The $12 million Dubai World Cup: runner-by-runner guide

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Sat 25 Mar 2023

The one certainty in Saturday’s $12 million Dubai World Cup is that Sheikh Mohammed will not be winning back his own money.

Godolphin have won three of the past four renewals of the Emirates Airline-sponsored showpiece – and 11 times in total since the first running in 1996 - but this time they have no runner. The only previous time that Sheikh Mohammed has not been represented in Dubai’s most prestigious race (either in his own silks or those of Godolphin) was in 2005 when American challenger Rose In May took the spoils.

Another American-trained horse, Country Grammer, is favourite for this weekend’s race, with Frankie Dettori in the saddle. The combination scooped the spoils last year and, if retaining the crown, Frankie’s Farewell Tour will include him nudging past Jerry Bailey and hitting the jackpot for a record-breaking fifth time in one of the world's richest races.

Britain has a live hope in Algiers, trained by Simon and Ed Crisford, while Japan are mob-handed in their quest for a second success in the contest.

Inevitably, the draw can play a role, although winners have come from just about every stall and from a variety of early positions. The majority have raced up near the pace but Arrogate came from a mile back after fluffing the start, albeit he was much the best horse in the race, and so did Prince Bishop when springing a surprise in 2015.

An overly strong gallop looks on the cards, especially as jockeys will not want to give all-the-way Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa too much rope, and it could be a year when the race is set up for a late closer.

Racing TV Extra will provide a dedicated service for the $25 million meeting on Saturday. The channel will also be showing the Jumps action at Newbury and Kelso, plus the return of Flat action at The Curragh.

Here’s a guide to all the runners in the big one.


Draw: 13. Rating (8.5 out of 10):Best odds: 7-2.

James Doyle reflects on the latest win of Algiers

The British challenger made little impact in the Godolphin Mile on World Cup night last year, when a 25/1 outsider, but he’s looked a different horse at the Carnival this year – romping home in the first two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge. Seeks to emulate Thunder Snow, who won Round 2 before taking this prize in 2018. This represents a much stiffer task but folly to ignore given the authority of his past two victories at the track.


Draw: 7. Rating: 4. Best odds: 80-1.

Often a front-runner who has raced exclusively at Meydan. Finished fourth in the UAE Derby at the meeting last year and has progressed again this term, but had his limits exposed. He was no match for Algiers on his penultimate start and, either side of that defeat, was a supporting act in races won by Salute The Soldier.


Draw: 10. Rating: 7. Best odds: 14-1.

The Japanese challenger has a good wins-to-runs ratio and probably ran as well as he has ever done when finishing a close third behind Panthalassa and Country Grammer from a wide draw in the Saudi Cup last time. That was the first time that the brilliant Joao Moreira had ridden him, and the pair reunited.


Draw: 14. Rating: 9. Best odds: 7-2.

Won this prize last year under Frankie Dettori after finishing second in the Saudi Cup and the combination seek to repeat the feat. The way he stayed on last time suggests he will be well served by the return to this slightly longer trip and deeper surface (last year’s World Cup was run in a time 14 seconds slower than this year’s Saudi Cup, which tells you plenty). A bold attempt to become only the second back-to-back winner after Thunder Snow (2018-19) is on the cards, despite his wide draw.


Draw: 12. Rating: 7. Best odds: 20-1.

Hasn’t managed to get his head in front since landing the UAE Derby in good style here last year but gave it a good go when fifth in the Saudi Cup last time. Faces no easy task turning the tables on those who finished ahead of him that day, although the return to Meydan may light a spark.


Draw: 2. Rating: 10. Best odds: 20-1.

Sprung a 50/1 surprise when beating Country Grammer in the Saudi Cup last year, staying on relentlessly after being slow away. Failed to figure when defending his crown after completely fluffing the start. In the circumstances, he did well to finish sixth, being beaten about four lengths, and it’s not difficult to imagine that he would have been involved in the finish had he broken on terms. Lacks Meydan experience but is overpriced in the betting, even if his cumbersome starts are becoming something of a trait.


Draw: 9. Rating: 7. Best odds: 16-1.

Last year’s Japanese 2000 Guineas winner went on to finish seventh in the Japenese Derby before failing to cut much ice against older opposition. He was having his first run on dirt when a close fourth in the Saudi Cup and, if improving for that experience, could make his presence felt.


Draw: 3. Rating: 7. Best odds: 20-1.

Was well-fancied for the Saudi Cup under Ryan Moore, having fended off Crown Pride in the Grade One Champions Cup at Chukyo on his previous start. However, he never got into contention and trailed home a well-held seventh. It’s doubtful we saw the best of him (Crown Pride was not beaten far in fifth) and he is now dismissed in the betting with Moore staying loyal.


Draw: 15. Rating: 7.5. Best odds: 10-1.

Dead-heated with Lord North in the Dubai Turf on World Cup night 12 months ago and now seeks a famous double, having made all in the Saudi Cup last time when having only his second run on dirt. Made the most of his low draw in the latter contest, setting a brisk pace and having enough in the locker to fend off his pursuers. Difficult to leave out of calculations, although the cards did fall his way last time. Drawn widest of all; the worry is that he will use up too much early energy getting a position.


Draw: 1. Rating: 4. Best odds: 80-1.

Belied odds of 125/1 when a keeping-on sixth in this race last year but hard to believe he will figure this time. Finished a distant third to Algiers on his penultimate start and made little impact in the Saudi Cup on his latest start.


Draw: 4. Rating: 5. Best odds: 66-1.

The veteran was winning on Super Saturday for the third successive year when taking the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 here this month, but it’s hard to see him becoming only the second eight-year-old, after Prince Bishop, to scoop this. Finished fifth two years ago and was well adrift of Algiers on his penultimate start.


Draw: 11. Rating: 4.5. Best odds: 50-1.

Something of an unknown quantity, having won four of his six races in South America – the latest a Grade One contest in Chile. Your guess is as good as mine as to the value of that form, although he’s officially the joint lowest-rated runner in the line-up. Has switched stables since he last ran.


Draw: 6. Rating: 6.5. Best odds: 12-1.

Ties in with several of the JapanEse challengers – beating Crown Pride in good style in the JBC Classic in November before suffering a surprise defeat in the Champions Cup at Chukyo the following month, when Jun Light Bolt and Crown Pride filled the first two places. Another reverse latest, at the hands of Ushba Tesoro, diminishes confidence but the booking of Oisin Murphy is a positive, as is his draw.


Draw: 8. Rating: 6.5. Best odds: 10-1.

Seems to arrive on the up, having won successive Listed races in his native Japan. Beat T O Keynes by half a length in the Kawasaki Kinen on the latest occasion but he’s not guaranteed to confirm that form and this represents a much deeper challenge.


Draw: 5. Rating: 5. Best odds: 12-1.

Won the Japan Cup under Ryan Moore in late November when at the top of his game but has since disappointed. The biggest issue for him looks the switch back to dirt, as he looks much more effective on turf.


There’s no standout performer like Calfornia Chrome or Arrogate in this field, with the bunch finish in last month’s Saudi Cup hinting we could be in for a cliffhanger. Panthalassa being pushed out to double-figure digits looks a bit of an over-reaction to his wide draw, although Country Grammer is a grinder and does have obvious prospects of turning the tables over the longer trip.

Algiers arrives at the top of his game but is in deeper waters. The one who simply looks the wrong price is EMBLEM ROAD, who did well to beat Country Grammer after a slow start in the Saudi Cup last year. He surrendered his crown last month with an even worse break from the gates and that bad habit has to be a niggle. However, it is offset by his chunky odds, which don't reflect the ability that he has.


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