Dubai World Cup raises bar

The Dubai World Cup is what the Breeders' Cup first set out to be. Where the Breeders' Cup strayed by creating a second day of watered-down races, Dubai kept to its original goals.

One day, seven championship races, purses of $26 million and full, truly international fields make the Dubai World Cup a phenomenal event.

We will be able to bet on Dubai on Saturday morning. However, because the first race is the Al Quoz Sprint at 6:20 a.m. PDT, I suggest you advance wager in a local race book Friday. Then you can enjoy breakfast and watch the Dubai races live on HRTV.

This will be the first Dubai World Cup at the new $2.7 billion course, Meydan. As one journalist wrote, ''It has set the benchmark too high for any other country to follow.''

The layout is comparable to Woodbine, where a massive turf course circles the main track. And like Woodbine the main track is synthetic, in this case Tapeta, which has earned rave reviews from horsemen for predictable reasons. Its developer is former trainer Michael Dickinson, who perfected Tapeta during 10 years of research on his Maryland farm and from installations at Golden Gate and Presque Isle Downs. Meydan is his crowning achievement.

The feature race is the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Two-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti from the United States is the 7-2 favorite. My choice is Gitano Hernando at 9-2, who is 4-for-4 on synthetic surfaces. He proved his class by winning the Grade I Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita last fall.

There are two $5 million races, the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Dubai Duty Free. Spanish Moon at 6-1 offers great value if you can get that price at post time. He has lost two devilish nose decisions, in last year's Sheema Classic and in the Hong Kong Vase his last time out. In the Duty Free, I'm playing Alexandros at 10-1 with Frankie Dettori up. In turf racing, the trip makes losers out of winners all the time, so I'll rely on Dettori for a clean journey.

I'll offer one more long shot: Sirocco Breeze at 8-1 in the Al Quoz. He's turning back in distance after two seven-furlong wins and should be closing fastest of all.

Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at