Saturday's Group 2, $2 million U.A.E. Derby offers 100 points to the winner toward the Kentucky Derby, and Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien has dispatched Triple Crown nominees Giovanni Boldini and Sir John Hawkins to Dubai in pursuit of his third straight win in this race.
Giovanni Boldini has proven his ability to handle international travel, having been just denied in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in his latest effort. The well-bred son of War Front will once again be ridden by Ryan Moore in this about 1 3/16-mile race on Meydan's Tapeta.
Sir John Hawkins, by Henrythenavigator and out of European co-champion filly Peeping Fawn, has yet to live up to his pedigree, but still has potential. Off since last July, he will be trying synthetic for the first time. Sir John Hawkins was handed post 10, while Giovanni Boldini is drawn much better in post 5.
Triple Crown-nominated Toast of New York, who has crushed two minor events at Wolverhampton by a combined margin of 28 lengths, jets in from England for Jamie Osborne. From the first crop of blueblood Thewayyouare, Toast of New York figures to be involved in the early pace scenario.
The local team is headed by Godolphin's Long John, a dominating 4 1/4-length winner of the U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas in his latest. As an Australian-bred, the Charlie Appleby pupil is a four-year-old on Northern Hemisphere terms and thus ineligible for the Kentucky Derby.
Asmar, no match for Long John when a non-threatening fifth in the Guineas, improved markedly next time in the March 8 Al Bastakiya. The half-brother to champion turf mare Zagora ran off to post a maiden-breaking score by six lengths, but must keep progressing against a deeper cast here.
Saeed bin Suroor's team comprises Emirates Flyer, best of the rest in both the Guineas and Al Bastakiya, and Australian-bred Paximadia, who's entitled to do better than his seventh in the Guineas in his Meydan premiere. Appleby also fields two contenders, with Guineas fourth Safety Check joining Long John in the gate. The other Dubai Carnival regular, Jallota, faces a tall task for Mike de Kock.
Argentinean Group 1 star Cooptado, third versus older horses in last December's Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini, is now based in Dubai with Doug Watson. But the four-year-old didn't get a prep in, and it remains to be seen how he's acclimated.
British raider Sir Jack Layden was a close third in the September 28 Royal Lodge at Newmarket in his seasonal finale, and French stakes-placed King Rubi captured a conditions race at Chantilly on March 14.