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World's richest race has wide-open 14-horse field

Published:Friday | March 25, 2011 | 12:00 AM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP):

The Dubai World Cup boasts 14 horses from five countries in what looks to be a wide-open field competing in the world's richest race.

The showcase event tomorrow at Meydan Racecourse tops an eight-race programme with US$26.25 million in prize money. The World Cup carries a US$10 million purse.

The race has several intriguing story lines, with three horses from disaster-ravaged Japan, and three from Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed's Godolphin stables, which has not won the race since 2006.

Then there's Gitano Hernando, owned by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused of running the mostly Muslim republic in southern Russia like his personal fiefdom.

Three United States-based horses are in the field, led by three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, who finished fourth in last year's World Cup and has earned more than $5 million. The others are Fly Down and Richard's Kid.

Twice over favourite

But it's England-based Twice Over who is listed as the 2-1 favourite by the Daily Racing Form. A disappointing 10th in last year's World Cup, the six-year-old horse was brought to Dubai much earlier this year and won the $300,000 Al Maktoum Challenge this month.

"We thought he had a really great chance last year but things didn't go his way," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Racing, which owns Twice Over.

"We saw the other horses that ran well in the Dubai World Cup had been out here and had time out here. We thought maybe that is the key. So far, we are very happy with how the horse has progressed physically and on the track."

Gio Ponti is the 6-1 second choice. He won the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last year and finished second to Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile in November, but is making his first start of 2011.

Gio Ponti's assistant trainer Christoph Lorieul said the horse has looked much stronger than he did last year during the final series of workouts this week.