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Dubai World Cup

by Geir Stabell / Globeform
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Meydan: Godolphin have won the Dubai World Cup (G1) five times, and trainer Saeed bin Suroor has won the big race five times. This year, Saeed has Godolphin's best hope in his stable, the fast improving Hunter's Light, who became Group One winner number 200 for the boys in blue when winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (G1) on Super Saturday. It was his ninth win from 17 starts, and by far his best performance. Hunter's Light really has worked his way up from supporting act to leading role over the past five months.

Will he be the star on the big night?

It does not seem that long ago, when Hunter's Light won a Listed race at Lingfield Park in England in November 2011. He was a strong favourite but made hard work of landing the spoils under jockey William Buick; whose comment after the race was; “it was harder than I had expected, but he will be a nice horse for Meydan”. How right Buick was, though his prediction took time to be proved right. Mainly because Hunter's Light did not race in Dubai last winter but also because this son of top miler Dubawi has been a late developing horse. He turned the corner last summer, and showed improved form by beating Jet Lag two lengths in a G3 event at Haydock Park in August. Three weeks later he was sent to Turkey, to contest the valuable Anatolia Trophy (G2) over 2000 metres on the Polytrack course at Veliefendi. Frankie Dettori was in the saddle and rode a confident race on the chestnut, holding him up at the back of the field, before unleashing a powerful run in the home straight. Hunter's Light crushed his rivals, beating the German challenger Zazou by 5 lengths. The rest of the field may not have been all that classy but he sure looked just that.

He was next seen in the Prix Dollar (G2) at Longchamp, where he encountered the tricky combination of heavy ground and Cirrus des Aigles, who loves such conditions. The French champion, who was a good second to Frankel on his next start, won by 9 lengths. Hunter's Light was second. Another month passed and Hunter's Light was on his travels again, this time to the Capannelle racecourse outside Rome. He lined up against six others in the Premio Roma (G1), like the Prix Dollar run over 2000 metres on heavy turf. Silvestre de Sousa had taken over in the saddle, and enjoyed an easy ride on Hunter's Light, who was always prominent, led 500 metres out and ran on well to win by 2 lengths from Feureblitz, a close second in G1 company in Germany on his previous start. After this win, gained a year after his last gasp win in lesser company at Lingfield, it was decided to point Hunter's Light to the Dubai International Racing Carnival. It was a good decision.

He has won both his races here this winter, and shown progressive form. Hunter's Light became one of the World Cup favourites when capturing the Al Maktoum Challenge III (G1) on Super Saturday. Not only did he beat a dozen other World Cup hopefuls, he led a popular 1-2-3 for Sheikh Mohammed's incredibly powerful operation. Hunter's Light had landed the second round of the challenge series on his reappearance a month earlier, and he just keeps on improving. He travelled well just behind the early leaders on Super Saturday, was given a beautiful trip guided by jockey Silvestre de Sousa, and ran out a solid 2 3/4-length winner over Kassiano, who was staying on really well after a troubled trip. Kassiano, sporting the yellow silks of Sheikh Maijd bin Mohammed Al Maktoum for the first time, must also be in with a chance in the World Cup. He has shot up the ranks in no time at all this winter and is nearly as good as Hunter's Light. Though, if Hunter's Light can improve again, well, then perhaps he will come out on top also on March 30. Prince Bishop, who took third in front of Surfer, is not such a serious contender for the $10 million dollar contest, but he is a very useful performer and a good yardstick. The third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge was undoubtedly the strongest local prep for the World Cup. The race has thrown up the winner of two of the last three editions of the World Cup. Though landing the double has not been the trend. Monterrosso, last year's World Cup winner, was fourth in the Al Maktoum Challenge III, while Gloria de Campeao had finished second in the main prep, before lifting the biggest trophy in racing in 2010.

Hunter's Light appears to be yet another Godolphin trainee who has his best season as a five-year-old. The 'boys in blue' have had several of those types of animals over the years, like Daylami, Fantastic Light and Swain to name but three. He is not in the same class as the two US raiders, Animal Kingdom and Royal Delta, but he may be getting there. Proven over the course and distance, coming off his career best effort, and holding home court advantage, Hunter's Light has a good chance. He was bred in Ireland by Darley and comes from one of HH The Aga Khan's excellent families that have also produced champions Darshaan and Darara.

Last update: 2013-03-14 05:22:26 (First published: 2013-03-12 07:07:28 )

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