Double On? Japanese Challenger Can Scale New Heights On Saturday

First is off at 15h30

Across its near-three decade history, the Gr1 Dubai World Cup [Sponsored by Emirates Airline] boasts a tapestry of winners that range from champions to giant-slaying conquerors.

Whatever happens across the Middle East’s most exciting two minutes of sport, this year’s field ensures that there will be a sensational story the moment the winner hits the wire on the Meydan dirt.

First, defending champion Ushba Tesoro, who steps out seeking a prominent position in racing folklore beyond simply trying to join Thunder Snow as a two-time winner of the US$12 million feature.

Team Ushba Tesoro – looking for a repeat of 2023 (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Ushba Tesoro has earned Japanese yen as well as American dollars and with fluctuating exchange rates, his prizemoney varies slightly between data providers. However, all agree that victory places him approximately on par with the world’s highest earner, Hong Kong champion Golden Sixty, on about USD$21.1 million.

He enters off a scintillating late run when just denied by Senor Buscador in the Gr1 Saudi Cup (1800m) and appears further suited by this stamina test.

“We can’t have him any better,” said trainer Noboru Takagi. “Whatever he does, we are so proud of him and have an exciting year planned before he retires.”

The Todd Fincher-trained Senor Buscador can become the first to complete the rich Saudi Cup-Dubai World Cup double, if successful.

He leads an American team that includes the Chad Summers-prepared Clapton, Todd Pletcher’s Crupi and Newgate for Bob Baffert, with his rider Frankie Dettori out to land his fifth Dubai World Cup to surpass Jerry Bailey as the most successful jockey in race history.

Racing has a habit of producing remarkable rags to riches stories and yet there have been very few quite like Kabirkhan.

The son of 2016 winner California Chrome began his career at the primitive Almaty racetrack in Kazakhstan, progressed through his grades in Russia and now steps out as a live hope after his victory in the main local lead-up, the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge (1900m).

“I didn’t even know there was racing in Kazakhstan when I first got him,” admits trainer Doug Watson. “When we started working him, though, we could tell quickly he was a nice horse.

“There has been so much interest from Kazakhstan, it’s equal parts fun and stressful. It adds a little more intrigue to the horse. He has a super nice owner that loves his horse. Hopefully they will all be celebrating.”

Also among the local hopes is Laurel River, untested beyond a mile, but ever so impressive in taking the Gr3 Burj Nahaar (1600m) four weeks ago. He is all but certain to take up the running early.

From a pace angle, the biggest query is last year’s G2 UAE Derby (1900m) winner Derma Sotogake.

Often awkward at the jump, a clean break last year saw him lead the three-year-old contest under Christophe Lemaire, before kicking clear for a wide margin success over one of Saturday’s rivals, Dura Erede.

This time, Lemaire hopes to replicate last year’s ride aboard Hidetaka Otonashi’s charge.

“From gate eight, I should be able to go forward and sit outside Laurel River without using him up too much before the first turn,” the Kyoto-based French jockey said.

Japan will also be represented by Wilson Tesoro; the home team has Military Law lining up for the first time having bypassed the race three times before; while American Grade 1 winner Defunded, now trained in Saudi Arabia, completes the 12-strong field.

The Gr1 Dubai World Cup concludes the nine-race Dubai World Cup meeting, which commences at 13h30.

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