The heat is on for the showdown in the desert for the world’s richest race, the $6m Dubai World Cup on Saturday.
The sceptics in England have questioned whether the world’s richest race day should be going ahead in the shadow of the Middle East conflict.
Come to Dubai, which sits some 500 miles south of Iraq on the edge of the Persian Gulf, and you will find the answer.
Almost without exception, the Europeans here admit they feel more comfortable here than at home. Paris-based Alec Wildenstein, owner of World Cup hope Aquarelliste, said: “I think you are safer here than in London. We are a long way from the war here and probably less likely to suffer a terrorist attack than in England.”
Antonia Devin, owner-breeder of Ange Gabriel in the $2m Dubai SheemaClassic, said: “It must have been a tough and courageous decision to make. But once Sheikh Mohammed gave the go-ahead we wanted to support him.”
The Japanese pulled out all their horses, but it is ironic that there are 13 American raiders, more than ever before at the meeting when the United States is at war in the Middle East.
American jockeys Jorge Velazquez and Kent Desormeaux thought long and hard before deciding to take part in the most valuable day’s racing in the world. But, in the end, they could not resist.
Velazquez rides the US number one hope, Harlan’s Holiday in the World Cup, while Desormeaux is on Blue Burner. Desormeaux then switches from Bill Mott’s American stable to join the Saudi Arabian set-up of Kevin McAuliffe, who used to train in Lambourn.
Frankie Dettori has elected to partner Derby third Moon Ballad in preference to triple Group 1 winner Grandera for the Godolphin stable.
But they will have to turn up the heat ifthey are to topple the favourite Nayef (pictured), trained just outside Lambourn by Marcus Tregoning.
Nayef must be among the most durable top horses in the world, having won the 2001 Champion Stakes at Newmarket, the Dubai Sheema Classic at this meeting 12 months ago and then defeated Golan in the Juddmonte International York last summer.