over!

“He is well named, he is an absolute soldier. If we’ve got any tactics for this race, I won’t be telling you,” he told the master of ceremonies.


Race 1: Dubai Kahayla Classic, Group 1, 2000m, Dirt, $1m, 3.30 pm

Race 2: Godolphin Mile, Group 2, 1600m, Dirt, $1m, 4.05 pm

Race 3: Dubai Gold Cup, Group 2, 3200m, Turf, $1m, 4.40 pm

Race 4: Al Quoz Sprint, Group 1, 1200m, Turf, $1.5m, 5.15 pm

Race 5: UAE Derby, Group 2, 1900m, Dirt, $1m, 5.50 pm

Race 6: Dubai Golden Shaheen, Group 1, 1200m, Dirt, $2m, 6.25 pm

Race 7: Dubai Turf, Group 1, 1800m, Turf, $5m, 7.10 pm

Race 8: Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, Group 1, 2410m, Turf, $6m, 8 pm

Race 9: Dubai World Cup, Group 1, 2000m, Dirt, $12m, 8.35 pm


Gate 1: Remorse

Gate 2: Emblem Road

Gate 3: Jun Light Bolt

Gate 4: Salute The Soldier

Gate 5: Vela Azul

Gate 6: T O Keynes

Gate 7: Bendoog

Gate 8: Ushba Tesoro

Gate 9: Geoglyph

Gate 10: Cafe Pharoah

Gate 11: Super Corinto

Gate 12: Crown Pride

Gate 13: Algiers

Gate 14: Country Grammer

Gate 15: Panthalassa

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