The key questions as Big Orange bids to put squeeze on rivals for stayers' prize
Dubai Gold Cup (Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors) (Group 2) | 2m, 3yo+, turf | ATR/RUK
What's not to like about the claims of Big Orange?
Decent ground? Tick. Proven stayer? Tick. Acts at the course? Tick. Officially highest rated? Tick.
There's a lot to like about the chances of last season's Ascot Gold Cup hero Big Orange.
Although he has to turn the form around with Vazirabad – finishing a neck second behind him in this race in 2016 and two-length fourth last year – Michael Bell's stayer appears one of the most likelier candidates to benefit should the two-time winner fail to fire.
Big Orange, a six-time Group-race winner, overcame a setfast setback at the start of the week and impressed in morning work on Thursday.
Bell said: "Big Orange is remarkably consistent and on fast ground he’s very effective. I was delighted with his work the other day.
"Rare Rhythm and Vazirabad look the main dangers as they were very impressive here last time out."
Can Vazirabad achieve the previously impossible?
No thoroughbred has won three times during their career on Dubai World Cup night. Star stayer Vazirabad has the chance to make history.
Alain de Royer-Dupre’s six-year-old bids to do it in style too in this two-mile stamina test, as he goes for a hat-trick in the race under regular rider Christophe Soumillon.
The Aga Khan-owned Vazirabad, a three-time Group 1 winner in France, is vying for favouritism with Rare Rhythm, who he lost out to by a length and three quarters when they returned to action in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy over 1m6f at Meydan at the start of the month.
Royer-Dupre said: "We're really happy with him and we always wanted to come back for this race again.
"He will have to come on from his prep run to reverse the form with Rare Rhythm, who should improve for that run too.
"The longer distance will suit us well, although the big field is a concern as he could easily run into traffic problems."
Can one of the Godolphin five strike?
Godolphin launch an all-out attack on this contest with Charlie Appleby and Saeed Bin Suroor saddling five of the sixteen runners between them.
Appleby's first opportunity on the night to end his World Cup night drought is with Rare Rhythm and Frontiersman.
Rare Rhythm, the mount of William Buick, tries this trip for the first time as he attempts to confirm recent form with Vazirabad, while Frontiersman, ridden by James Doyle, was a head second to stablemate and Sheema Classic runner Hawkbill earlier this month.
Appleby said: "Rare Rhythm is a horse I've always liked and I was delighted with his win in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy.
"There's a bit of a question mark as to whether he'll stay the two-mile trip, but we're hopeful.
"It's not an easy two miles around here, but it's often not the strongest-run race and if he can get a nice run round off an even tempo we'll get to see if he's a Cup horse for the future."
Bin Suroor runs Gold Star, ridden by Jim Crowley, Natural Scenery, the mount of Pat Cosgrave, and Red Galileo, partnered by Gerald Mosse.
On ratings, significant improvement is required for the trio to trouble the principals.
Bin Suroor said: "Gold Star runs like he'll be suited by this step up in trip and if he does he'll be aimed at the top European staying races.
"Natural Scenery hasn't shown a great deal this year but she's tough and I'm hopeful she'll return to form, while Red Galileo is better over a mile and six furlongs and would be suited by a steady pace."
What they say
William Haggas, trainer of Dal Harraild
He has a sporting each-way chance. He's very well, will like the decent ground but has a bit to find on ratings. It's a very competitive race with Rare Rhythm, Vazirabad and Big Orange in there.
David Simcock, trainer of Sheikhzayedroad
It appears a more competitive renewal than it has been in recent years. He's a year older and probably a little slower these days, but if the race is run to suit and they go a good gallop and stop, then he'd run very well.
Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Prince Of Arran
It’s going to be run to suit and if he finishes in the first half of the field we’ll be delighted. He looks fantastic and loves it over here. We mucked up last time and I hope he’s forgiven me for putting a set of visors on him. He hated them.
Michael de Kock, trainer of Al Sahem
He's been coming along nicely. It's a tough division but we thought we would go for this as he's not good enough to win over a mile and a half at this level.
Jessica Harrington, trainer of Torcedor
He's come a long way in a year and progressed physically. He's become more of a man of a horse. He loves the surface and really stretches out well on it and the wide draw doesn't impact him much as he's very versatile.
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