2012 Winner Cirrus Des Aigles Bids For Record in Dubai Sheema Classic

French Hero Must Overcome Widest Draw And Quality Field

A stellar cast of 15 equine stars are set to do battle in the Group 1 $5m Dubai Sheema Classic presented by Longines in one of the classiest renewals of the turf race.

The 2012 winner of the 2410m contest, French galloper Cirrus Des Aigles (FR) is among those to grace the Meydan turf and attempt to become the first to make history by winning the contest twice.

Pouring cold water on French hopes though, is the fact that the gelding, trained by Corine Barande-Barbe, was handed a nightmare draw on Wednesday and will break from 15, right on the outside.

“That is disappointing,” said Barande-Barbe. “We may well have to change tactics from out there. I will discuss it with our jockey, Christophe Soumillon.

“At least the horse is fit and well after a prep run on the all-weather in France which he really needed.”

When winning the race two years ago, Cirrus Des Aigles was chased home by St Nicholas Abbey, subsequent winner of the 2013 renewal, and fans of Japanese supermare, Gentildonna (JPN) will be hoping that pattern is repeated.

The dual Japan Cup winner was hot favourite for this race last year but could not get past St Nicholas Abbey and connections will be hoping to go one better this year with Ryan Moore a positive jockey booking.

Her trainer, Sei Ishizaka, said: “I have been very pleased with her work and her last fast gallop was a good one. She has settled in really well, on this her second trip, and we are very hopeful of a big run.”

When winning her second Japan Cup last year, she had a nose in hand over compatriot Denim And Ruby (JPN) and they give the country a strong presence in a race that went to Japanese connections in 2001 with Stay Gold and 2006 with Heart’s Cry.

Last year saw Aidan and Jospeh O’Brien win the race for the first time with the success of St Nicholas Abbey last year. This term they combine with one of the leading lights - Magician (IRE).

Winner of both the 2013 Irish 2000 Guineas and 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf, beating Dubai Duty Free favourite, The Fugue, last year, he has a great draw in four. The claims of stable companion, Festive Cheer (IRE), are less obvious.

Formerly trained by O’Brien but now with South African, Mike De Kock, who won this race in 2008 with Sun Classique, Mars (IRE) is having his third start for new connections. He has yet to fire in two UAE starts over shorter trips, but these look his optimum conditions.

“We have a nice low draw and he is in good form at home. It is obviously a strong race but he can run well,” said the trainer.

Runners, Dunaden (FR), Meandre (FR), Ambivalent (IRE) and Dominant (IRE) are all Group 1 winners. Dominant was the winner of last year’s Hong Kong Vase, where he holds form over The Fugue, for John Moore.

Moore said: “We did not draw well and it is a very strong race but our horse seems in good form.”

Meandre’s trainer, UAE-based Doug Watson, was more pleased after his charge was given stall eight. He said: “That is a decent barrier for our horse who should give a good account of himself in a very strong renewal.”

Qatari raider, Dubday (GB) has been a revelation in his new surroundings this year, winning the Qatar Derby, Qatar Gold Cup and the prestigious Emir’s Trophy. The mount of Frankie Dettori, he is trained by Jassim Al Ghazali who said: “The horse has done nothing wrong since joining us and remains in good shape. This is the toughest task we have set him but it is great to be here representing Qatar.

“We think he will be very competitive.”

Germany’s Empoli (GER) has twice refused to enter the stalls at the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, but is a very capable performer if he can only play ball on the big night, while Twilight Eclipse (USA) seeks to become a first USA-trained winner of a Dubai World Cup night turf race.

He would appear to have something to find, as does Godolphin’s Excellent Result (IRE) but he does appear progressive. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, he won Super Saturday’s Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold over Saturday’s course and distance.

Bin Suroor said: “He has always been a horse I really liked and he is improving with time and racing. He is in great form but this is a very strong race.
“I still expect a big run from him though as he is a big, tough sort who hopefully has more to offer.”

The already-prestigious turf contest is set to hit even greater highs in the future with the announcement on Wednesday by Meydan Group Chairman, Saeed Al Tayer that prize money for this race and the Dubai Duty Free will each be increased to $6m in 2015.